Preferable Worlds: Design Practices for Alternative Futures

A few months ago, just weeks before the pandemic began to rip apart the fabric of our everyday lives, I went on record with an admittedly silly, perhaps childish idea. If human history was a TV series —say, a thrilling cinematic documentary—the period we are living through would be a perfect cliffhanger: that point of maximum narrative tension before the resolution in the last episode. …

On images of the future as cybernetic belief systems

This is a slightly modified version of the paper I presented at the 23rd World Conference of the World Futures Studies Federation “Uses of the Futures” in Mexico City, September 2019. I want to thank my friend and colleague Emma Herrera for reading my paper.

I explored the same ideas in two different talks during the year. Last January, in Madrid, I presented the talk “Cultivemos Hipersticiones Chingonas” at the second gathering of the group Madrid Speculative Futures. In February, I was lucky to share these ideas with my colleagues at Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California.

Photo by Galen Crout on Unsplash


A brief for a new golden age.

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

There seems to be a lot of reflection going on these days about the evolution of design, the role it plays in shaping the way we live, and, perhaps most importantly, the potential futures for the discipline. This type of historical reflection always comes, either explicitly or implicitly, with a certain timeframe.

For example, a few months ago, the studio Tellart launched Design Nonfiction: a documentary series exploring “transformations in design practice between the Dotcom Crash and the rise of machine intelligence.” And so, in that case, we are looking at the fairly recent evolution of the field over the…

Algunos comentarios sobre ‘Diseño de Futuros.’

Los participantes de la primera edición del curso “Diseño de Futuros” en h2i institute (Julio, 2018) durante la actividad conocida como ‘Juego de Polak’ que realizamos subrepticiamente ;-) en la plaza de CaixaForum Madrid.

Mi amiga Elisabet Roselló publicó hace algunos días un excelente artículo titulado “Diseño de futuros: ¿el futuro se crea? Unas aclaraciones.” En él, hace una revisión de algunos términos que se utilizan para denominar distintas prácticas que integran diseño y prospectiva. Su argumento es que el “Diseño de futuros” no existe. Dado que probablemente soy uno de los culpables de fomentar el uso del término (particularmente a través del curso que imparto en la escuela h2i institute en Madrid) siento que lo más responsable sería participar en la conversación.

Sin embargo, antes de empezar…

This is an English translation of a thread I recently tweeted in Spanish. Of course, the recent hype around “futurism” — notice the scare quotes — to which it refers is, to some extent, particular to Mexico and Latin America. However, I believe the overall argument and the check list applies to futures work in general.

Maybe I’m biased due to an effect of selective attention but it seems that, these days, everyone is a futurist. What I mean is that more and more individuals and organizations are trying to appropriate “the future” to capitalize on it.

If the…

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Imagine that you’re walking.

The space in front of you is dark, pitch black. You can’t see where you’re going. Only the ground you’re stepping on.

You’re walking on a road. But at times it’s not even that, just a path or an open field.

At least you’re not alone. You walk along a group of people — perhaps your family and friends, or a troop of some kind, even a crowd.

Some of those walking along with you believe that the field you’re walking into is already there — it’s just that you can’t see it. They brag about…

Or why designers need to get political.

Occupy Wall Street protesters gather to listen to speakers in Zuccotti Park (Nov. 15, 2011) Photo by Henny Ray Abrams (Source)

About a year ago I published a personal take on strategic design and its futures (original Spanish version here). In the third part, I half-jokingly proposed the term ‘superdesign’ to designate a three-dimensional evolution of the practice: from objects to systems, from the present to futures, from affirmative to critical practices. The evolution over the first dimension refers to the growth of fields that most clearly engage with social (as well as sociotechnical and socionatural) systems, i.e. experience design, organizational design, service design and, most importantly, three fields that explicitly deploy design for the purpose of social transformation, namely: systemic…

La variable del poder en el diseño de servicios.

Edmundo, primer conductor de Uber en Monterrey, México. Fuente:

Me pasa lo que a todos: a veces me da mucha pereza platicar con los taxistas o conductores de Uber. Cuando eso sucede, les pido una disculpa y me pongo mis audífonos para escuchar música o algún podcast. Otras veces sí me pongo a charlar largo y tendido con ellos. Así me he enterado, por ejemplo, de las vicisitudes que pasan para poder ir al baño cuando están de turno. Pero tal vez el tema más interesante que algunos han tocado es el de los maltratos que llegan a recibir por parte de algunos pasajeros. Desafortunadamente, es muy común.


La inundación del valle Fraser en British Columbia, Canada en 1948. Fuente: Fraser Valley Flood of 1948

Aquellos a los que nos interesa imaginar el futuro estamos siempre listos para aclarar que la prospectiva no se trata de profecías ni de predicciones. El propósito, solemos decir, es explorar el universo de futuros posibles para descubrir las direcciones de cambio más probables y, lo que es más importante, las más deseables. Esto quiere decir que procedemos con la convicción de que el futuro no existe — dixit Jim Dator — pero que los procesos de cambio tienen patrones que nos permiten explorar distintos escenarios a futuro.

Uno de los patrones principales que tanto futuristas como historiadores utilizan para…

A personal take on strategic design and its future.

A self-organized workshop on service blueprinting by the Uncommon team.

The original Spanish version of this article was published in Uncommon.

At the end of last year, I made one of the toughest professional decisions that I’ve ever had to make. It felt like jumping from a luxurious, but heavy, cruise ship to a small and somewhat austere boat that, nonetheless, is fast and teamed with a first class crew. Given that the cruise ship is one of those companies that almost anyone would like to work for, my decision was surprising for some friends. Thus, when someone asks me about the move, my answer is always that it was…

Jorge Camacho

I help organizations design better futures for people. Co-Founder I teach about design, futures and systems at and

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