Sample macrotrend from the project.

While most folks were winding down for the holidays, my friends at Superflux and I spent most of December 2011 and into 2012 working on an intriguing project: fusing our individual but highly complimentary approaches in the service of supporting more forward-looking policymaking in the public sector. Our client, in the UAE, gave us an opportunity to apply design-led futures to this aim. As the Superflux team describes on their site, process was:

“to synthesize the client’s pre-existing user interviews, quantitative data, and our own independent macrotrends research around demography, technology, health, culture, and urbanization. With research unfolding over a two month period, this work was written up as a clear and concise report for internal use; a document that set out both the meaning of these macrotrends and their likely implications for life over the next 10-15 years.

From this research, we also created a diegetic future vignette; a short scene emerging from the interface of several of these macrotrends, presented from the point of view of individuals on the ground. A series of designed props, prototypes and character visualisations were combined in a visual comic strip, designed to help a range of stakeholders grasp some of the challenges and possibilities raised by our research.”

This project, the client for which we can’t disclose, was compelling in part because of the unique nature of the subject culture—in which many of the “normative” boundaries of the future are unique, with widely variable rates of change and roots and vastly different levels of society. It was also fulfilling in that we were able to stretch beyond the macrotrends stage to synthesis into narratives, visualizations and artifacts as a means of igniting imagination.