Back to the F**kture: Bas Van de Poel

type - podcast
In the latest episode of the Back to the F**kture podcast, The Future Laboratory co-founder Martin Raymond spoke with Bas Van de Poel about inventing the future.

Bas Van de Poel describes his new venture, Modem – co-founded with fellow designer and creative director Astin Le Clercq – as an office for design and innovation where the future is anticipated and imagined accordingly. 

But, as he tells me in our latest Back to the F**ture podcast, it is also about inventing the future rather than predicting it. Or, as he puts it, ‘futures, plural, since any future solution involves multiple options and opportunities rather than a singular, binary approach’.
Bas is a well-known designer, entrepreneur and lecturer – Berkeley, MIT, Harvard – but he’s also the ex-creative director and visionary behind Ikea’s famed Space10 design and innovation lab, which, if you know anything about such things, is one of those rara avis design ateliers that tackles those big issue questions that require everyday ‘extra-ordinary’ solutions for brands like Ikea to keep ‘innovating, but to do so with meaning and with a view to making genuine contributions to how we will live tomorrow’.
‘Essentially, it’s about asking the right questions in the most interesting way,’ he explains, ‘as in how, why and when we work; the role of architecture in an augmented future; how driverless vehicles could change our lives – what happens, for instance, when you put an office on wheels, or healthcare or food?’
The point, he believes, is to establish what the big questions are – about the role of privacy and trust when it comes to technology in the home, for instance – ‘then to challenge them, and work with unlike-minded designers, thinkers, ethnographers, artists, musicians and so on to come up with solutions that surprise you, and at the same time make a key and measurable contribution to your lifestyle and your sense of wellbeing. He refers to these moments as collisions, ‘when ideas get bashed together, different discourses rub against each other and new ideas are formed, new ways of considering something seen and understood’.

Published by:

23 June 2021

Author: Martin Raymond and Bas Van de Poel



He does, however, fear that we are entering what he refers to as ‘peak futures’, where a certain fatigue about tomorrow has set in at a time when we really do need to be thinking outside the box, or imagining, as he put it in a pre-podcast conversation I had with him, ‘that there are no boxes, only challenges that need solving’.

But his point is clear enough. As he says, if you think about the 20th century, we were already talking about the 21st century, or in the 19th century, talking about 20th-century solutions and so on. But how many of us are talking about the 22nd century now? And yet it is only 80 or so years away, and with all these challenges that we are looking at in a very linear way. Technology, climate, wellbeing – these are subjects, not solutions. To understand them, and to make that 22nd century happen, we need to break them down into questions, into opportunities, but above all, into stories and experiences.

And this is how he believes good forecasting and design innovation work at their most powerful: when they allow a story to be told, a narrative to unfold and experience to be had. ‘By showing rather than telling, people can better understand tomorrow, and by feeling it and experiencing it through different kinds of design – physical, emotional, immersive, virtual – [they can] embrace it and help others to better understand it so that it becomes the future we want.’

You can find Bas Van de Poel’s podcast here, or more about his new venture by clicking on the following link:

Tune in to the podcast on Audioboom, Spotify, Apple.