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A Conversation with Brad Kreit, Institute For The Future

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Following FUSE 2015, we caught up with our inspiring keynote
speaker Brad Kreit, Futurist at Institute for The Future to talk about the
state of design, how it's changed, and where it's going next.
Here's what Kreit had to say:
IIR: What is your
'muse' or what inspires you in your work?
Kreit: At
Institute for the Future, our mandate is to look out 10 years to explore and
make sense of what the world could look like. To do this, I'm always looking
for a couple of things: The first is to look for what we call signals - early
indicators that can come be anything from a new product or startup company to
something you saw a friend or family member do. What I'm looking for is
something that gives me pause, that causes me to take a step back and pay
attention - and from there, I ask myself, why? What's exciting about this?
The second thing I'm always looking for is combinations -
one of the core ideas that we use to guide our long term forecasts is that some
of the most unexpected but important disruptions will be driven by combinations
of factors, including technologies, social factors and other innovations. For
instance, wearable computing becomes much more interesting when we begin to
think about it in relationship to the Internet of Things ' and the ways that
connecting our bodies to our homes or offices has the potential to change
things both positively and negatively.

IIR: What is the
best design you've seen this year? Why?
Kreit: I'm really
captivated by the work of David Rose at MIT who just wrote a great book called
'Enchanted Objects.' His basic argument is that the technologies underpinning
the Internet of Things are enabling us to, in effect, rethink the design of everyday
things and give them the ability to help us navigate the world in a smarter
way. He has developed products such as a smart umbrella that will light up to
alert you if there's a forecast for rain - as a reminder to take the umbrella
with you to work. That's the total of the umbrella's 'smartness' - it just does
this one thing. This kind of thinking is a big opportunity for designers - to
enable everyday things to help guide us through the day.
IIR: What are
ways a design can emotionally connect with its audience?
Kreit: As a
general rule, be respectful of people's attention and use that attention wisely
- and be helpful.
Here's an example of one of my favorite designs: When I was
in college, I worked in a print shop where, among other things, I had to
precisely cut inch-thick business cards and the like using an industrial paper
cutter. To make the paper cutter work, you had to press two buttons that we're
about shoulder width apart'the reason being that the natural human instinct is
to adjust the paper at the last minute to make sure you get the cut right which
is, unfortunately, how you lose fingers. Putting those two buttons
shoulder width apart did far more for my safety than a dozen signs about proper
use of a paper cutter. It made it easy to keep my fingers.
IIR: How has
design changed in the last 5 years?
Kreit: I think
we've seen much more simplicity to designs, which is great. If there's been one
negative is that we are doing too much through touch screens. For instance,
touch screens in cars may seem impressive or high tech, but they don't make
much sense. You have to look away from the road because you no longer have the
feedback loop of a knob or button. My hope is that in the next few years, we'll
start to see designs that appeal to a wider variety of our senses.

IIR: Gamification
is shaping our interactions with everyday experiences, from education to
retail. How has gamification affected you?
Kreit: We've used
gaming extensively in our work at Institute for the Future. In recent years,
we've developed a method called 'participatory foresight' - using a platform
we've developed to engage thousands of people in exploring urgent futures
issues that leverages game mechanics to encourage people to set aside some of
their hesitations about making statements about the future and enables them
feel free and open to imagine and explore.
IIR: We live in
an always-on 'now' society where the priorities of this moment seem to be
everything. What does this emphasis on immediacy mean to marketing and design?
Kreit: One of our
core arguments is that you should have great clarity on your long term goal and
great flexibility on how you get there. From a marketing standpoint, this
principle in relation to the move to an always-on world means a couple of
things. First, you need to be able to engage with people wherever they are -
because there isn't one moment of truth, there are ubiquitous moments of truth.
Any moment has the potential to be a moment of interaction, but very few brands
are effectively positioned for this.
So you need to be able to engage people wherever they are.
But, this is where you need both clarity and flexibility. You have to be
consistent across every touchpoint, yet manage to engage people on their own
terms in very personalized ways. What marketers need to do - and this is much
easier said than done - is find ways to engage with people that are empowering
and genuinely valuable for the end user. Otherwise, there are just too many
other competing factors trying to get our attention. 

About the Author:
Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in digital and
print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing,
and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR's blogs
including Next Big Design, STEAM Accelerator. Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,.
She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where
she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She
can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

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