The design and public sector community came together at the Design Council to attend an event called Design in Alternative Futures. The invited presenter was Dr Alex King from the Horizon Scanning Centre, a Government department that research, among other things, future scenarios to inform policy.
King’s presentation was interesting for a few reasons but mostly (for me, especially in consideration of my research) for the methodological side. King presented and characterized 4 future scenarios of where society could go (if not already there):
- Perpetual Motion: An open and individualist society contextualized by free markets;
- Shaken Open: An open and collective society, such as those common to Europe;
- Self-service: A closed and individualistic society which perpetuates a focus inwards and toward family;
- Protective Collective: A closed but collective society which advocates national identity.
Designers commonly research, project and communicate future scenarios. Consultancies such as Sense Worldwide forecast trends using design-led research tools and my PhD buddy Ben is currently undertaking research that deals with future scenarios in post-crash worlds.
Skills and tools possessed by designers can help inform strategy, policy, planning, brands… and it was interesting to see King’s approach to such research and extrapolations. King’s scenarios work was undertaken over an 8-month period and included:
- online brainstorms
- stakeholder meetings
- research (am guessing desk and literature) and
- expert meetings
The last question I felt was probably the missing link for most of the audience and I wondered if King’s work, which intervenes and informs at the policy level, was a mismatch to the level most designers currently intervene in business, society and Government?
King presented fascinating and well-delivered research on future scenarios that got most of us thinking- what and how could designers contribute here? I don’t know if we are quite at the stage of informing policy yet. Though I suspect we should be in the future.
Here are some other reflections on last night's event:
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