Workshop: Speculative Design in Action

How can speculative design be used in design research?

Speculative design can help us understand people’s values about the future and how to make decisions that match those values. It does this by placing people in the reality instead of just speaking about it hypothetically. We set out to explore this further in a recent R&D project. We wanted to expand our knowledge and understanding about speculative design, in order to add it to our toolbox of design research methods for when we work on projects that look into the future.

We hosted an internal workshop where we responded to fictional client briefs with realistic research plans incorporating speculative design. In small groups, we choose from one of the following design research challenges:

Initially, three Stby’ers did a deep dive into speculative design in order to build a foundational understanding of the topic, and collect case studies to help inspire the rest of the team in how and when we could apply this to our own work. We concluded that there are at least four ways in which speculative design could be used during the design research process. Each group could decide which application they felt best suited their research plan.

1. Bring speculative artefacts for people to react to in discussion

2. Co-create speculative artefacts with people in a session

3. Ask people to create speculative artefacts on their own/in groups

4. Host discussions with clients, other participants, etc. using participant-created artefacts

Results of the workshop

The workshop gave us an opportunity to practise choosing when to incorporate speculative design into our work and helped refamiliarise ourselves with the method. In some cases, groups created speculative artefacts, while others created a plan for artefacts to be developed during an interview or group session. The process was creative, fun and educational, and we are all now ready to employ more speculative design in our work.

Here are a few of our key takeaways from the experience:

1. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun!

2. Speculative design naturally brings out personal values.

3. It’s possible to create something quick and simple that still says a lot.

4. We’ll definitely be using this more in the future!

it was fun to get creative with the methods we can choose from. this brings a lot of playfulness into the process while still producing rich insights, sometimes even more rich