Superflux: Moving to New Ways of Collaborating

We asked Anab Jain (@anabjain) and Jon Ardern (@jonardern), both Directors of Superflux (@superflux), Located in London and Admedabd to share some insights into their practices and views on the current drivers of change in design.  Anab hopes to realise our vision of the studio as a new kind of design practice, responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

1. Tell us about Superflux’s design practices and describe why you do what you do.
Superflux is an Anglo-Indian design practice: based in London, but with roots and contacts in the Gujarati city of Ahmedabad. We work closely with clients and collaborators on projects that acknowledge the reality of our rapidly changing times, designing with and for uncertainty, instead of resisting it.

We are particularly interested in the ways emerging technologies interface with the environment and everyday life, and with proven experience in design, strategy and foresight, Superflux is in a unique position to explore the implications of these new interactions. Ultimately, we strive to embed these explorations in the here-and-now — using rapid prototyping and media sketches to turn them into stimulating concepts, experiences, products and services.

Our business has two parts. The consultancy is client-facing, offering bespoke services, while the lab is a research space where we develop and test new ideas. Though these two parts function independently, we’ve come to rely on their contrasting rhythms for team sanity, the ‘sweet spot’ of unexpected synergies, and a steady stream of new ideas and provocations.

A pub sketch showing how our practice operates (see the featured image above).

2. What do you think are the current drivers of change in Superflux’s design practices?
I’d like to refer you to this blogpost I wrote last month: where we talk about some of the key areas of focus of our practice, and what we are moving towards.

Whilst the focus of our work is design at the intersection of emerging technologies and people, we work with clients to explore their ‘unknown unknowns’, examining the space for new or alternative products, hybrids of products and services, and entirely new modes of business activity. And this is possible, because through our Lab projects, we are always looking to push the boundaries about where the emerging design practice sits – at the juxtaposition of technology, changing economic conditions, climate change, and culture.

3. What excites you about design at the moment?
The opportunity to be part of the space where a new kind of a design practice is being created – a practice where the designer is not necessarily a ‘star’ or a  ‘hero’ creating ‘iconic products’ but rather someone who is involved with collaborators and the wider community to design new kinds of models of living for the 21st century, a designer who is in effect helping widen perspectives.

4. What do you think the future practices of design will look like and why?
A strange mutation of the present:  networked, collaborative, multidisciplinary
. Already we see how design studios have Associates rather then staff, how lot of projects are done collaboratively between two or more practices, how designers prefer to remain independent and work with more then one ‘studio’. We are also beginning to see how people from other fields are becoming part of the design team, or the other way round – how more designers are beginning to become part of teams that would earlier not have designers. Whether its the obvious designer / technologist / scientist collaboration that we see in our design world, or the not so visible yet – designer / economist / policy planner / teacher collaboration. We don’t believe in design by committee and are very aware of our own skills, obtained through rigourous training and experience, but we feel that the projects we will increasingly be tackling are more complex and require more cross-disciplinary connection then before. And that’s because we are not simply being asked to design an interface in isolation. From the invention phase, where we are involved in helping shape a technology before it becomes ‘product’, to the design of strategy and systems, which then lead to tools and interfaces – our practice engages at varying levels which require new dynamic frameworks.

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