Imagined Future City

Transition Design Week 10


Today, we have another lecture from Dan about the vision of the future.

A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam. — Attributed to Frederik Pohl

What is your imagination of the future? Giant silver skyscrapers built in a mega cities just like picture above? With all kinds of scienece fiction movie or novel being created, it seems that we have certain stereotype of the future. However, if you try to think thoroughly, you will find those imaginations are quite decontextualized. Take above picture for example, where is the people? No traffic congestion? How to move up and down inside skyscraper?

A proposed future vision

Transition design thinks future should be

  • Informed by knowledge about natural, social and designed/built systems
  • Human-scale and place-based but globally connected
  • Based on communities in symbiotic relationships with the ecosystem in which they are embedded
  • Intended to be evolved and evolving rather than static

Furthermore, transition design thinks the way of achieving the desired future is dynamic. You can’t predict the future, the more way you go, the viewpoint change and you need to change.

Above picture is a example of changing vision.

1. In the beginning, long term vision is to land on the move.
2. Backfast to present in order to draw the trajectory
3. Develop a short term plan to make process along the trajectory.
4. When process wasmade, we see the saturn behind the moon. Goal is changed as well as the trajectory.

What designer could do?

All design is to some extent a vision of “how the world could/should be different“ — at once both a statement and a question.
by Clive Dilnot

For designers, every design is about “THIS?” as well as “THIS!”. This is the right soluton! / Is this the right solution? There are certain field of design focus on design a realistic future. Rather than designing what future would be, designers propose future vision and seek for reaction.

Future foodtruck from Wired magazine

Above is a example of future foodtruck from Wired magazine. The menu, the meat inside and the plan on the rooftop all provide a glimpse of future for people to think, to vision. Most of time, we could use following approaches:

An everyday conversation or situation
An everyday object or artifact
A non-everyday object or artifact (maybe encounter first time)
Some packaging
A poster
An advertisement
A website (news, forum, social media)
A service
A story / shop / retail establishment
A news story
Search results
A piece of public infrastructure

In-class exercice

We tried to imagined the future of Pittsburgh as a river city. People would love to approach the water and rivers play an important role for transportation.

Backcasting from that vision, we tried to discussed how to achieve that goal? Pollution is the first priority and then infrastructure for water transportation and citizen activities. Eventually, we think that a lot of investment should be made which made this vision quite impossible. Maybe different approach to become a river city could be more feasible. Still, I believe that this exercise is quite useful. After al, if you can’t imagine the future, how do you get there.


Lockton, Dan. 2016. ‘Play Lab: Exploring Ambiguity’.

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