Design Fiction: helping you make the change you need

In a world where every decision feels like treading through the Mission Impossible maze, it can be difficult to be confident in your ideas. Eventually you start questioning everything, your mind spiralling during another sleepless night wondering whether to take that promotion, launch that business, or spend your life savings on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Vegas (at which point you should probably just go to sleep). 

On day 18 of the mindflick advent calendar, we want to introduce you to the concept of Design Fiction, a practice which can get you pretty close to feeling like a time travelling anthropologist exploring the bizarre outcomes of your future. Would a toothbrush that reads out recent Tweets make you get out of bed earlier each morning? Would the reality of breeding mealworms for dinner in 2050 change your views on climate change? You can understand the implications of your decision-making in the form of a creative exercise!

Design Fiction is a mix of provocation and storytelling, impacts of emerging sci-fi and technology, and future methodologies. In a nutshell, Design Fiction looks into the future and creates a series of probable outcomes that stem from your idea. However, just thinking about these outcomes won’t give you the informed speculations you’re after. In addition to your futuristic yet feasible story, you need an artefact – something that can be designed and used to make your story come to life. Designing your artefact will open up a whole range of questions and make you focus on the detail of your future world in a way that story telling often fails to do.

Your artefact can be anything from a tech product, a newly developed drug, a piece of furniture, or a whole new society. The trick is to speculate about its role in your future world to discover possible successes or hurdles you may face along the way. This design process should inspire some thinking around the possible actions that can replace your artefact in the real world and help you move forward whilst being more aware of possible risks.  

Try to use the Design Fiction process with a New Year’s resolution you’ve been too afraid to try. What kind of artefact would bring your outcome to life?  Have a think about the realistic habits or goals that could replace this artefact in your current situation. What kind of benefits or dangers does your artefact pose to your future world? Is this something you can control in real life?

For more inspiration, take a look at the video below which uses Design Fiction to explore the benefits and difficulties of replacing human care givers with technology, and get inspired! 

This blog was written by Pati Dlugosz for the 2020 mindflick advent calendar.