Christian Ervin

Design Director, Tellart


The Future is Dead. Long Live the Future!

Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which ‘now’ was of some greater duration. For us, of course, things can change so abruptly, so violently, so profoundly, that futures like our grandparents’ have insufficient ‘now’ to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile.” William Gibson, Pattern Recognition

In a time of rapidly accelerating change, we are understandably fixated on what is just beyond our view—exemplified by a recent profusion in speculative design practices, consultancies adopting futures foresight methods, and even the inauguration of this conference. But what are we to do when the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity of the present robs us of clear visions of the future and limits our ability to design, plan, and implement meaningful change? Put simply: how can we better incorporate long term strategy into practice?

Over the past few years, Tellart has engaged in a series of projects for the government of the UAE that operate in a middle zone between applied design and speculative futures work, between the constraining pragmatism of the near term—which is relatively predictable—and the rootless, wildly speculative, sci fi terrain of the distant future. By navigating between these extremes, plausible future scenarios offer concrete insights into the impact of emerging trends and provide structure for long-term strategies for R&D, investment, and even public policy.

In this talk, I will share lessons from our experience developing high fidelity prototypes of plausible future products and services and make a case for the value of a pragmatic, applied futures practice.


As Design Director at Tellart, Christian offers design and technology leadership to cultural institutions, governments, and product manufacturers in the strange present, when the internet is everywhere and everything is a computer. Tellart creates experiences that bridge the physical and the virtual across screens, objects, and spaces, with a particular focus on early-stage prototypes that investigate and communicate future products and services. Over the last few years, Christian has led work on the Museum of the Future, a series of immersive future scenarios for the government of the United Arab Emirates that have helped shape policy on emerging technologies.