The Future of Water

This project examines the critical relationship between storytelling and information, specifically, quantitative insights, within a dynamic virtual setting, of current events in the social sector—our global water crisis.

Jeannie Joshi
Joshi Design LLC (

Mike Edwards
Founder/Lead Technologist
rich | strange (

“The question of ‘experience’ is frequently debated in design circles, and particularly in educational circles where students have a tendency to mistake software as a way to transform themselves into film directors. The prevailing sentiment seems influenced not only by the stylistic urge to layer but also by the expectation that design must address new and complex audiences in new and complex ways.”

—Jessica Helfand, Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture.

As interactive technologies become more complex and traditional narrative structures more layered—information and data are themselves becoming a powerful narrative tool.

Driven by our passion for both social impact and mixed reality, this project examines the critical relationship between storytelling and information, specifically, quantitative insights, within a dynamic virtual setting, of current events in the social sector—our global water crisis.

We begin to shape a new territory for human-centric interaction design through the use of mixed reality, striking a balance between craft and execution, context and purpose.

This project, Future of Water, is a proof of concept, of a virtual-reality data experience, that aims to critique the scarcity of information innovation within larger problem areas—in this instance, the global water gap.

Breaking down the quantitative data sets from McKinsey & Company’s economic report “Charting Our Water Future” our work:

  • showcases how VR affordances can adapt and illuminate these quantitative insights within the setting of mixed reality
  • suggests a process of divergent and convergent thinking for a diversity of stakeholders, including educators
  • demonstrates the transformative power of mixed reality storytelling, and
    educates our audience on the challenges that designers will face in creating functional solutions working with edge technologies


A Selfish Communication

Brian Dougan
Associate Professor of Architecture
American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

From within the hasty pace of academic change, the absence of certain platitudinous expertise in design education together with an emphasis in nascent design technologies has resulted in an unavoidable deficit in terms of how students work. The contemporary attack is often cold, hurried and lackluster. I am impressed by student’s many technological and sociological advantages and their fluencies in calculation and fabrication methods, but disappointed with their abilities to negotiate their own human sensitivities. My default role in most every creative academic endeavor is to teach students how-to-do whatever it is that requires doing. How-to work might be a better way to describe the role or even, how-to communicate – communicate to the immediate community, the professor and most importantly, to themselves. How to speak well about what it is they are trying to say. My role is to teach them that how they say something fundamentally effects what that something is.

I am developing an approach for teaching design students how to be drawers. It is about learning to draw and drawing to learn. In a first year drawing studio, I orchestrated a series of lessons about “seeing” in relation to coordination; a craft based approach emphasizing how one cooperates and coordinates with tools. The lessons are concerned with hand/tool coordination and with hand/eye coordination. I initially rely on blind contour exercises stressing an honest relationship between the seer and the seen. Eventually the seers are liberated from exclusive blindness to varying degrees of judgment. I have been calling this process, ‘the spectrum of judication’. Through the student’s virgin eyes, the poles of the spectrum are in diametrical opposition – immeasurable quality and calculated recognition. The intentionally gradated engagement has produced a generally high quality of product and a rather large collection of seemingly confident young drawers.

Design for Dystopia

Amelia Marzec
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Queens College
Hunter College

Imagine a future where the American dollar is worthless. To re-build the economy, citizens must use the only resource available: decades of postconsumer waste. With no way to afford expensive international electronics, but with a deep human desire to connect, they sift through products that have been subject to planned obsolescence for the possibility of working parts. The goal is to build a new communications infrastructure that is community-controlled and far from the prying eyes of any government.

In the global economy, we have enjoyed more connectedness than ever before; but have paid a price in privacy and autonomy. Governments can and will suppress communication, as we have seen during Arab Spring and the Hong Kong protests. Centralized internet and phone systems are not able to survive natural disasters, as we’ve seen during the Tohoku Earthquake and Hurricane Sandy. If roads are closed, gas is rationed and the internet is down, it is impossible to order any supplies. It is time to remove the mystique surrounding the production of telecommunications systems. We must learn to use what is at hand to be prepared for disruptions.

Design for Dystopia traces several projects from concept to outcome: a project that allows people to send messages offline using their mobile phones, bypassing their cell phone provider; a project that re-envisions the structure of electronics manufacturing in America; and thoughts on furthering the design of a more democratic communications infrastructure, using native materials. We need to consider that the devices and methods with which we are dependent on to communicate and receive our content are also political, and we need to address what is actually necessary for basic communication.