Design thinking that challenges perceptions, broadens inclusion and fosters co-creation

A concrete staircase curving  around a tree reaching to the sky.
A concrete staircase curving  around a tree reaching to the sky.
Photo by Alexander Abero on Unsplash

By now, no one needs to quote facts or expert verbatim to argue that great changes are happening to both human and earth systems. And how we talk about those systems as though they are separate betrays the reason for these breakdowns — large parts of humanity have, for hundreds of years, considered themselves separate from, and unaccountable to, the planet they rely on.

While we hyper-cerebral primates deluded with narcissism have also done and continue to do many things of great empathy, resilience, and love, we are losing those of us with the wisdom to maintain our connection to…


Future Scouting #2

Experimental tools to align speculative and futures design with core values and life-centred thinking.

Speculative and life-centred design worksheets spread out over a desk.
Speculative and life-centred design worksheets spread out over a desk.

Values-driven futures

Speculative design took form in the early 1990s as designers questioned their role in consumerism’s impact on the planet. They began to consider how to align design with core values.

With interest in designing for the future on the increase, this is an exciting time for designers. But with the time-travelling hype of designing future artefacts, there is a danger the practice’s foundation of values could be forgotten.

If we ignore our values, we may design ourselves into a future that opposes them. …


Future Scouting #1

Gamifying an introduction to speculative and values-driven design

An early variation of the speculative design game, Future Scouting.
An early variation of the speculative design game, Future Scouting.
An early variation of the speculative design game, Future Scouting.

After months of trawling the web for speculative design tools and methods during the early pandemic lockdown of 2020, I struggled to find a simplified, detailed, end-to-end speculative design method that was as succinct as the double-diamond framework for innovation.

There were complete methods, for sure, (and more coming through since—see 13:10 on Phil Balagtas’ Speculative Design, Strategic Foresight & Futurism video), but they were either locked behind costly courses or bloated with academic language that weighed on my brain like textbooks.

Why couldn’t saving the future be fun?

So I set myself the goal to map a simplified speculative…


Microsoft’s new mixed-reality promise—an immersive, holographic-like experience for conference calls and 3D model collaboration

Two women in Hololens visors standing around a floating holographic earth as one interacts with the hologram.
Two women in Hololens visors standing around a floating holographic earth as one interacts with the hologram.

Imagine you’re standing in your living room alone and you put on your Hololens. You raise your hand, and an AR menu hovers above it — you interact with the menu with just a finger and start a meeting. A virtual table stand appears in front of you, and avatars of participants stand around it. You welcome them, then tap on your menu again to load a 3D model of your new product onto the table. Taking turns, you and the others move, resize, and edit the models using just your fingers. …


Well thought out, thanks for sharing, all the images and tips, too, your efforts are much appreciated!


Experimental tools to include the environment and non-users in design-thinking and speculative design

Six rocks balanced perfectly on top of each other by the sea.
Six rocks balanced perfectly on top of each other by the sea.
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

As designers and product creators, we are not just producing items with a lifecycle defined by human use. We are releasing into the world something that impacts multiple ecosystems spanning the time and distance of the product’s entire lifecycle, from the sourcing of its various materials to the manufacturing, repair, life of use, and final breakdown.

The evolution of life-centred design (also known as ‘environment-centred design’ and ‘planet-centred design’) has begun to expand our mindset from purely human-centred creation to include consideration of sustainable economical, environmental, and social solutions.

Perhaps a life-centred design approach to the introduction of lithium into…


6 examples of combining science fiction world-building techniques with design to create prototypes of future artefacts

Modular architecture suspended in the sky — a reworked photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti.
Modular architecture suspended in the sky — a reworked photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti.
Photo by Pierre Châtel-Innocenti on Unsplash

Speculative Design is a design practice combining science fiction world-building techniques with design to create prototypes of future artefacts to provoke thinking and discussion about potential futures beyond what we think is possible.

The practice emerged in the 1990s as designers began to question their role in consumerism’s impact on the planet. This values-based, experimental practice remained a lesser-known curio until the internet exposed it to the wider design folk, offering them a means to explore designing for values over profit.

While foresight practices and other futures studies start with an analysis of today and relevant data to identify unseen…


Play evil, learn ethics, save the world, and more with speculative design

Girl with red eye lens that is projecting a holographic display in front to her.
Girl with red eye lens that is projecting a holographic display in front to her.
Photo by Justin Peralta on Unsplash

In a time when a pandemic has shut down the world, bushfires turn the skies Bladerunner orange, the truth becomes fake news and fake news becomes truth, it’s almost undeniable how easy science fiction can become science fact.

And yet the world’s skies remain empty of flying cars.

Because science fiction isn’t purely about prediction.

Science fiction casts present and imagined trajectories into the future to explore alternative perspectives on today, to both warn and inspire us, and possibly change the direction in which we are headed.

Designing for the fiction of future scenarios can have a similar effect on…


“The Social Dilemma” on Netflix will make you think hard and frighten you even more

Neon signage of a social media heart icon with a zero next to it.
Neon signage of a social media heart icon with a zero next to it.
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

In 2011, former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris shared a presentation with Google calling for them to address how its products were exploiting human psychology vulnerabilities.

Many employees applauded Harris, and Google put him in charge of ethical design. But, according to Harris, the company’s commitment to change fizzled out, so he left in 2016 to co-found the Center for Humane Technology, and to teach ways of using technology to better serve people.

It’s a battle Harris is still fighting, and one that The Social…


Exploring a future AR interface controlled only by blinks and eye movements

A glowing ring around a human eye pupil projecting a holographic menu in front of the eye.
A glowing ring around a human eye pupil projecting a holographic menu in front of the eye.

If you could, would you apply Facebook and Snapchat filters to your sight? If the overcast day brought down your mood, would you choose a sunny day filter? What about the rows of buildings outside your bedroom window — would you prefer to wake up to the sparkling view of a giant waterfall? And the endless concrete covering the city, would you prefer it covered in lush green?

What if every day you could see and interact with a version of the world you preferred— a unique view personalised for you according to what makes you happy—all with a few…

Damien Lutz

UX Designer, creator of Future Scouting speculative design game and book, author of sci-fi novels Amanojaku and The Lenz, and very amateur drone pilot.

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