Speculative design (closely related to design fiction, design futures, or critical design) is the practice of designing future products or services as a way to explore the potential impacts of emerging technology or social or cultural trends. The practice shows up in art galleries and academic settings, but can it provide value in corporate settings where most incentives exist around the near term success of the organization?
Yes, speculative design can provide value in corporate settingsShow moreShow less
By fighting against the decision makers focus on the now, speculative design can expand consideration sets and improve the decision making of the organization.
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Companies have successfully implemented speculative design
Although speculative design is a fairly new concept, similar approaches have been taken before. Prominent technology in contemporary society wouldn’t be if innovative steps that questioned every possibility didn’t take place. Speculative design implemented on a wider scale could result in greater growth.
Speculative design is akin to the science fiction genre, pushing futuristic architecture to “explore challenges and opportunities of an aging society”<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-1"></a></sup>. This fiction has been proven influential on technological advancements. NASA has gone on record about their inspiration from the technology featured on Star Trek<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-2"></a></sup>, and most notably the iPhone was a result of speculative thought, with engineers developing a user interface around problems they had yet to face<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-3"></a></sup>. Bracing for future possibilities, as opposed to focusing on the current market, can give organizations a head start in their respective fields.
Competition has already started. Google encourages employees to spend twenty percent of their time on side projects, a strategy responsible for apps such as Google Maps and G-Mail<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-4"></a></sup>. With partnerships are forming between major companies and those based on speculative design, breaking the “constraints of short-term revenue cycles to speculate on alternative future” is becoming mandatory to thrive in the technological world. As Anthony Dunne states, “we can help set in place today factors that will increase the probability of more desirable futures happening”<sup><a class="ref-highlight" href="#reference-3"></a></sup>.