Design fiction in actions

It’s been a year since we started talking about design fiction at the Experience Center. We are convinced that our role as designers is to explore possible futures in order to collectively build a preferable one. So, we launched several initiatives with different types of actors in the recent months such as sustainability teams of large companies, academics, major finance players… and this is what we have learnt.

Slow, pace or mutate? What’s your preferable future?

We owe it to ourselves to dare to imagine potential futures, the potential drifts, the fantasies, we owe it to ourselves to question what the world could be, what our contribution could bring and how it could change our society.
Amélie Brochu, in Ce que le Design doit à la fiction

Use design fiction to create convergence on controversial topics

One of our clients, a finance actor, came to see us with a tricky problem: how to co-create an ESG (Environmental, Societal and Governance criteria) strategy hand-in-hand with the company employees? After an extensive research conducted by PwC’s sustainability consulting team, the results were in: the topic divides the opinion, the notion of ESG is rather vague for most of the interviewees and it is difficult to project oneself from a market point of view.

Well, we thought, this is a perfect context for a design fiction workshop!

We wanted to make the impact of the strategy tangible and display it in a form which helps financiers to easily project themselves. So we worked on a press review for 2023, creating five front pages of renowned business magazines.

We worked with ESG experts on possible visions, all embracing several key dimensions but to a different extent: governance, carbon footprint, responsible investment, inclusive HR, ethics, company values, teams training, reporting, shareholding commitment… Depending on the future situation of the company, the information highlighted by the press was different: key figures, extra-financial results, last significant recruitment, new investment sectors, expert analysis, quote of the CEO…
By presenting these five different but credible futures for the holding company, we wanted to generate a debate and bring out a common vision.

This is how we structured the design fiction workshop; participants followed these instructions:

  • Project yourself in 2023 through a press review reflecting possible futures for the company:
    1. discover on your own
    2. create a heat map with color dots
    3. explain your point (live sketching during the debate to record the key verbatims of the discussion)
  • Write your own paper that summarizes your ambition for the ESG in 3 years
  • Listen to the comments of the market, your colleagues, etc. during a role play exercise and consolidate your positioning
  • Pitch your paper and vote for the one that best defines you

After several months of benchmarking, qualitative interviews and a 1-day design fiction workshop, we have landed on a shared positioning and wrote a founding document.

Promote divergence and build on design fiction to bolster imagination

As design fiction needs a lot of preparation, we thought it would be interesting to create scenarios that can be re-used in different contexts so we built a reusable design fiction kit. We designed it as a small exhibition happening in 2030 with 3 distinct corners. Each one presents a possible version of the world throughout a poster, a description and around 5 artifacts: objects, videos, fake campaign, press content, photos… They are all well described (use, first appearance, historic importance etc.) with a museum plate. We tried to address all aspects of daily life: work, leisure activities, economic and political field, technology implementation, level of globalization, town planning, legal dimension…

How do we use it? This exhibition is the starting point of our ideation workshops. Participants absorb potential trends and react to “what if” questions displayed in the various corners. For what we have learnt so far, this speculative warm-up provided a sharp framework to brainstorm and drew the participants’ attention to various issues.

Why is it great? Because it works for a large range of problematics: reimagine the HR function, create consumer personas for mass retail in 2030’s , draft a skill transition plan for a big company or even nurture R&D teams. If you want to customize it for a specific client, you only have to design another artifact linked to its business problems.

Do you want to start your own design fiction adventure? Now that we have some experience, here are a few tips that we would like to share with you ;)

  • Forget too long term and too short term for an efficient workshop.
  • Invest time in content, the fiction basis: you must be credible.
  • Invest time in the form, the artefact design: you must be credible.
  • Provoke participants, the goal is to generate debate.

Designer — writing about UX and new methodologies

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Aurélia Lacombe

Aurélia Lacombe

Designer — writing about UX and new methodologies

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