Future Observatory

How can we put design to work to rebuild Britain?

This is a new national programme of research, debate and training that will show how design can drive Britain's future prosperity.

The programme is coordinated by the Design Museum in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which is part of UK Research and Innovation.

Challenges for the future

We are facing complex challenges, from building resilience for a world post-pandemic to an ageing population, climate change and the rise of artificial intelligence.

Future Observatory is a programme that aims to accelerate how we find solutions to the most pressing issues. It brings design researchers together with the networks that can help them have an impact on achieving the nation’s environmental goals. Future Observatory harnesses the power of the Design Museum to showcase cutting-edge research and bring people together in a public forum.

Using design as its engine, this project will set the agenda for social and technological change in Britain.

Net Zero

In its foundation year, and in conjunction with the museum's Waste Age - What Can Design Do? exhibition, Future Observatory will focus on the net zero agenda and related environmental issues. By supporting research across the spectrum of design disciplines – from product and service design to housing and urbanism – it brings a multi-faceted perspective to issues such as carbon reduction, waste, green technologies and alternative materials.

As a cultural institution, the Design Museum is ideally placed to open this research up to broader audiences, making it accessible and engaging and enabling it to have a greater impact. Indeed, Future Observatory redefines what a museum can be: a place not solely focused on the past or the present but one that can help shape the future.

Objectives

  • To convene key stakeholders to identify future net zero+ design opportunities and build cross-sector communities.

  • To curate live design research on a range of design challenges unified under the umbrella goal of net zero+, to demonstrate design’s value to the UK economy, and to shape public conversation and engagement with design.

  • To upskill emerging designers and equip UK businesses with relevant design-for-net zero+ and sustainable enterprise skills.

Meet the Design Researchers in Residence

This Future Observatory programme for emerging design researchers is hosted at the Design Museum and is co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The Future Observatory Development Group

The Future Observatory Programme Development group provides strategic and operational guidance, input and advice on the development-phase of Future Observatory. Its current members are:

Professor Edward Harcourt (Director: Research, Strategy and Innovation, UKRI)
Professor Deyan Sudjic OBE (Director Emeritus, the Design Museum)
Professor Jeremy Myerson (Helen Hamlyn Professor of Design, Royal College of Art)
Graham Hitchen (Independent Consultant)
Dr Paul Meller (Associate Director of Programmes, UKRI)
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Founder, designswarm)
Professor Dee Halligan (Co-Founder, From Now On).
Dr Andrea Siodmok (Deputy Director, Policy Lab, Cabinet Office)
Professor Lucy Kimbell (Director, Social Design Institute, UAL)

Background

Since its founding in 1989, the Design Museum has had an ongoing commitment to new forms of research and innovation across design, architecture, and technology.

In November 2018, the Future Observatory project began with a reception hosted at the Houses of Parliament and has since hosted 6 round-tables; internal workshops and convenings on the thematic areas of the programme. Through the programme, the Design Museum has worked with over 80 senior figures across design, industry and government.

At the end of 2019, the Design Museum partnered with the Arts and Humanities Research Council to undertake a nationwide programme of research to inform and develop a full proposal for the next five years of Future Observatory. This research included scoping into the current design-research landscape across the UK, in addition to developing new organisational models and national collaborations to be utilised by the programme. The results of this research were published in 2020.

Acknowledgements

Although emerging from the Design Museum and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Future Observatory is a developing network of individuals, organisations and initiatives. We are grateful to all those who continue to support this initiative. A full list of those who have advised, collaborated or supported the programme to date can be shared upon request.