We enjoy design projects where we get to ask a lot of “what if” questions. These projects involve many potential outcomes that need to be explored before practical design work can begin. In the exploration phase, we create storyboards from drawings, photos and UI mockups, and sometimes we also turn them into vision videos.
When clients commission exploratory work, we generally focus on the positive outcome of new products or services. This makes sense when budgets are limited and our clients want to pitch a compelling vision to their stakeholders or customers. Still, innovations might also have weird or interesting side effects, and even some undesirable consequences. While these can be important to explore, they are rarely the focus of commercial design.
Critical perspectives on emerging and fictive technology is common in sci-fi, where Black Mirror might be the most striking example today. The book Speculative Everything is an excellent collection of design fiction and Adrian Hon's History of the Future describes the potential consequences of 100 objects from the future.
While most "what if" projects we carry out for clients are never published, we sometimes share exploratory work at events and conferences. Our latest design exploration of Toy Story and IoT turned into the presentation above and a very well received post on Hackernoon.