Future of Self Image
How might we create parameters for radical brainstorming? Beauty Fiction is a week-long thought piece looking at signals today and projecting possible futures 5 to 10 years out. This exercise is a suspension of disbelief to think critically about extreme future scenarios .
Project completed while at IDEO, 2019
Role: project lead
What are the emerging contours of behavior and identity in beauty?
Extrapolating Four DirectionsDesign is inherently about the future. By extrapolating signals from things, events, key moments that happen today, we can start to depict possible futures that’ll shape our actions. Below are four extreme future directions reveals by present signals.
1. Quantifiable AugmentationBeauty is a privilege to strive for. It can be measured and made. Augmentation is expected and common. Data transparency means anyone can effectively be scored to a standard.
Present signals: reshape your face for the right date, interfacing with your brain, China’s big data attraction, the future of fragrance formulations, open-source AI for good, Alexa knows what’s good for you, truth in vitamin injections, haunted AI selfies.
2. Authentic RejectionIn a world dominated by appearances, there’s constant pursuit of the “real.’
Data is sacred and private, so beauty is up to my interpretation but innate — the things that make one unique and special come from within.
Present signals: pageantry reject makeup, rise of makeup removal vids, reconnect with elderly, fighting for the right to look morbid, China’s millennial backlash, perfect imperfection for Beyonce of China, end of hair discrimination, 2D worlds provide new depth for youth.
3. Radical Self-Reliance
In an environment where resources become scarce and existing conventions are increasingly challenged, there’s a hunger to surmount this swelling sense of resignation. While optimism for what’s possible has been worn down, human ingenuity has helped unearth creative ways to find meaning in the desolate.
Present signals: waterless beauty in cosmetic scarcity, consumer fatigue by repetitive influencers, forbidding buddha-like lifestyle, stay-at-home beauty, marriage a cliché for Chinese youth, personal postcode for delivery, young Chinese embrace a “slash” career, little fresh meat and changing masculinity in China.
4. Collective DefinitionAs prosperity flourishes, there’s a quiet desire to want to feel like one is taking part in the rising tide. In the face of the swirling ambiguity of a fast-approaching future, traditions and norms serve as a north star — fixtures that are adopted or invented out of this longing for belonging.
Present signals: Faking street photography, Gen Z spending all for luxury, China’s youth obsess with power of appearances, men and notions of gender role shifts, future of fitness is together but alone, caught looking real while vlogging, can money buy love, rise of 996.