User experience teams have refashioned corporate and public perceptions of design, but designers can do more to help make sense of our complex and changing world. With technologists facing unprecedented scrutiny and public pressure, it’s vital our industry thinks intelligently about the sort of future we want to create.
Drawing on speculative design and applied futures studies, Building Better Worlds is a one-day workshop exploring how designers can break past the horizons of current practice. By exploring the potential consequences of innovation, and creating design fictions that provoke reactions about future technologies, we’ll learn how to help our organisations to respond quickly to the challenges and opportunities ahead. In turn, designers will learn not just how to design the artefacts of the future but also how to help design that future itself.
Design’s blindspots: Unintended consequences and problem creation · False neutrality · Individuals over communities · Design scientism · The ‘Post-It Ceiling’
Anticipating futures: Unintended ≠ unforeseeable · The future is plural · The futures cone · Future as a verb · Is prediction possible? · Research for futuring
Exercise: System Actors mapping. An exercise to push beyond UCD’s provider-user dichotomy to uncover broader communities, underrepresented cohorts, and critical social mechanisms to protect. Adapted from Nordkapp’s Actionable Futures toolkit.
Exercise: Futures wheel. A tool for structured brainstorming about the future, drawing out first-, second-, and third-order consequences of technological change. Superflux’s Instant Archetypes card deck used for creative prompts.
Design as critique: The designated dissenter · Affirmative and critical design · Design as an environment to think in · Design fiction and provocatypes · Adversarial design · Utopias and dystopias · Design fiction example
Exercise: Provocatyping & storyboarding. Each participant team will design a hypothetical technological object, mock it up, and roughly storyboard a design fiction showing the device in context. Work split among each participant team.
Design fiction show and tell
(Agenda subject to minor change.)
Participants will learn valuable new tools and techniques for exploring and anticipating potential consequences of emerging technologies: the futures cone, system actors mapping, the futures wheel, provocatype and design fiction.
Gain the confidence to wriggle free of comfort zones, and to broaden their horizons of how design can contribute to strategic agendas.
Who should attend?
This workshop is ideal for designers, product managers, and software engineers working within technology teams. All levels of seniority including leadership roles are welcome; all views will be treated as equal within the workshop environment.
All attendees will also receive the full workshop deck in PDF format, for future reference.
Book an in-house workshop and you’ll also receive five paperback copies of Future Ethics, signed by the author, to share with your teams.
‘We need good books about ethics now more than ever. Practitioners need guidance on how to think ethically, how to detect ethical choices, and how to resolve ethical dilemmas. That’s exactly what this book is, and it’s destined to become a well-thumbed classic.’ —Alan Cooper.
‘At a time when technologists are only starting to grasp how their values and biases weave through the products they build, Cennydd’s long-lens view of ethics is exactly what designers, product managers and builders of today’s digital products need.’ —Azeem Azhar, Exponential View.
Over a sixteen-year career, Cennydd Bowles has written two popular books, led design at Twitter UK, and established a reputation as a global leader in digital product and UX design. As an independent consultant, he has worked with clients including the BBC, Samsung, WWF, Cisco, and Ford.
Cennydd’s focus today is the ethics of emerging technology. He has been quoted on the topic in The Guardian, Ars Technica, The Daily Telegraph, Süddeutsche Zeitung, and Forbes; his new book Future Ethics has been called ‘A must read for anyone who is inventing the future or cares about living in it.’ Cennydd has presented on the topic at Microsoft, Stanford University, Dropbox, Fitbit, Google, Hulu, Facebook, IBM, and the New York Times. He now consults with technology companies on ethical approaches to design and new product development, drawing on innovative techniques from speculative design, futurism, and contemporary practical ethics.
Cennydd is a frequent keynote speaker at tech and design conferences worldwide, and runs internal training workshops for clients including The Financial Times, Orange, Farfetch, and Capital One. He has written for a range of print and web publications, been a columnist for A List Apart, and edited the book Front-end Style Guides.
Find out more
Building Better Worlds is available as an in-house workshop, for teams of between eight and forty attendees. The workshop can be offered anywhere in the world, subject to visas and/or work permission. To find out more or discuss booking a workshop for your team: