Imagining new economies


At Wolff Olins, we design radically better businesses. Those businesses may be commercial or non-for-profit, institutional and established, or young and up and coming. When it goes well, we are able to help them to imagine and realise better futures, for themselves, the people who work for them and the people who use them. We have been doing this for over 50 years, during which time the nature of commerce, culture, capitalism and consumerism has changed many times. A big reason why Wolff Olins has endured is down to its ability to observe, respond to and – at times – shape the dynamic of change taking place in business, culture and economics.

Today, the codes, practices and expectations of organisations are changing again. We live in an age of technological marvel, a science fiction world of progress and possibility. And we live in an age that is frequently and increasingly labelled dystopian, with the limitations of our existing economic paradigm to maintain or improve people’s lives increasingly under the microscope.

It is important that we acknowledge this, scrutinise it and respond to it. It’s also important that we look outside our everyday worlds and regular points of reference and seek novel, unexpected practices and approaches to imagine fresh and provocative futures.

This is the thinking behind Economic Science Fictions, a collection of essays that asks ‘how we might harness the power of the utopian imagination to revitalize economic thinking’. Published by Goldsmiths Press in the UK and MIT Press in the US, it is edited by William Davies and features contributions from many of today’s most stimulating thinkers and critics. A combination of theory, short stories and reflections on design, the book aims to bring together themes from economics and science fiction, with ‘perspectives for anyone who believes the economy is too important to be left to economists’.

Working with a friend and collaborator, the designer and architect James Pockson, I am delighted that we have contributed a piece to this collection. We imagine a future of the United Kingdom separated from London. And in this world we speculate possible design cues for an economy geared not to growth and competition but resilience and bonding, looking at it through three different lenses (the infrastructural, the architectural and the personal). Working on this was stimulating, strange, and enormous fun. It’s a privilege to be included in this volume with such talented, provocative and brilliant company, many of whom are intellectual heroes of ours.

As part of the wider design community, we hope you like what the book is trying to achieve, and encourage everyone to step outside the everyday experience of work and spend time thinking about some weird stuff. It’s a blast.

Economic Science Fictions is out on 23rd March, 2018 and is available to order here (UK) and here (US).

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