Design Futures

Create a Preferred Future,
NOT just a possible or probable one

Design today, with an understanding of future consequences of your solutions

What is this about?

As the visionary author Bruce Sterling puts it, design futures is an approach to design that speculates about new ideas through prototyping and storytelling. An important focus of design futures thinking is the need to uncover opportunities by exploring people’s unmet and unarticulated needs and utilize this insight in designing a preferred future. According to Sohail Inayatulla (UNESCO, Chair), it is not just the long-term that is of value but linking tomorrow with today – ensuring the vision links to what we must do Monday morning. Design Futures thinking thus broadens, deepens and expands our policy and strategy framework.

Unlike pure future and foresight methodology which is concerned with speculative ideas and concepts, design futures allows you to materialize the speculative. The designer’s capacity to envision and interpret social, cultural, technological, and economic futures is central to the success of a design led futures approach. As a design futurist, your task is to invent, discover and communicate ways to advance the collective sense making of the about what to do next.

Why does this matter?

Human centred design approaches such as design thinking create efficient, fast and desirable experiences for users of products and services. But in doing so, it ignores the significant role it should play in acting as a change agent and an ‘early warning system’ that is truly centered on human values and the mattering of people instead of, as it does today, greatly contribute to the current woes of a consumerist society by crafting experiences that just help sell products and services.

A leading Australia public servant in the health sector was asked on her last day of work, what advice would she give those just beginning. She replied: “Always do (design) futures thinking first.” There are three reasons for her answer:

First, futures thinking broadens how we see reality, we think in terms of alternatives, in terms of possibilities.

Second, futures thinking goes deeper and asks what are the systemic reasons, the worldviews and narratives that reinforce the problem, and what new narratives need to be created so preferred solutions are possible.

Third, futures thinking focuses not on the electoral cycle but on futures generations, the world fifteen to thirty years forward. It asks to see today from the viewpoint of the desired future, the vision of what is possible.

Harvard Business Review (March 2018) reports that digital transformation efforts at many companies including GE, Lego, Nike, P&G, Sears, Ford failed. As a CEO it can be tempting to think about the early phases of radical technological change as a chance to dominate a new market rather than learning about the market. Investing ahead of the curve makes sense when we know what the curve is. But with digital transformation there’s a lot of exploration and understanding to accomplish before the curve starts to take shape .

Design futures is really a product of war and peace. Systems thinking, operations research from the technocratic war effort creates possible future, probable future, whereas post-war peace building approaches can lead to a preferred future.


At IfDE, we have started our design futures explorations with our partners. Few ongoing initiatives are:

Landscape research

Landscape research to explore the current state of futures thinking in various aspects of Indian life such as but not limited to homelife, work, health & wellbeing, education, finance, safety/security, play, family/friends/communities and higher meaning. such as healthcare, education, entertainment, finance/insurance, banking, safety/security, retail etc from the perspective of a consumer.
The goal of this initiative is to explore the current and new social patterns, user behaviours, and role of technology in shaping the future experiences around the emerging societies that are in sustained transition. We want to do this holistically as people do not live in vertical silos, but move across different aspects of life seamlessly. Our current stake in the ground is individual consumer and emerging technology centric. The challenge we have undertaken is to bridge the gap between technological vision and the emerging realities of Indian lives.

Two important questions we are interested in are:


What are the ways, through which contemporary Indians encounter, engage and solve everyday problems?


How to embrace and leverage these understanding in envisioning and conceptualizing novel, innovative preferred solutions that become an integral part of the everyday fabric of the future societies?

The vision of near future can be biased by the incremental changes that societies are seeing in technology, design, business models, culture, and user behavior.


Current issues might be non existent and future societies will be facing entirely new challenges from the radical changes in their context.

In some ways Indian societies have leapfrogged technological shifts (adoption of technology skipped few incremental stages) over last decade and there are chances that it could happen again.
Before understanding the nature of transitions for our future generation it may be important to envision future societies in a way that’s unbiased from current context.

To avoid these biases, this landscape research applied Design Futures methods and framework.


Landscape research

Future of Money to explore the financial well being of Indian societies. This is being done in partnership with Kuliza Technologies

Future of Small Retail

Future of Small Retail will explore the backbone of India’s social security for a substantial percentage of people. This is being done in partnership with YUJ Designs

Partner with us

The power of this can increase multifold if we can form consortiums of like minded partners in a non-compete environment. We would like to involve partners from diverse but complementary verticals, academia, and industry experts to create a multidisciplinary extended team to further the knowledge and collective insights. IfDE Design Futures initiatives would also augment the program through strategic involvement of interaction designers, artists, sociologists, as well as technology experts. We welcome you to participate in the current initiative and / or start new initiatives.

Enquire Now