The concept of a shared "vision of tomorrow" - one adopted by an entire popular culture - is a miraculous testament to the power of design, and one of design's greatest humanistic achievements.
Let's talk about EPCOT, design, futures, and why we need them.
my obsession with futures has been a huge motivator for my work on CROSSNIQ+, a 90's flavored arcade puzzle game now on Kickstarter. It's inspired by "y2k" design, an aesthetic worthy of its own thread. Any support would be appreciated
Let me be clear: this is not an EPCOT history or nostalgia thread, though parts of it will be historical.
By now, the story of Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT, the park's attractions, and its decline are the stuff of legend. I'm not going to retread it.
But they didn't work alone.
This takes us back to 1975, Imagineer Peggie Fariss, the EPCOT Forums, and... Ray Bradbury. Yup.
The EPCOT Forums were conferences led by Peggie Fariss in 1975, which sought to assemble some of the country's greatest minds in engineering, sociology, diplomacy, arts, culture, etc. in order to define the philosophy of EPCOT's future.
EPCOT was a true cross-section of 20th century futurism.
Futures are designed.
Let's start with John Hench (right), the biggest mind behind Future World, and designer of Spaceship Earth.
An early model can be seen here.
It was the gate to Future World, the heart of EPCOT's design.
The "spine" structure of Future World, w/ Spaceship Earth at the gate, was designed for several pavilions to circle around its center. But how would so many concepts - motion, energy, the land, the sea - be visually united?
Enter Norm Inouye
Norm knew what united all of EPCOT, AND the future: the sphere of earth, our home.
Now, Norm was tasked with creating a set of logos for each Future World Pavilion to unite them with Spaceship Earth and the fleur, the hearts of EPCOT. He delivered.
-Horizons, using perspective to draw a road to tomorrow
-Imagination, depicting an iris or lens shutter
-Spaceship Earth, depicting the structure in motion
-The Land, signifying nature and earth
-Energy, depicting emission of energy, whether from a star or an atom
-Motion, representing an object's kinetic energy. This is my personal favorite.
The only logo not designed by Inouye was for the infamous Wonders of Life pavilion, built far later.
Communicore's shape, and purpose of connecting all of the concepts of the various pavilions, is reflected. Spaceship Earth is the heart to Communicore's brain.
A future and a theme park both need consistency to be convincing, and EPCOT carried both missions in stride. Signage maintained use of the logos/colors, and a modified Handel Gothic font reinforced the park's futuristic utopian gravity.
Hexagons and triangles, both harkening back to Spaceship Earth and Fuller's geodesic dome, were also a popular design motif.
All of this elaborately interconnected design came to a head on October 1st, 1982, the same year as the release of the Compact Disc.
EPCOT opened to the public.
Bradbury described it as "the greatest moment in my life".
We're only halfway through this ride, yall. I wasn't joking when I said this was gonna be a big one.
He worked with C Langhorne Washburn, former Asst Secretary of Commerce for Tourism, to get countries around the world talking.
The countries would be positioned around a circular (surprise!) World Showcase Lagoon, forming an hourglass shape with Future World.
Noray and Morocco pavilions were added later. Their logos are uh
lacking in comparison.
What does this have to do with futures, you may ask?
To answer that, we'll have to go forward almost 30 years from the park's opening.
The year is now 1999.
While a radical departure from the techno-utopian vision of Future World, this celebration was its own "vision of the future"
It would also be the last for EPCOT as we know it now.
"Leave a Legacy" stone monuments were constructed outside of Spaceship Earth, imparting a greater sense of gravity. Disney knew EPCOT was a monument itself.
The parade was overseen by the Sage of Time, a delightfully pagan entity for a Disney park.
His "orbiting" collar and mask were inspired by the sun - the most universal symbol in all of human history, uniting every country and time.
Curry wanted silhouettes that could apply to people from any nation, as well as spiritual, lighter-than-air forms built for dancing.
Then, in 2000, Disney took it to the Super Bowl.
It was neither that of Future World or the Millennium Celebration. It was uncertain, full of the chaos that we hoped, or were at least told, would be left behind in the 20th century.
I was too young to know it then.
2001 and 2008 put those dreams to rest.
With the world slipping further into chaos, many of my friends wonder if we have a future at all.
EPCOT, sadly, is no exception. The park is due for an overhaul that will see many of its educational aspects likely undone.
Global communications: polarizing instead of democratizing
Networked technology: paranoia instead of transcendence
Neoliberal globalization: stratifying instead of unifying
Or, perhaps, crafting a unified vision of the future is no longer advantageous to those who have the means to do so.
We design them. Futures are designed.
EPCOT was built during the tension of the Cold War. It wasn't a time of peace. EPCOT was built by thinkers crying for change. If it can be built then, we can build a new vision of our own. And we OUGHT to
The desire for hope and change is there. We, as designers, have a duty to build it a form, a face, a voice.
The aesthetics of a future vision are rallying points for hearts and minds.
That doesn't belittle the inspiration that they gave, and doesn't mean that we cannot reclaim those aspirations for ourselves
That's been my creative motto for years, and I'm excited to do things like write this thread and (hopefully) make this game to put it into action.