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Designing the Future – How we use foresight in design projects

It is impossible to accurately predict the future. Still, we can influence future outcomes by our present choices. And here lies the power of design: To think creatively and critically about the future, imagine what the future could hold, and use those “future memories” to decide on actions in the present.

For many years, designers have been interested in methods to investigate, explore and shape the future. Collectively, the field is named foresight.

Foresight for strategic thinking

At Halogen, we use foresight in a number of different projects. We adapt to the specific context of each project and scale our workshops accordingly. The result is foresight work that looks slightly different, and the futures we imagine and design for, serve different purposes.

In some projects we employ a quite pragmatic foresight to help companies find new opportunities in the market. When we use foresight to support strategic thinking, we aim to stimulate cross-sectoral collaborations and business innovation.

In a recent project we combined expertise in tourism and mobility to explore how to make public and shared transportation attractive in the Hafjell region. We used foresight to create future scenarios with a successful shift from private to shared transport that included all the relevant actors. The main outcome was a comprehensive description of possible trends and developments. The participants also formed important new connections that continued further after the project ended.
Nikolai Øvrebekk, designer at Halogen

Other times, we use foresight to tackle more abstract problems. The work is a combination of abstract, open, challenging, and fun conversations that balance possibilities with probabilities.

To help the company Aquaressurs to develop their strategy, we spent a lot of time exploring different future scenarios in the aquaculture sector. Then, we worked backwards from a 10 year perspective to set up important strategic milestones for the company. The foresight work opened up their field of view towards a much larger landscape of possibilities, but it also showed that it would take many different stakeholders working in collaboration to "steer the ship" towards a preferred direction.
Thiago Freitas, designer at Halogen

Mapping connections between stakeholders provides an important overview for strategic discussions.

Foresight to detail the roadmap

In addition to dreaming about possibilities, we also help clients take the first steps towards their desired future. We move from strategic thinking to strategy development and planning, and help our clients design, develop and implement the necessary changes and innovations.

The ability to bridge strategic thinking with planning and implementation is especially important when we design for safety critical environments. At Halogen, we design products, systems, services and infrastructure that will be used in defense, energy and health sectors for 10 up to 40 years.

We use foresight to give the experts the necessary time and space to be creative and speculative about future scenarios. In addition to all the possible technological, human and societal changes, we also have to address multiple worst case scenarios and accidents that might occur. In particular, we explore how these scenarios behave in peace time, in times of crisis and war time. This can be quite a demanding task, but the result is a rich and detailed map where new possibilities and hidden processes become visible. This further creates a common understanding that helps the participants prioritise and initiate further work.
Jan Fredrik Schønheyder, PhD, designer at Halogen

Using foresight to explore different versions of the future helps companies plan a roadmap for the journey ahead.

Foresight to simulate reflection

Tangible results from foresight work provide important value for companies and organisations, and thinking critically and creatively about the future helps prepare for changes and openings in the market. Reflections about the future also includes a normative aspect: what kind of future do we want?

To help companies and organisations imagine a future together, Halogen launches our “Playbook for systemic innovation - mindsets and methodologies for transformation” in the autumn of 2021. Here, foresight plays a key role to tackle the future head on.

Co-creating the future is very important as it gives everybody a possibility to contribute to a future they want to be a part of. The process unifies the group, as the future includes their shared values, norms and beliefs. This is in contrast to both critical design and using scenarios, which can easily become counterproductive in a systemic change process. A normative foresight where we can add sustainable and regenerative values helps organisations shift on a systemic level.
Susanne Ringdal, advisor at Halogen

The future of foresight

At Halogen, we keep testing, evaluating and exploring new ways of designing for the future. Our combination of theoretical and practical knowledge of foresight makes us stand out in the innovation companies, and we aim to be at the forefront of the new developments.

As Norman Henchey said in 1978: The future is not what it used to be.

Let us know if you want to learn more about foresight, and how we can help you and your organization develop bold strategies and transform into the future.

For more information, please contact

Leif Verdu-Isachsen
Head of Design and Deliveries
leif.verdu-isachsen@halogen.no
+47 90 91 99 21

Relevant references:

Evans, Martyn. (2014). Researching the future by design. In Rodgers, P.A., & Yee, J. (Eds.). The Routledge Companion to Design Research (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315758466

Henchey, Norman. (1978). Making Sense of Future Studies. Alternatives, 7(2), 24-27. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45030200

Voros, Joseph (2001) A Primer on Future Studies, foresight and the use of scenarios. prospect, the Foresight Bulletin, No. 6 https://thevoroscope.com/publications/foresight-primer/