E. Scott Denison
Department of Design
After a long professional career embracing a full complement of design expression in print, graphics, television, web, brands, and environments, E. Scott Denison is currently Assistant Professor and Design Foundations coordinator at The Ohio State University. He has a BSID in Visual Communications and an MFA in Design Development from The Ohio State University. Scott managed a reengineering of the Design Foundations Program at Ohio State in 2014 and currently teaches pre-design fundamentals along with third-year undergraduate collaborative studio and has also taught graduate seminars.
Before academia, Scott held design and management positions at Royal Dutch Philips Consumer Electronics managing the US brand advertising and identity, and in private practice working with brands like Nokia, and Motorola. In the eight years before his current position, he was integrating the global brand experience for Lutron Electronics. His research utilizes design fiction to explore the socio-techno ramifications of design and technology.
Q & A
What makes more livable futures for you?
Futurist Ray Kurzweil (2005) claims: ‘We are not going to reach the Singularity in some single great leap forward, but rather through a great many small steps, each seemingly benign and modest in scope.’ History has shown that these steps are incrementally embraced by society and often become grand in scale. Such scalable events can become complex systems with a life of their own. The automobile is efficient as a means to get from point A to point B, but we see a much higher level of complexity in the systems that sustain our travels; infrastructure, roads, traffic management, fueling, maintenance, safety, etc. We see similar systems resulting from air travel, the Internet, and the smartphone. Each of these technological developments has initiated a chain-reaction of supportive rules, dangers, legalities, even behavioral disorders that are difficult to grasp. And while there is traditionally some initial hesitation to these technologies at their introduction, publics have ultimately adopted them and asked for more, often in advance of a serious review of the ramifications of ethics, policy, and human behavior.
As a designer and design instructor, a more livable future is one where we have addressed not only innovations that make our lives more convenient and electronic but have thoroughly considered the impact on our humanness.
What are you reading, viewing, listening to right now?
I just finished, Futurist Gerd Leonhard's Technology vs. Humanity: The coming clash between man and machine, which deals with the concepts of humanness and ethics in our technology-driven culture. A favorite text that I require my students to read is The Techno-Human Condition, by Bradon Allenby and Daniel Sarewitz. The authors deal with the complex issues of what it means to be human and the emergence of the transhumanist movement. I recently came across the Vimeo documentary, “Nothing to Hide” that looks at surveillance, data collection, and privacy in our digitally connected society. Finally, I am a fan of science fiction, particularly cyberpunk. As science fiction writer Robert Heinlein defined it, science fiction is, “...realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the scientific method.” Science fiction is at the core of an emerging form of design research known as “design fiction.” Design fiction uses design prototyping to form critical investigations about the future of what we make and how it remakes us.
What practices are sustaining you?
Teaching exercises in future narratives and the resulting prototypes enable students, through a structured process of speculation, to examine the potential ramifications for people, culture, and society as well as the designer’s motivations. Through a rigorous process of investigation into current trends and emerging technologies students gain an understanding of logical succession. The resulting plausibility in design fiction narratives renders the future scenario more believable, thereby increasing realism and plausible context. It also makes more legible the implications for human behavior. Future speculations further require the designer to examine the nature of systems and the interconnectedness of things as well as the potential for abuse and unintended consequences flowing from our technological and digital breakthroughs. Finally, emerging from undergraduate design education with an anticipatory mindset can prepare students for more focused post-graduate study or greater adaptability for reasoning our abstract future.
For the past seven years, I have been working on my online science fiction graphic novel, The Lightstream Chronicles, which serves as the creative cornerstone of my research with newly envisioned extensions to pedagogy. On the purely artistic level, it is the confluence of graphic design, speculative fiction, interior, product, information design, visual storytelling and the concepts of design fiction as applied to a future narrative. The illustration and visualization of the story require continuing research into trending technological advancements and their potential influence in the future world. The story utilizes artifacts from the future, or “diegetic prototypes.” that serve to make the future more legible. All the imagery is constructed as three-dimensional models and then rendered. The story and images are combined in a graphic novel to enable the reader to linger and examine the unfolding narrative and the subtlety with which design and culture interact. I publish new content weekly.