It’s been a while since we dropped an issue of Modernity into your inbox. Thank you for bearing with us through that silence and staying subscribed. In that last communiqué I called for a reboot. A movement as significant as Modernism but based on designing a better society where we live more human, more equal, more sustainable lives. I still believe. I still hold every one of the team here at Modern Human to those values. 

But, Chloe and I have been a little distracted. We had a big client pull a significant project due to Coronavirus. Incoming work slowed down to the point where it stopped completely for a couple of months and we felt worried for the future of our studio. We took a hard decision. We decided this wasn’t the time to give up. It was the time to go harder. It was the time to double down on our fundamental belief that design can be a power for good in the world. So, we ripped up the strategy. Threw out everything we thought we knew and went back to the heart of what we had set out to create back in 2012. 

Here we are 6 months later: resurgent. We’ve always had amazing clients and amazing projects. I thank every single one of them. They’ve recently been joined by some brilliant new clients and our team have been joined by the amazing Ruth Kent. Chloe and I are very excited about the future. We all have a once in a generation opportunity to reassess work, life, our values and what’s important. We have an opportunity to design the future we deserve not the one laid down for us by consumer capitalism and the forces of greed. We have an opportunity to do better, to be better. Although this pandemic has been a human disaster, it gives us the opportunity and the responsibility to design the future we want to see. 

Let’s do it, together.


P.S. We'll be sharing Modernity again every month from now. If you’re not signed up, please do so to make sure you receive every issue. And, if you’re one of our regular subscribers – thank you; help us to spread Modernity by sharing this edition with a friend or colleague.

modernity redux

We started the Modernity newsletter because we spend a lot of time reading and researching in pursuit of designing products, services and workplaces that make a meaningful difference to people, to our clients and to the world. Along the way we find all kinds of fascinating information that contributes to how we think and shapes what we design. Coming back from a 6-month hiatus here are 12 links that we wanted to share with you:

01_ In 2017 researchers at Yale conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. In the context of Corona-virus and the US Election their results have a new ⭢

02_ This article highlights interesting research and discussion about emotions being a cultural construct, rather than innate, biologically driven reactions to certain challenges and opportunities, sculpted by evolution to help humans survive. The implications being that if you could learn to overlaying different meaning to highly emotional states, then it’s possible to experience negative emotions differently: ⭢

03_ On a psychology theme, during our meta-analysis of academic research on the relationship between children and technology for a project we found this 2-year longitudinal study that describes substantial differences in the way different family members related to devices. One child described using his Google Home: 

“I know he likes blue more than red, just like me. I know he likes apples, just like I do. He is only three years old, and I think he is more clever than I was at his age. I miss him when I am not at home, and I think he does, too.” ⭢

04_ A profile of Joy Buolamwini, whose research helped persuade Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft to put a hold on facial recognition technology: ⭢

05_ An essay by Emily Ratajkowski on how unjust and complicated the idea of "owning an image" is. Somehow, her image is everyone else's but her own: ⭢

06_ This diagram from the Ellen MacArthur foundation highlights how much plastic waste is actually recycled: ⭢

07_ Lots of people are working hard to remove and replace plastic packaging from the supply chain. One of the most interesting is Apeel: ⭢

08_ Taking another approach to the problem, scientists have created a bacteria-based super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster: ⭢

09_ Scientists have put together a Google Doc containing everything you need to know about climate change. The quote towards the end from a professor at Exeter, highlights the challenge:

"We have all the resources we need to deal with this. There is nothing magical about reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There is nothing magical about the greenhouse effect. We know exactly how to deal with it. We just don’t have the political or economic will to do this.” ⭢

10_ Kiss the Ground sets out their manifesto for regenerative agriculture - a new way of farming with the potential to rebalance our climate and feed the world: ⭢

11_ As part of IKEA's efforts to become a fully circular business by 2030, they've opened their first second-hand store in Sweden: ⭢

12_ Our last link is a thing of beauty. One artist's unique take on Kirie (切り絵), the Japanese art of paper cutting: ⭢

Studio notes

In the last month we've concluded two projects for the BBC: the first followed on from our design ethnography during the UK general election, this time make a deep examination of how people experience 'Live' news events.

The second project for the BBC was completely different and involved exploring children's use of web, TV, mobile devices, voice assistants and mixed reality (VR & AR) through diary studies and codesign sessions aimed at design educational games. 

Both projects have yielded some fascinating insights and I love the BBC. I'm always proud that Modern Human can help them create distinctive, world-class services and content which inform, educate and entertain millions of people in the UK and around the world.

We delivered a future product vision and strategy for the largest education technology and services company in the world. They serve nearly 100 million teachers, lecturers and students in globally. 2020 has been an interesting year for them in many ways and for teaching generally so we've been working with them on their flagship learning platform. I'm very happy that Modern Human can help them inspire a love of learning and drive excellence in education when teachers, lecturers and students are facing an unprecedented level of disruption and change.

We delivered a new service vision for Newcastle Building Society. Newcastle have a mission of purposeful lending focused on helping ordinary people, like you and me, own our own homes. The UK needs building societies like the Newcastle so I’m very excited to be helping them on their mission.

Finally, we welcomed Ruth to the team in October. Ruth will be helping us to reach new clients and find interesting new projects to work on. If you're interested in working with Modern Human or you know of an interesting project that we should get involved with then drop her an email:

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Modern Human · St John's Innovation Centre · Cowley Road · Cambridge, CB4 0WS · United Kingdom

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