Yesterday we looked at ways to give your science fiction universe a sense of history by showing worn-out and obsolete equipment.
But your world doesn’t have to look decrepit or dystopian. You might show a city that had once been ruled by an authoritarian central government that is now in the hands of a vibrant local economy—think of Le Corbusier’s severe apartment blocks or worker houses, taken over by people who have added shutters and flowers in window boxes—which would make him turn over in his grave.
Or you might have a low-tech society reusing the parts of abandoned spacecraft for animal-drawn vehicles.
Another design strategy is retrofitting, modifying existing technology with updated elements, usually to adapt the system for modern uses, like putting an outboard motor on a rowing dory. Retrofitting was one of the design themes of the film Blade Runner, conceived by Ridley Scott and Syd Mead (above).
For most of the history of design, people have used decorative elements to evoke a civilization’s past or present glories. This explains hood ornaments, ship’s figureheads, and the Venetian Bucintoro.
We can’t assume that future civilizations will continue to adopt the Bauhaus aesthetic, which was an anomaly of the 20th century. Across time and culture, humans have always chosen to surround themselves with pattern and decoration, and we’re more likely to see a future with layers of ornament rather than minimalism. Check out CeGeBe's description of modern-day Dresden in the comments of yesterday's post.
Syd Mead thanks to Kiel Bryant, link