The Future of Labor

Target community: Long Island City, NY

Models of work continue to evolve due to changes in policy, emerging technology, and social behaviors as a few examples. With many social and economic systems changing, what will be the future of labor practices? In a graduate studio course at Parsons School of Design, the project highlights a collaborative transdisciplinary design research approach to develop a future design proposal for Long Island City (LIC).

Main Collaborators: Juliana Chohfi, Alyssa Kropp
Current Impact: Gentrification causing transition from industrial to residential
Future Pain Points: Amazon's implementation of home-delivery service; emerging technology affecting manufacturing workers
Opportunity Space: Immigrant group cooperatives or worker-led organizations


Collaborative Research Dossier

Synthesis into Hunches & Hypothesis

  • Traditional labor-intensive industries are moving out, high-tech industries are moving in

  • Initial researched businesses in LIC have not existed more than 25 years

  • Significant number of workers are laid-off due to the industry shifts

  • Tailored trainings for workers in the LIC manufacturing industry to support the adjustment to emerging industry changes

  • The labor unions are active and the workers are well-represented

  • There is a high demand for manufacturing space while the supply is short

  • Businesses are unaware, or not fully aware, of the available services they can use from governments or organizations

  • Businesses and factories are very aware of the impact they have on environments and have responsive environmental protection plans along their production footprint

  • Most of the core employees are office based jobs

  • Businesses hire contract or temporary workers during peak production periods

  • Workers are generally satisfied with their working environments

  • Most workers live in further east part of Queens, or further north in Astoria

  • There are commuter services for workers provided by individual companies such as shuttle buses

  • Most businesses in this area are mature, and small to medium size; not so many start-ups and incubation labs

  • There is a well-represented diversity in labor as a whole in the LIC manufacturing area



Early concept development was guided by primary and secondary research. Partnering business and organizations were the leading experts to inform current industry pain points and opportunity spaces. The first ideation approach was to independently sketch a response to hunches generated from the research phase. To create the sketches, abstract toys were constructed and then given a realistic product / service function.

The future of co-working: 
Team analysis revealed the digital opportunities to further connect people in co-working spaces. The most consistent data recognizes the increase of co-working spaces and remote working employees. The image sketches and proposes a mobile application to identify facility resources and acknowledge people's working status for potential networking or collaboration.

Redefining the Concept

Research alignment

After further interviews with LIC Partnership, co-working spaces did not seem to be the most prominent future development of LIC. With more insights, ideation drafting, and service pairing exercises, a new concept surfaced responding to emerging technology, cooperative models, education, and mobility.