Speculative and Critical Design is an approach that considers how designs might play out in the future. It considers alternate futures that live within probable trajectories for technology and society. Through prototypes and scenarios, one can stimulate important discussions about ethics or the impact of design on the environment and culture. While it’s sometimes considered alarmist and sensational, it’s still a powerful tool for designing. It can be used for building business strategies or articulating visions for emerging technologies. However, it’s rarely found as an integral component of the design process. That’s slowly changing. More companies are speculating on everything from the future of their products to eliciting communities for input to develop new services. Speculative Design’s potential for application is so diverse that it can be used as a lens to consider a more holistic approach and uncover new questions about the future that we may have never asked. By looking at certain trajectories (signals) we can open a window into the future that will help us develop new perspectives on our current world and create new agendas toward a more desirable tomorrow. This talk will walk through several projects from Apple’s early vision of the iPad to how governments are using it to design new services today. We’ll also cover some basic frameworks for how to begin looking at the future and consider all the potential factors and environment that could influence your products or services.


Phil has been a Visual & UX Designer since 2001 and has experience designing across a variety of devices and platforms within non-profit, retail, advertising, and enterprise software organizations. A design director, educator and futurist, he also organizes and leads design skill programs and is founder of Speculative Futures and the PRIMER conference which focuses on cultural and social impact of design for the future.