We can’t go on like this. The industrial growth era is, after many centuries, running out of oxygen. Democracy and justice are fraying; automation threatens to redefine the role of the human; climate crisis will forever transform our planet and economies. Neither our infrastructures nor our imaginations are ready for the profound changes ahead.

It’s easy to succumb to fatalism, to feel powerless in the face of a world tipping off its axis. But this is no time for mourning. Designers and technologists will play an essential role in refactoring our outdated institutions and in prototyping positive visions of the future. In the process, we’ll have to reimagine design itself. User-centricity has blinded us to harms befalling society and planet alike, but speculative and futures-leaning approaches can lend us critical, inclusive perspectives on the world’s biggest challenges.

Cennydd Bowles, author of Future Ethics, will describe new responsibilities for design in a world on the brink: embracing the moral duties interwoven into making, becoming planetary custodians, not ransackers, and giving the many, not just the few, a stake in the future. We must not only depict brighter times ahead, but also navigate the hazardous roads that lead us there. Better worlds are possible, if we wish them.

Primary themes

New horizons for design, speculative and critical design, futures thinking and foresight, transition design, climate crisis, ethics.

In person

Offered as a conference keynote or in-house presentation. Intended audience: designers, product managers, software engineers, futurists. This talk sits perfectly alongside the Building Better Worlds training workshop. Book both for reduced rates.

Audience reaction


Notes, evidence, and credit

Further reading