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Evans, M., Bremner, C., 2014.

Researching the future by design

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:The Routledge Companion to Design Research
Brief Description/Editor(s):Rodgers, P., Yee, J.
Publisher:Routledge, Abingdon
Pagination:pp. 190-202
Number of Works:39

Predicting the future is important to design. Designers are often charged with synthesising information from the past and present to create visions of the future that are not only required but desired by consumers. This means that researching the future is increasingly important to designers as socio-cultural change, often driven by technological advance, requires an intelligent understanding of what possibilities the future may offer. To ensure products are developed that meet the needs of consumers in the future, there is a need for a useful understanding of what the future holds if we are going to meaningfully prepare for it. Placing designers unprepared into this context of rapid change and increasing possibilities without appropriate research tools is likely to be problematic. What design is lacking is a structured method for conducting research that informs future-oriented design projects.

The creation of next-next generation products requires the application of a particular set of research methods (Margolin, 2007) that extend beyond traditional design research domains and benefit from engagement with the theoretical base of future studies. Future studies is the field of social inquiry whose purpose is the systematic study of the future (Bell, 1996).

This chapter considers the role of design and the designer in researching the future. It is structured around four main strands: 1) design and the future, 2) futures thinking and the study of the future, 3) approaches design can utilise to research the future, and 4) a design future's research framework which supports designers when researching the future. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the challenges design faces when developing next-next generation products and, increasingly, services.