10 years ago, on their search for better everyday travel for people everywhere, Google's driverless vehicle had clocked over 140,000 miles on the road. 140,000 miles...
And this was just the beginning, this car was just a mediocre motor with cameras crudely strapped to it, it wasn't even close to hitting the market. "The future is not a destination – it is a direction" – Ed Catmull.
10 years later, you sit your backside down into the plush leather seat of a Tesla, you feel the seat sink down a little further than usual (second helpings over Christmas). You fire up the engine, whip around a few corners and accelerate toward an up ramp to merge onto the freeway. With a few deft swipes on the cars touch screen the autopilot is switched on. The car, seemingly with a mind of its own, is driving itself, skirting past traffic and turning the wheel in a ghostly fashion, hands-free as it glides through corners. The everyday future is here, what now?
Which direction do we take from here?
SPACE10 is a research and design lab seeking that direction. They're on a 'mission to create a better everyday life for people and the planet'. But what does that even mean?
Well, the lab seems to coalesce design, invention, engineering and research to find innovative solutions to some of the major societal changes expected to affect people and our planet in the years to come. A quick example of this is their latest book publication 'The Ideal City', which looks for ways cities can be built more sustainably to address climate change.
In their project 'Everyday Experiments' SPACE10 sought out collaborators to explore the future of everyday technology in the home. With work from designs studios and individuals like Bakken & Bæck and Timi Oyedeji. In one experient FIELD playfully challenges the concept of a tape measure, opting instead for a giant inflatable elephant that springs into the room digitally measuring distances with its inflatable limbs.
'The metaphorical "elephant in the room," or something we’re trying to ignore, is subverted into a way of seeing potential, of sensing space intuitively, non-metrically. Why an elephant, you ask? Well, why not?'
In another experiment, ManVsMachine designed an optical sound system that visualizes sound in living spaces using Augmented Reality. The sound is visualized through thousands of tiny colored beads that dance, wiggle and shake as they vibrate through a rainbow of colors in effortless unison with the accompanying music. The goal was to tailor the music experience in the home 'in the most tactile and spatial way possible'.
You'll notice that many of SPACE10's projects have a home, homewares, interior or 'living' aspect to them. This made more sense when I learnt that the studio and its projects are actually funded by IKEA. But what really drew me to SPACE10's projects and collaborations was this ethos of 'better everyday futures'. Everyday futures. It's specific, when the future arrives its not always for everyone, everyday. Think about that Telsa I mentioned, and it's autopilot. Yes, driverless cars are here, but do they dominate the everyday of most people? Likely no. 'Everyday futures' is a future at scale, for the masses and that affects the entire mainstream in positive ways. It's this inclusive principle that SPACE10 bases its projects around and by extension, their visual identity.
The SPACE10 identity by most accounts is unremarkable, but that's the point. Its logo is set in Helvetica bold all caps and the only brand colors are black and white (Ooo very modernist). The idea is one of inclusion, Helvetica is available on countless computers around the world and the colors black and white have that same sense of accessibility. Usually, when we design brands we want to stand out, to appeal to smaller groups within a market, to differentiate. 'We are different from this brand, we are like this, not like that'. This brand is different, it includes and invites; 'you belong with us, how can you contribute?'. SPACE10's creative director explains it like this [we have] "a big, bold mission and we’re very aware that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish it on our own — so the more people join us, the better."
This democratic approach is also reflected in the accessibility of SPACE10's brand assets. All of them; logo, brand voice, templates etc. are available to download on a nifty little brand site here. Accompanied by the call to action "Use them as stepping stones for creative innovation and join us on our mission". SPACE10 is presenting their tools for all, to be available for both designers and collaborators.
Further complimenting this attainable and collaborative philosophy SPACE10 struck up a partnership with DIA, a design agency with a specialty in animated typography. They sought to create a design tool that could be used by ALL of the employees at SPACE10, not just the creatives, freeing them of limitations. The generative tool (See below) allows design access to everyone, circumventing the need for design software. The tool can export design layouts, imagery and video with easily adjustable settings. A few clicks and the tool will spit out simple, on-brand layouts with SPACE10's pared-back Helvetica aesthetic.
It's this team-centric and accessible approach combined with SPACE10's commitment to better everyday futures that makes their projects and publications relevant, meaningful and truly collaborative.
To circle back, funnily enough, SPACE10 have written an article on driverless vehicles, which envisions a myriad of different uses for cars without drivers. With imaginative ideas for vehicles with offices, miniature farms or even cafe's inside them (good luck not spilling your coffee). It's a clever guess to the direction of an everyday future we'd all love to see - let's hope a flying Telsa can take us there.
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