For most people, a “sustainable future” may seem unrealistic…or filled with too many sacrifices: no more overseas holiday trips, no more fancy cars. How do we make this type of future attractive and desirable? Instead of visualizing the future based on restrictions, we wanted to present alternatives that make the seemingly impossible possible and more inspiring.

Life2053 is a responsive web “prototype of the future,” meaning that you can be a part of the story that shapes the actual future by immersing yourself in everyday situations and prototyping how your sustainable life might look in 2053.

Storytelling and model development and deployment is a powerful design method used to concretize and visualize new ideas, concepts and products. As you know, the way we think about things does shape our present and our future; a negative and dystopian view of the future – or a positive one – will affect the actual outcome. Life2053 aims to envision and solidify a sustainable, energy-efficient future while it contributes to the idea of making sustainable lifestyles more attainable.

By visualizing an everyday scene, people are more likely to relate to the details. In terms of environmental impact, we focused on the possibilities rather than the sacrifices and on areas that have the biggest impact.

Madlene Lindström, Interaction Designer, Veryday

To achieve these goals, Green Leap, a network for design and sustainable development, brought together a multidisciplinary team of researchers, in future studies, design and environmental systems analysis, as well as product, service and digital design practitioners. The Life2053 project builds on a previous project, a backcasting study of Stockholm circa 2050 with 60 percent less energy
use than today, published in Images of the Future City: Time and Space for Sustainable Development (Höjer et al., 2011).

In Images of the Future City, the researchers formulated six different future scenarios using numerous city structures and diverse life tempos. These scenarios constitute the basis for the Life2053 calculations and also impact the prototype’s end results. On the one hand, it’s often difficult for academia to reach out to the greater public, while on the other hand the design world can lack connection and insight into academic research. Throughout this project the two met and joined forces beautifully.

Design played an important role to make Life2053 attractive and easy to use and understand. This is quite a tr aditional role of design, but for research projects to take the user-perspective so seriously this is rather uncommon. Today, many futures studies focus only at the overarching societal level of policy-making. But in order to achieve a sustainable society we also need to change the way we live, something that is hard to achieve if a sustainable future is portrayed in terms of sacrifices only. We wanted to show that life in a sustainable future can be as good as life is today – if not better!

Josefin Wangel, Project Leader Green Leap, KTH

Create your own sustainable future

There’s been a strong focus on storytelling. How do we convey a message in a compelling way yet at the same time leave it open for individual contributions? The result is a digital experience that’s built around scenes. In the first scene, we set the stage by showing what’s in the news on today’s date, 2053 – and what led up to that moment. At each scene you can read more about the research that shaped it and go through different social situations where, as co-creator of the story, you choose between options. Each scene concludes with examples of potential future services or products. At the very end, you are presented with “your story” about your sustainable future 2053. You may also choose to share your final story/visualization through Facebook integration, provide personal feedback or ask the researchers questions.

Explore life in a sustainable future in a Swedish city in 2053

Life 2053 is a successful first endeavor that combines design methods, future studies and environmental systems analysis with prototyping methods and digital design tools.

We aimed at creating an atmosphere that people could relate to and aspired to make icons, colors and imagery gender- and time-neutral. Changes aren’t as radical as most futuristic visions make them out to be in terms of aesthetics. Rather, they are reflected in smart solutions, systems, construction materials and not least – changes in human behaviour.

Madlene Lindström, Interaction Designer, Veryday