Welcome to PRIMER Europe.

Primer Conference, first in in Europe and Helsinki in September 10–11th 2018. Original image courtesy of our speaker Simone Rebaudengo.

We live in exponential, unpredictable times. The world as we know it is becoming a wicked problem by itself where everything we knew might or might not matter anymore. Metamodernism is the new normal, and oscillation between sincere and for the lulz leaves a lot to interpret for the human being at the end of the communicative chain.

At the same time, the future is closer to us than ever before. It’s kind of a cliche to quote William Gibson here but I’ll do it anyway — the future is here but unevenly distributed rings now more true than ever before. And this is just the beginning. Moore’s law enables technologists, entrepreneurs and governments bring us ideas that either feel close to magic as is — or are increasingly invisible. This is why foresight and forward looking design practice are needed more than ever, right now. We as individuals, designers and consumers need to be proactive regarding the futures we think are preferable, and especially the ones we want.

To put it simply, having access to better tools and insight on how to make sense of our future, allows us to make better choices in all respects — ethical, political, more sustainable and yes, financial. Foresight, scenario work and speculative makes different futures visible, and actionable. It is in my opinion one of the most powerful tools for a modern designer.


What is PRIMER, anyway? A brief history:

PRIMER started originally in 2015 as a community of people coming together around the idea of speculative design and design futures in the Bay Area. What initially started in San Francisco spread rapidly to Austin and New York, and later to London, Berlin and Guadalajara, proving the growing need to explore, understand and unveil the futures ahead of us.

The first PRIMER conference was organised in 2017 in San Francisco with speakers such as Tellart’s Christian Ervin, Paolo Cardini from Rhode Island School of Design and Carmen Aguilar y Wedge and Ashley Baccus-Clark of Hyphen-Labs. Core77 wrote an article about the conference which you can read here.

in 2018, the second Primer Conference followed the suit, with speakers such as Stuart Candy from Carnegie Mellon University’s Situation Lab, Nick Foster (the Head of Design at Google X) and Julian Bleecker from the nearfuturelaboratory , Michael Burton from BurtonNitta.co.uk and Melissa Hui from now Cap Gemini-owned design consultancy Idean. For a roundup about the conference, have a look at Phil Balagtas’ blog post at the Digital McKinsey blog.

Meanwhile, somewhere between 2017 and 2018, one conversation lead to another, and now we’re bringing Primer Conference to Europe, and to Helsinki in collaboration with Helsinki Design Week, with the same core team that made Interaction 16 happen in 2016.


First ever PRIMER Conference Europe is held at Korjaamo, in Helsinki September 10–11th. The first day will be the conference day, and the second one consists of workshops hosted by several design firms in the city. We are aiming to build a narrative arc with a big brush and broad strokes because we can, and think these ideas deserve to be discussed and made real: From world building for movies and science fiction, to trust and responsibility in the era of fake news, to futures past, diversity and globalism to biohacking at wet labs and what lurks beyond the beyond. We think it’s going to be quite a ride, with great names lined up. The full schedule will be out just in a couple of days at our website primerconference.eu, but here’s a little taster of things to come.

Our speakers at PRIMER Europe

Monika Bielskyte

Monika Bielskyte, All Future Everything

Our morning keynote will be delivered by monika bielskyte, a futurist, strategist and a creative designer with focus especially on the future of content, and diversity in our creative thinking & building is what she is most passionate about. As she lives the life of a digital nomad she brings to PRIMER her future perceptions around the globe. In the past she has been delivering stellar talks from South by Southwest to corporates such as Google and BBC, not to mention worked for the who’s who in the film industry. I am super excited to have her on stage in Helsinki.

➡️ All Future Everything
️➡️ extended keynote Login Vilnius 2018: From Fictions To Futures
️➡️Mexico City: in conversation with LABCDMX’s Gabriella Gomez-Mont
️➡️Sonar+D: future of XR with Google’s Lila Pla Alemany
️➡️fireside chat in Bombay with Future Tense
➡️podcast: voices of VR
️➡️️ world design: GITS


Nicolas Nova & Fabien Girardin, Near Future Lab

Following her, the stage will be taken by Nicolas Nova & Fabien Girardin. They are the European half of design fiction pioneers Near Future Laboratory, a thinking, making, design, development and research practice based in California and Europe. They will talk about Design Fiction in the Fake News Era—what does speculation mean when everything is an oscillation between what is real and is not?

➡️ TBD Catalog,The catalog of the near future’s normal ordinary everyday
➡️ nearfuturelaboratory


Johanna Schmeer

The third talk of the day will be by Johanna Schmeer, an artist and designer from Berlin. With a talk titled Xenodesignerly ways of knowing, she will be discussing the role of human-centered design and how it has in part contributed to contemporary environmental and social problems, in its servicing role within the systems that have created them. I am really looking forward to this one.

➡️ johannaschmeer.com


the Kazakh capital of the future, Astana

Noteh Krauss, Aesthetic Dimension

Designer Noteh Krauss from San Francisco will be talking about Future Making: Politics and Aesthetics in Kazakhstan. This talk will examine the histories, politics, design fictions, and mythologies President Nazarbayev’s highly futuristic capital, Astana. The city, created in 1997 embodies as perhaps the most ambitious speculative design project ever implemented.

➡️ aestheticdimension.wordpress.com


Ani Liu, MIT

Ani Liu is an experimental artist working at the intersection of art & science, and also delivered a wonderful keynote at PRIMER San Francisco earlier this year. Her work lives at the intersection of art, speculative fiction and a wet lab. Can’t wait to hear her talk in Helsinki.

➡️ ani-liu.com/projects/


Simone Rebaudengo

Simone Rebaudengo is a designer based in Shanghai, China. He has a long history of quirky speculative design projects — training roombas, virtual realities of physical things and what not. I have a feeling he’ll be talking about YEAST., a future food laboratory that imagines and builds products and companies that improve living through food and technology.

➡️ automato.farm
➡️ simonerebaudengo.com


Tatiana Toutikian

I am excited to announce Tatiana Toutikian will be joining us in Helsinki as well. Earlier this year in February she delivered one of the best and most intriguing talks of IxDA’s annual Interaction -conference in Lyon.

➡️ Interaction 17: Speculative Needs XoXo at Vimeo
➡️ tatianatoutikian.com


Scott Smith, Changeist

Last but not least, the closing keynote will be delivered by Scott Smith, a veteran of the industry, who’s work covers 25 years looking for and describing the “So what?” of change across technology, society, economics and politics. At PRIMER, he thinks this is a necessary moment to have a public discussion and debate about trust in futures practices as they increasingly underpin more strategic innovation and policymaking at scale. Looking forward to it.

➡️ Changeist.com


In addition to these talks, we have an awesome lineup of supporters ready to roll as well. We’re finalising our workshop program in the next few days as well. I know I am repeating myself, but I am quite excited about this. I think it is going to be a stellar conference and would love to see you join us:

Program → http://primerconference.eu/
Tickets → Helsinki Design Week Shop