Photo by Lucas Wesney on Unsplash

Directions 22 Throwback : Untangling Reality

We live in uncertain times, which makes it more important than ever to question the status quo, our reality and beliefs. Join us and try on a set of three different lenses to switch your perspective and break automatisms that lead us astray.

As part of our mission to humanize complexity, every year at Tangity, NTT DATA’s global network of design studios, we question the role of Design and ask ourselves how it can help us overcome the challenges of humanity. We continuously develop our point of view to investigate how people, society, and the environment evolve.

To us, Design isn’t mere problem-solving. It’s no quick fix. Design is about deeply questioning what is and thinking critically to get to the root of a problem.

Ask yourself: What is the smarter fix when you have a headache? Popping a pill to momentarily get rid of the symptom or finding out what actually causes it to tackle the issue at its source and understand its long-term implications? Are we augmenting our reality or just running away from it?

Directions 22 is less of a trend report but rather a collection of strategic observations on how we experience reality today, paired with a few questions and provocations to make you reflect, question the role of design, and spark your curiosity and imagination.#FoodForThought

While we used to keep our yearly Tangity Directions to ourselves, we decided to share them with the world this year as we believe that designing lasting sustainable change is only possible if we all work hand in hand.

But why question reality?

What we understand as reality is just a simplified perception. There are too many interdependencies to take into consideration, which makes it easier to stop second guessing and rather trust what we see. In the past 2 years, with Covid-19 and the war shaking up the world, many more of these interdependencies have become visible for a broader audience, turning our understanding of reality upside down. Many of us found ourselves urgently digitalizing our physical lives to continue essential tasks such as work, buying groceries or staying in touch with friends and family. But how can we trigger the same sense of urgency to other world issues, such as the raging consequences of climate change, which some still don’t see as that threatening? How can we help people drastically change their habits without waiting for natural catastrophes to reach their front door?

Whether this accelerated fusion of our physical and digital lives comes as an opportunity or not, depends on the lens we use to observe this phenomenon.

We believe that looking at reality only through the lens of users is no longer enough. At least not if we wish to make decisions and find solutions capable of fluent dialogue with the needs of the individual, society and the environment.

Design needs to go beyond user-centrism.

Designing great experiences with just the “individual” in mind is no longer enough, as we are missing the perspective that enables us to entirely understand our designs’ impact over time.

That’s why we think to grasp our complex reality properly, we need to start widening our perspective and look at the world through 3 distinct lenses: personal, social and environmental.

To humanize reality, we must embrace its complexity.

Design through 3 different lenses

The personal sphere — Where to start again?

First, let’s have a look through the personal lens and focus on what’s happening on the individual level. Recent global events have put humanity to the test, especially younger generations. As the former emergency is establishing a new normality, we seek to regain inner health and a sense of balance.

What we observed

  1. Significant life changes: People moved, changed their jobs and reconsidered their priorities. Could this be just a consequence of the newly found time to reflect on life or does the fear of the unknown have more to do with it that we think?
  2. The value shift: A renewed interest in personal health and well-being emerged with greater attention to sustainability, especially in purchasing goods.
  3. Narcissism: Requests for plastic surgery have increased dramatically during the pandemic. Do our many video calls make us focus more on our aesthetic appearance?

What we ask ourselves

  1. How might we train our speculative minds to differentiate ourselves from the machines?
  2. How can we use improvisation to foster independent thinking to know better what is true for each of us?
  3. How can we untangle the new normal to find novel forms of balance?
  4. What if individuals overcame old stereotypes to foster an authentic way of being, thinking, and presenting themselves?

The social sphere — Whom can we still trust?

Now, let’s widen our perspective to the social sphere and reflect on how society is evolving.

The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. In a world where we are now creating the Metaverse and traveling through space, the opportunity gap between the wealthy and the vast majority of people is reaching unprecedented heights.

What we observed

  1. Increased use of tech: We all got used to an almost omnipresent use of technology during the pandemic. The side effects? A more sedentary life, eye and cognitive strain for some, but on the bright side, increased inclusivity for older people.
  2. Social inequalities: The International Monetary Fund warns that the poor are getting poorer and social unrest and geopolitical tensions are growing. While rapidly evolving technology brings great opportunities for inclusion, they also bear the risk of creating an even larger digital divide in the future, causing new kinds of inequalities.
  3. Post-idiocracy era: The internet has democratized access and production of information but has simultaneously created infinite masses of unverified, often polarizing, information. Navigating information and making decisions has never been more challenging.

What we ask ourselves

  1. How can we untangle information to gain certainty on what is true and what is false?
  2. What if we made the invisible visible and started to build a hybrid society in which everyone can benefit from technology equally?
  3. How can design facilitate the creation of trust among people and towards organizations?

The environmental sphere — Sustainable for whom?

Last but not least, we’ll widen our view once again to shed light on the environmental implications of our new normality.

While there’s an increasing awareness and attention around our planet, we wonder whether this is a real effort to enable positive change or just another way to make us feel better about ourselves.
Isn’t it about time we stopped limiting sustainability to the ecological sphere but began to shift our perspective and bring its implications for humanity to the foreground?

What we observed

  1. What is sustainable? Pollution, exploitation of raw materials, the hidden environmental costs of our consumption behavior as well as digitalization all carry the risk or have already caused unethical trade-offs that affect not only our planet but will eventually lead to our society failing in the long run.
  2. Greenwashing: Although we think we act sustainably, we might do harm without even knowing it. Our lack of awareness about the interdependencies between the resources we consume, the pollution we create, and the collateral damages to our planet and society we cause make us easy victims of greenwashing. Companies, the environment and society don’t share the same agenda most of the time.
  3. The new oil: Data is, literally, the new oil. Data centers require enormous amounts of energy to function, which poses another sustainability issue. However, making good use of data helps us gain real insight to trigger, drive and foster behavioral change and live in harmony with the environment.

What we ask ourselves

  1. How can we untangle data to stimulate and drive change, enabling individuals and organizations to act truly sustainably every day, every minute?
  2. What if we brought more visibility to the consequences of our choices in order to unlearn and overcome harmful habits and adopt healthier ones?

So what about you?

Now it’s your turn! How do you perceive your reality when looking through these three lenses? What do you observe? No matter whether their big or small, concrete or abstract.

✍🏼 Leave a comment. We’re curious and would love to hear from you!

❤️ Share the article and keep the conversation going, and remember: it’s up to us to transform our reality as a whole!

⬇️ To find out more, DOWNLOAD our complete TangityDirections22.pdf for free on tangity.design.

🗞 Follow us on Instagram and Linkedin to stay up-to-date on all things Tangity.

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Tangity

Tangity

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We are a global network of design studios, enabling positive impact through tangible and intuitive solutions. We humanize complexity. Website → tangity.design