Newbery Medal 2022

Innovation School Product Design

Emma Defty (she/her)

My practice sits between speculative research and educational tool creation, with the aim to question what we take for granted and make potential realities tangible from uncertainty.

Using methods from across systems-, service-, and speculative design, my projects are all about interdependencies – aiming to help investigate, reveal and facilitate our relationships between each other and the digital/natural environment.

Unintended Consequences
Borrowed Time

Unintended Consequences

The collaboration resulting in the ‘Unintended Consequences Card Game’ focused on researching a future world centred around environment and care, under the theme of symbiosis. Despite our focus being “environment”, both symbiosis and care necessarily involve two actors, and are an expression of the dynamic between them. This dynamic is at the core of our future world speculation.

Our final output takes the shape of a discursive card game, designed to simulate the interdependencies between people and environment (as represented by the players). The goal of the game is to create a mutually beneficial world, but the prompts contained within it make reaching this goal near impossible. This is not to insinuate that a symbiotic world isn’t possible, but rather a way of illustrating to players how difficult this might be, and prompt reflection on what sacrifices we might or might not be willing to make to create such a world. We can see this card game being used as a teaching tool to introduce the concepts of symbiosis, interdependence, negotiation and trade-offs in sustainability.

Unintended Consequences Gameplay

A run-through of the Unintended Consequences Gameplay and rationale.


Close-up of some of the playing cards, showing first order consequences

Game Playing

Users doing a trail run through of the game, playing as 'People' and 'Environment'.

Borrowed Time

There is a distinct and dangerous dissonance between our short sighted, anthropocentric consumption of earth’s resources, and nature’s regeneration rhythms.

Resource Time is an alternate time measurement, designed to make that dissonance more palpable. It is based on our consumption of earth’s resources rather than standard time. If we measured a year in terms of us exhausting a year’s worth of regenerable resources, then we have been speeding up time since the 1970s (based on the data of earth overshoot day, found here). Resource time runs 1,26x faster than standard time.

This time measurement is tool to intervene and create mindset shifts within systems through the people working within them. Workplaces of all kinds, with their continual strategic and implementation plans, are spaces in which foresight is enacted continually and future planning already happens at larger than individual scales. Inserting Resource Time into these environments and planning moments is therefore a way of reaching people in a space where they are empowered to shift the way we create the things which affect us and the future from which we are stealing.

To this end Return Borrowed Time – an open source platform (demo website found here) brings Resource Time awareness into organisations & workplaces. Alongside linking toward practical advice, it offers 3 modified timepieces which operate as interventions in the personal and public sphere in working environments. The Borrowed Time artefacts give different entry points to Resource Time, spanning past, present and future. They are modifications to existing timepieces rather than new products, requiring little to no new material, to be in line with the ethos of resource conservation at the heart of this project.



Artefact 1 - Past

Artefact 1 is a hack on the everyday timepiece which is perhaps most short-termism inducing: the smart-phone. It works in conjunction with a digital clock coded to Resource Time, which the user can find on the welcome page of the Return Borrowed Time website. After calling up the website, the user slots their phone into the body, which obscures all information on the screen other than the Resource Time. It functions as a digital perpetual calendar, displaying the destructive impact we have already had at a second by second pace.

Artefact 2 - Present

Afterfact 2 is a modification of an ordinary office clock. It functions identically to its normal cousin, but has a modified face which affects the meaning of the positioning of the hands of the clock. It displays Resource Time within the 12-hour dial display a standard clock offers. Of a 12 hour timeframe, currently 4:48 hrs of resource use are regenerable. This is why the remaining 7:12 hrs are obscured. Within the visible window a secondary set of numbers shows the 12 resource hours passing in parallel to standard hours.

Artefact 3 - Future

Artefact 3 is the Resource Time Diary - the most future focussed of the product family. The user prints this diary themselves at the start of the year - one half on cartridge and the other half on scrap paper (a pre-used resource). Each spread juxtaposes standard time and resource time, new paper and re-used. It gives a future focussed way of engaging with Resource Time, taking the same calculation used in the digital time-piece and placing each normal page across from the exact year/month/day those days are using the resources of. It catches users in a planning moment where they are already looking into and making decisions for the future.

Artefacts in Situ

Blending in seamlessly and subverting traditional industrial design aesthetics, the Borrowed Time Artefacts form an immersive environment of ambient information.

Resource Time

A video showing the implementation of the artefacts in the workplace.


We are living in an age of atomization, individualism, and anthropocentrism. Looking ten years into the future, the Kintography kit proposes a more caring world.

Kintography is a non-biological kin mapping language and process which aids people in reflecting on care heritage and view intergenerationality through that lens rather than genealogical relation. It expands beyond the confines of a traditional family tree to include non-human actors. The goal of undergoing this process is to make tangible the ephemeral connections which sustain us in our day-to-day lives and keep us alive in the form of stories/memories/legacy past our death.

In the form of a-synchronous postable co-design kit, it is as much a tool for individual reflection as a proposal for new civic participation in government. Within its inquiry phase the Committee for the Welfare of Future Generations employs the process of Kintography to gain insight into citizen’s perspectives on and experiences of care, and make recommendations to legislators based on these.



Constructing the Kintography

Using the provided tokens, markers, and connectors a user constructs their Kintography

Uploading the Kintography

After the user feels their Kintograph is complete, they document it and send a picture to the Committee for the Welfare of Future Generations

Kintography Prints

As a thank you for the provided care data, the Committee for the Welfare of Future Generations transforms the documented Kintographs into art prints which act as reminders of the care that has been inherited, and the care legacy each user wants to leave.

The Kintography Process

Documenting one users journey with the Kintography kit.