Design Thinking for Disasters

November 12, 2015 | | View Comments

Photo: Alternative Unknowns Exhibition; Credit: The Extrapolation Factory

Traditional design typically aims to solve existing problems, but “speculative design” brings together designers who are planning to solve future problems. The idea is that it’s better to plan for the future before things go awry. A new exhibition in New York called Alternative Unknowns imagines what could happen if a viral pandemic swept through New York City. The exhibition runs until December 19th. Co-organizer Elliot Montgomery says “The simulator is not meant to be scary— it’s meant to put in place something we really could face, and start to work through that situation… we see it in a really constructive light.” Montgomery and co-organizer Chris Woken aren’t emergency planners either — they’re designers and co-founders of The Extrapolation Factory, which they describe as “an imagination-based studio for design-led futures studies.” Overall, the exhibition is an opportunity to collect different viewpoints and to help broaden ways of thinking about possible obstacles and outcomes in designing for future uncertainties.