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Designing a better future is a moral obligation. Here’s how to start

2020 has amplified the vast problems in America. The inequities and interdependencies that have always existed are now impossible to ignore. We’re collectively experiencing a range of emotions: anger, despair, frustration, anxiety, helplessness. And yet I feel there’s still a palpable hope that things can, and will, change.

Design is a method of envisioning the future, of which optimism is a foundational part. Designing with optimism is to believe in the potential to create a better future. It does not suggest trusting blindly that everything will turn out in your favor, nor does it necessitate holding positive sentiment in your process. In fact, challenging ideas or beliefs may be one of the most optimistic things you can do. By practicing optimism in design, you think expansively about what is possible, and help others to see possibilities as well.

Optimism can manifest in various forms within design—as an ambitious goal beyond belief, a process, a mindset. Consider humankind’s ambitious pursuit of space travel. It requires designing processes and systems without truly knowing what the result will be, until it happens. Designing with optimism can enable the freedom to dream of new possibilities into the unknown. Yet despite tragic setbacks, human aspirations for space travel continue to grow. SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, envisions a city on Mars with humans becoming the first interplanetary species. Their mission is founded on the belief that “the future will be better than the past.”

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