We never take Shakespeare’s (and Star Trek’s) notion about the future being an undiscovered country as a scary proposition. “Undiscovered” just means you’re supposed to go find it. That has always been one of WIRED’s central animating philosophies—that you can figure out what’s to come by a close read of the here and now. This month we’re giving you a guide to our current thinking on that, to the outbreaks of tomorrow that we’re watching and tracking. I hope you’ll like the tour.
To me, the trends we focus on confirm something I already suspected: We’re moving to a future of intentionality. That’s a key tenet of design thinking, the main force shaping and pushing technology and innovation of all kinds. So I want to tell you about another project of mine in that same spirit.
For the past couple of years I’ve been working on a TV show called Abstract: The Art of Design. It premieres on Netflix on February 10. Now, this isn’t WIRED on Netflix. But the show shares some base code (in part because I’m the creator and an executive producer). Abstract is an eight-episode documentary series about creativity, about visionary designers who shape the world around us—from architecture to illustration, cars to typography.
Scott Dadich is the editor in chief of WIRED.
I can guess what you’re thinking, because I have watched a lot of design documentaries. Restrained, polished, pretty—so many of them look like a moving version of a coffee table book. You’ve got softly lit interviews, esoteric conversations, and subtle tracking shots of wide landscapes beneath unobtrusive music. Most of it is clean, minimal, and boring as hell.
We’re not doing that. My partners and fellow executive producers—Morgan Neville (who won an Oscar for 20 Feet From Stardom) and RadicalMedia’s Dave O’Connor—and I built a team of today’s best-known documentarians. Every episode stands as its own film, adapting the design sensibilities of our subjects. And if I may geek out for a moment, aside from the usual Steadicams and drones, we used anamorphic prime lenses—the best glass on the market—mounted on a Red Epic Dragon camera shooting 4K HDR. It looks fantastic.
To verify that independently, I asked WIRED’s esteemed culture desk to review the show. They told me to bugger off—some nonsense about a “conflict of interest.” Whatever. I get this whole page every month. And I’m confident that the show will do more than just bring deeper meaning to things you can see and feel. We were all working from what, in the end, is a particularly WIRED point of view. If we’ve done it right, Abstract will help you understand the future by seeing the intent behind the objects that surround us—and the beauty in the decisions that led to them. So here is my totally nonobjective review: It’s awesome. I rate it two thumbs up, five stars, and 100 percent fresh.
This article appears in the February 2017 issue. Subscribe now.