A playful and innovative approach to future-focused design.
In 2020, UJ’s Department of Industrial Design gave its second-year students a project: they were instructed to design an artefact that solved a problem through imaginative means that may not currently be possible. This speculative design project aimed “to open up new perspectives on problems, to create spaces for discussion and debate about alternative ways of being, and to inspire and encourage people’s imaginations to flow freely.”
Using the Afrofuturism of the superhero film Black Panther for inspiration, industrial design student Sophonia Mosethe created a product called Cyber-Trace. This glove-like device set out to solve a variety of problems related to food security, including seed and soil quality that has been degraded by climate change, droughts and poor farming methods. “Cyber-Trace helps farmers grow more crops at a faster rate,” Sophonia’s report explains, “so helping to save lives and the planet at the same time.”
The boundless thinking of this project helps students to imagine what problems the future may hold (the challenges of food security, Sophonia predicts, aren’t going anywhere), and how best to address these issues. In the process, it teaches innovation to the next generation of industrial designers and scientists – a critical tool in the 4IR arsenal.