Thinking through Making

Future of work project

The Future Of Work

Across the year, the course will be looking into a single social issue: the Crisis of Work. Partnered with Autonomy Thinktank, our students and staff will make work across the year resulting in a formal published output in the summer. The ‘Future of Work’ is pertinent and compelling for a number of reasons. Our post-Protestant notions of work are unravelling and clearly now in crisis. Growing precarity is evident in society as work fails to provide its traditional security and support. Automation is increasingly putting jobs at risk and opposition to it, in the form of Neoluddism, is on the rise as many migrate away from trust in the benefits that machine-based progress may bring. Disparities of income are increasing exponentially and the meaninglessness of lousy jobs has become apparent in many sectors of public life and endeavour.

Our students, often working shifts to fund their own study, will be experts in analysing this crisis. Their lives and futures make them ideally placed to investigate in a number of ways: their online data is often monetised as unacknowledged work.

They inhabit toxic workplaces. Their employment fields are Uberised via online services such as Taskrabbit,, and Deliveroo. The gig economy and zero-hour contracts looks like becoming a major employment pattern in future. Urban space scarcity and the rise of co-working affects studio and rental culture. And Silicon Roundabout and the South Sea bubble of phoney enterprise speculation reveals the fragility of once secure career prospects. During the project we’ll be using visual tools to interrogate all issues around work: the commute, uniforms, tools, passes, waste, worker portraits and more. We hope to use design to re-engineer the present, and consider new modes of existence beyond work, such post-work cities and Universal Basic Income.

The Uniform: A workshop

As part of The Future of Work event held on Monday 1 st October. Students were given the task to make a ‘uniform’ based on a given theme; Differentiate, Equality, Hierarchy,

Appropriate, Health & Safety. Each group had the restriction to using only one material (tinfoil, string, electrical tape, kitchen roll, bin bags). They used a rapid prototype approach to making their work. We saw some really interesting ideas being developed which raised questions of what is the future of the uniform in the era of automation?

Differentiate: Students explored ideas of surveillance and the idea of camouflage.
Equality: Exploration of uniform as sign.
Hierarchy: Using the simple neck tie to communicate hierarchy systems.


Another story


Leverage agile frameworks to provide a robust synopsis for high level overviews. Iterative approaches to corporate strategy foster collaborative thinking to further the overall value proposition. Organically grow the holistic world view of disruptive innovation via workplace diversity and empowerment.

What do cities look like after the end of work? UCA Graphic Design with Autonomy


Working with Will Stronge, founder of post-work think tank Autonomy,, Julian Siravo, an architect whose work has inspired our interest in this area, and Diann Bauer, an artist, writer and member of Laboria Cuboniks, Year 2 students worked on a 5 week design project as part of Design Laboratory.

 Will had given a briefing presentation to the students in January, presenting the problems that face society today and in the coming decades with regards to work cultures and practices. He touched on contemporary issues such as rising precarity, the gendered division of labour, and the nature of conditionality in the welfare system, as well as issues such as the potential uses of automation and the possible benefits of UBI and UBS as part of an updated welfare state.

 With this, students engaged with visual prototyping of design ideas that take ‘post-work’ problems as their premise. While political and economic dilemmas are obviously essential to envisaging better futures, constructing the look, feel and practicality of a world with much less waged and unwaged work is itself crucial for provoking constructive responses and for taking steps towards any kind of real world implementation. Simply put, design makes ideas more tangible.

 Working in the allocated groups, students had to produce each of the following, in response to the problems that a ‘post-work’ world would have to deal with:

A moving image piece
An alternative form of mapping and architecture
Some branding
Printed matter
Propaganda posters / campaign

These projects were experiments in utopian thinking and we encouraged students to flex their design imaginations in more speculative directions.


Identity Parade


30 minutes to define who you will be

During the Introduction to the ‘Future of Work’ course theme, undergraduate and post graduate students were encouraged to start to explore their possible future identities through the current work place Identity Card format.

This was a very quick open brief using coloured card, found imagery and the students own immediate perceptions of who they are, against mapped examples of job descriptions in the creative industries. It demanded that they visually consider what their possible futures may be.