Prototyping Images of the Future at Austin Design Week

Adam Zeiner
Oct 31, 2018 · 3 min read

I invite you to join me next Thursday, 11/8 in the MobilityX room at Capital Factory to prototype images of the future, your future, our future, and the collective near-term future of transportation infrastructure in Austin.

In this hour and a half morning workshop I’ll be introducing the nascent discipline of Speculative Design, explored in the context of an informal, participatory workshop employing the Ethnographic Experiential Futures field guide.

Speculative Design as described by Phil Balatas, my friend and Founder of the Design Futures Initiative, can be understood as “work that uses design (products, services, scenarios) to address challenges and opportunities of the future.” Phil states that “we tend to look 5–10+ years forward and speculate on how things could be and what future we want or don’t want based on these scenarios.” Our time on the 8th will be devoted to looking 10–15 years into the future and working through a flexible process to speculate on the preferred futures of transportation infrastructure in Austin we’d like to see manifest.

My goal in proposing, designing, and facilitating this particular Speculative Design workshop aligns with the mission of the Design Futures Initiative to “try to democratize [this Speculative Design] process and expose our members to the work and methods that have been culminated over the years.” In doing so I hope to impart my understanding of how similar Futures Thinking, Foresight, and Speculative Design praxis and methods are to the praxis and methods so many of us Design practitioners are already familiar with and employ on a day-to-day basis.

The impetus behind this arose while I was still riding the intellectual wave that was the PRIMER ’18 Speculative Design and Foresight conference and I crashed into the beach of no longer being satisfied by facilitating “bespoke” and heavily modified Design Thinking and Design Sprint workshops. This summer I submitted a single workshop proposal for Austin Design Week that, to be candid, I more than half expected to be too niche to make the cut. Regardless of how strongly I felt my proposal aligned with the theme of Open Doors, I still hesitated to put all my eggs in the Speculative Design basket.

This initial hesitancy rapidly matured into what felt like an obligation to introduce the greater Design community in Austin and those operating at the periphery of this community to the broad area of focus commonly referred to as Speculative Futures. In hope that my enthusiasm will be contagious.

Speculative Futures is an international community of Meetups focused on Speculative & Critical Design, Design Fiction, Futurism, and Strategy & Foresight.

What door-analog could possibly be more enticing to urge my fellow Austinites to peer through than a portal into our collective future(s)?

If everything I just said seems abstract and ethereal, I get it, it can be. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, via my DM on Twitter, or via email if you want to look it up on my website.

Adam Zeiner

Written by

designer, organizer, and facilitator focused on systems, applying futures-thinking, information architecture, visualization, tech-based arts; online @ dezein.co

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