Future Societies: Two decades of exploration

Stby has been supporting changes toward more healthy future societies for 20 years, across projects commissioned by clients, developed in collaboration with partners, and initiated by Stby itself. As we celebrate this anniversary, we are excited to introduce a special series of 6 posters. Each of them express a unique facet of design research that we’ve cultivated over the years in our efforts to address future societies challenges. These posters reflect on the knowledge we’ve gained, showcasing the evolving and dynamic role that design research plays in shaping a better tomorrow. We invite you to explore these posters and reflect on the journey we’ve embarked upon together with our clients, partners, and the communities we serve.


Helping discuss and address societal taboos

Design research can make difficult or sensitive topics more approachable and easier to talk about. To achieve this, Stby creates environments where people from diverse perspectives feel heard and understood. We open the door to constructive dialogues and collaborative solutions, crucial for taking proactive steps towards addressing and mitigating these complex issues. This empowers individuals to challenge stereotypes and break down barriers that create misunderstanding and division.

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

Creating design briefs on patient dignity (2010)

Violence against femininity (2017)

Bridging backgrounds, expertises and perspectives

Stby knows too that societal challenges are rarely isolated issues with straightforward solutions. They often exist within a web of interconnected factors, influenced by various social, economic, political, and environmental elements. This forces us – as a society and as design research practitioners – to look at societal challenges on multiple scales from local to global. We identify how changes or interventions in one area or scale can have cascading effects on others. As design researchers, we play a pivotal role in bridging these gaps through facilitating conversations among organisations and individuals with diverse backgrounds, expertises, and perspectives.

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

Using designerly ways to think about care (2016)

Farmer’s perspective on soil and water management (2019)

Creating new perspectives to look at old problems

Each Stby project is an opportunity to reframe problems, identify root causes, and explore unconventional solutions that will challenge established perspectives. Approaching societal issues with unique perspectives can lead to transformative and sustainable interventions for future societies. Our design research does not only help create new insights but also empowers participants, researchers and stakeholders to rethink their assumptions and engage in more enlightened conversations about societal issues.

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

How can cities and refugees adapt to each other? (2016)

No minor thing (2018)

Involving the people that will live in future societies

At Stby, we believe that future societies should be inspired, owned and shaped by those who are going to be part of it. Our design research work helps companies, organisations and governments to connect with the lives and experiences of the people they serve and places these people at the centre of the research process. Engaging directly with people, spending time understanding their needs, and co-creating solutions together fosters a society where all individuals have a say on their own future.

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

Creative methods for community involvement (2009)

Innovation for-culture in Mexico (2021)

Supporting clients in joining future societies conversations

In 20 years, Stby has witnessed a shift in responsibility towards societal challenges. There is now a growing expectation that companies should take accountability for their social and environmental impacts, expressed in regulations as well as societal pressure. Design research can support corporations in making these transformations, both internally in their organisations, with their employees, and also towards the outside worlds, in their communications. We help them to join these future societies conversations. 

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

Stakeholder research in food retail for ahold (2011)

Guiding social and sustainable business decisions (2023)

Building contextual understanding of societal issues

It is crucial to us to understand how global societal challenges such as the climate emergency have specific local effects. This is why we co-founded the Reach Network 15 years ago. This network allows us to partner with local design research experts,  enabling research that is deeply rooted in the specific needs, cultural nuances, and context of the communities we are doing the research with. This ensures that the insights and opportunities we create are meaningful, relevant and effective both locally and globally. 

Examples of projects we’ve worked on: 

Global challenges, local actions (2018)

Supporting the energy transition (2020)