The Cover of Extrapolation Factory Operator's Manual

Extrapolation Factory Operator’s Manual

Extrapolation Factory Operator’s Manual by Elliott P. Montgomery and Chris Woebken is a dual-language guide full of beautiful photos, thoughtful typesetting, curious illustrated diagrams, and words you have never seen before.

“Extrapolation Factory Process Diagram”, a futures-study roadmap that includes not one but three tiny ∞ infinity symbols

The Factory itself is a design-based research studio in Brooklyn founded by the two authors. It is here they develop “experimental methods for collaboratively prototyping, experiencing and impacting future scenarios”.

While largely about speculative design and the democratization of futures-studies, the book also describes in detail some pretty dense and niche parallel academic concepts which provide the illustrator, Sungmy Kim, with plenty of opportunities to introduce the book’s transfixing and mysterious illustrations.

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99 cent store in Red Hook, Brooklyn
A (now closed) 99¢ store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Extrapolation Factory Operator’s ManuaI asks us to imagine what a 99¢ store of the future might sell on its shelves.

In a particularly confusing section of the book, we learn bisociation, “a term coined by Arthur Koestler in his 1964 book, The Act of Creation.” “Bisociation refers to the inherent multivalent–or, in Koestler’s thinking, multiplanar–nature of the creative act. Creative thought and production exists, he says, in a ‘transitory state of unstable equilibrium where the balance of both emotion and thought is disturbed.’ In art, bisociation is a juxtaposition of distinct planes or aspects of experience.”

Sungmy Kim’s illustrations in Operator’s Manual are as transfixing and beautiful as they are confusing.

It is concepts like bisociation and the many peculiar exploratory models and techniques developed by the studio that allow the illustrator to fill the pages of the Operator’s Manual with beautifully complex diagrams.

Imagine a world where glowing trees replace street lights and house plants help light up a room. A group of scientists is working to make plants do just that.

An illustration from Extrapolation Factory Operator’s Manual dares us to imagine what kind of machine this frog has found itself inside of.

While we do not fully understand some of the text’s core frameworks like the “Joseph Voros Cone” or the “Futures Wheel”, parts of the manual like the “Instance Database” are more accessible and dare us to imagine the future of pig-to-human organ transplantation and bioluminescent plants that replace street lights.

The physical publication is a beautifully designed paperback that you should purchase to make yourself feel incredibly smart and powerful. You can also download it in PDF format for the on-brand price of 99¢ from the Factory’s website.

While the Extrapolation Factory website links to Amazon, we at the Department of Information suggest requesting it from your community bookstore or at least purchasing it from a slightly less destructive (and affiliate-linked) source like