UTS Design Index

Welcome to the UTS Design Index – an initiative of the School of Design at the University of Technology Sydney.

The UTS Design Index is designed to support independent, collaborative and cross-disciplinary learning.

While the UTS Design Index has been created for UTS students we hope that the wider design community finds it valuable.

We always welcome new content. If there are resources that we have missed or that you think are better, please let us know via email at contribute@utsdesignindex.com

And to everyone we link to – thank you. We too are committed to access, openness and quality.

UTS Design Index

Futuring Glossary

Backcasting , Cultural Probes , Design Activism , Design Futuring , Double Variable Method , Futures Studies , Futures Thinking , Futuring , Futuring Workshop , Futurist , Futurology , Metrics , Pendulum Futuring , Personas , Quadrant Method , Scenario Mapping , Speculative Design , STEEP Analysis

Why engage in Futuring?

Broadly, Futuring is the practice of creative speculation which prompts proactive, collective action.

If we don’t engage in Futuring, we are living a life in a society that has been designed for us, by someone else. Futuring encourages creative conversations about our options and agency as individuals to effect change in our lives through our daily, measurable impacts on our societies and our planet. 

Futuring is a critical and energetic research method. Futuring can employ the use of cultural probes, speculative objects, guided mediations, personas, expert presentations, scenario mapping techniques, for example the double variable method (Galtung 1998), and pendulum futuring.

During a collaborative futuring session, findings can be communicated in real time using both graphic and text-based sketchnoting. Further written analysis can take the form of formal reports, blog posts and articles.

What is a Futuring Workshop?

Futuring workshops can take many forms, but they are always participatory. Workshops are often designed around a topic or a driving question and engage specially designed probes and props. The collaborative storytelling from potential futures back to the present today leads to practical plans and maps of action that counteract hopelessness and despair.

Are Futures Research, Futurology and Futures Studies the same?

Most futures research, futurology or “Futures studies” is concerned with foresight and risk. This practice is very common in the world of Business. Futuring is most commonly used to explore “the Four P’s” ie: the possible, the probable, and the preferable as well as the preposterous (low-probability, high-impact events).

With greater resources (ie more than a 2-3 hour public workshop or tutorial) futuring engages experts and a range of people to research the many variables that are the major forces of change on any given topic.

Futurology is more of a systematic attempt to predict developments based on historical and current trends at times engaging big data and computer modeling.

There is always uncertainty regarding  the rate or continuation of habits, trends and damages, but these uncertainties are creatively engaged in the process, especially when coming up with new metrics to assess which futures we are heading towards and why…

If I engage in Futuring, am I a Futurist?

A Futurist is more often than not “an adherent to Futurism” or a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends. 

Backcasting & Metrics

Backcasting is the construction of a chain of traceable steps from a proposed future scenario back to the current day. This technique had its origin in energy futures studies in the 1970s.

Within Futuring, metrics are the things by which we measure the rates of change or impacts of the steps we are taking.

Speculative Design

Speculative Design encourages people to be critical about our relationship to time, technologies, policy and politics, local as well as interconnected international communities, and the futures in front of us. Some methods of speculative design encourage the creation of speculative stories, props, prototypes, films and other media to help us explore potential futures in a more tangible way.

“Design today is concerned primarily with commercial and marketing activities but it could operate on a more intellectual level. It could place new technological developments within imaginary but believable everyday situations that would allow us to debate the implications of different technological futures before they happen.”- Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby

‘Double Variable’ or Quadrant Method

Developed by Galtung in 1998, this method asks us to discuss the forces of change in the area we are exploring and use these to map out four different scenarios on a quadrant with two axis.

This shows us several societies sitting side by side and also illustrates that more often than not there is no purely “good” or “bad” futures. We often engage in a STEEP analysis to flesh out the details of this speculative society and can use these details to discuss and identify the most desired of these futures. We might then engage in backcasting to set a course on the trajectory that leads us to this future.

Pendulum Futuring

We are often looking back to figure out who we are and what our place is in our families, societies, the wider world.Pendulum futuring is mapping the same amount of time back as forward (eg 40 years). Through doing this, the future timeframe is often more tangible due to our understandings of the societal shifts, trends and disruptions that have brought us to our current situation. 

In 1987, what were our projections of 2017? What can we learn from our earlier projections of our current situation? How have we over or underestimated ourselves? Where is the exponential growth/deterioration? How might this knowledge inform our 2047 projections from today?


Related methods, international resources, movements, collectives and organisations

fo.am (Belgium)
Transition Design.net
Strange Telemetry (UK)
Metafuture (Brisbane)
Future Method Studio (Sydney) 
The Voroscope – Dr Joseph Voros
In Situ Foresight (Adelaide)
Speculating Futures Clu
Levi Strauss Fashion Futures
Futures of Crime and Policing
Design the Future – Cameron Tonkinwise lecture
www.nesta.org.uk – Speculative Design: Design Niche or New Tool For Government Innovation?
Dunne & Raby (UK)
Frontyard Projects (Sydney)
Fictions (Sydney)


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