Designing for the Future: The Role of Future Scenario Planning in Design Education

MFA Blog 10/12

From Joanne Healy, Dean of Graduate Studies

MFA Blog 10/12

As designers, we are often asked to think about how design can impact our lives in the future. In a rapidly changing world, uncovering insights into the human context of design is an increasingly important need. As a graduate student at College for Creative Studies, you are challenged to design with an eye towards the future. Our research curriculum is designed to help you identify and understand the nature of how uncertain driving forces may affect the perception of possible future events (Börjesson). And, by extension, how these perceptions can impact your ideas. By equipping you with the tools for envisioning alternative scenarios, we believe you will be able to successfully solve problems and innovate in the face of an uncertain future.

Last semester, Sheryl Connelly, the Global Consumer Trends and Futuring Manager at Ford Motor Company, and I co-taught a class on future scenario planning. The class was divided into four teams and asked to research one of the emerging BRIC countries - Brazil, Russia, India and China. The teams gathered historical and current information on events from academic, public and private sources and assessed the impact of these events through multiple lenses – political, social, environmental, economic and technological. By exploring the impact on community, family and the individual, students gained an understanding of the causal relationships that imprint and define the values and behavior of a generation to lifelong worldviews.

At the end of class, we reflected on what we learned:
1. You cannot understand another person’s point of view until you fully understand your own point of view.
2. You cannot underestimate the value of empathy. The values and behavior of individuals, families and communities lie deep within and are shaped by events they experience and share.
3. You cannot predict the future, but you can develop scenarios based on lifelong views that shape who we are and through them, design solutions to impact lives in more meaningful ways.

Börjesson, Martin. “Scenario Planning Resources.” The Well. 03 Dec. 2007. Web. 18 Sept. 2012.