By the end of our “Talk with Experts’’ sessions, we met with Nina Paim, a co-founder and initiator of Futuress. Having detoured from economics and philosophy major, the Brazilian graphic designer and curator, has a fruitful background indeed. In 2013, her collaboration with Corinne Gisel was nominated for the Swiss Design Award. The two initially questioned their positions and roles as designers, and if they truly aligned with their core values and ambitions in life. This led them to experiment and build the active Futuress community in 2018. What initially started as a minor project for a limited exhibition, has become an active community and an empowerment tool for the marginalized for equal access to information and open sharing of knowledge.
Since this session took place in parallel with a weekly meeting point of different semesters of BA interaction design; we took this as an opportunity to practice our values of opening the exclusive and invited the conversation to our fellow interaction designers from other years. From this, a first year student joined our conversation. The style of the session was kept spontaneous and casual, making the atmosphere open to any and all topics. Essentially bringing us to topics of Nina’s journey, learning through experience, and the importance of paying attention.
Nina steered to the topic of how the journey of Futuress stemmed from a place of experimental, personal ambitions, and most importantly to act from what is already shown to you. She shared that her biggest lessons were all particularly rooted from the skill and practice of paying attention. Futuress came to be Futuress not because it was planned in advance, but because it was iterated and morphed into something that the people needed. This intrinsic problem finding came unexpectedly but organically as the project developed over iterations that questioned: budgeting, external input and motivations of users, personal skills, scale, and of course the context of the pandemic. By incrementally paying attention to all these factors over their iterations, it was clear to see that in retrospect, the best findings were not planned in advance, nothing was designed, it bloomed from something small and unpretentious, it came from a place of self reflection.
As we discussed Anne Maree Brown’s, “Emergent Strategy” book, and Paul Frede’s pedagogic teachings, Nina highlights her standpoint on paying attention and that designers are mere mediators. She concluded that in her method, Nina found it is best to drive change through the inner and the self. Realizing that modern design is hypocritically a discipline that doesn’t pay attention, instead a discipline that imposes and projects the future, she also rebelled from such intrusive notions of the design culture. Since understanding, “Changing me, also changes the people around me”, Nina now practices anthropology outlooks on self reflection and improvement, as means to empower self emancipation in others. This builds the habit and shapes education as a form of autonomy. Essentially, that became one of the core values of the Futuress community and its sustainable nature. The talk opened up the hard truth that existing structures of design that intrinsically yearns to produce solutions; which is the most problematic of our ways in design. This could be understood and resolved as we designers humble our positions and roles to mediating solutions rather than procuring impositions.
Moreover, with the open structure of this expert talk, we paid attention to how more enriching it was than previous ways of conducting these sessions. We observed a middle ground between prepared open interviews and spontaneous talk with experts; that is to spontaneously invite or open the conversation to the public without the weight of prior planning and preparations. This way it accumulated a more casual and open atmosphere, best for sharing knowledge that is beyond the restrictions of dogmatism.