In short, it is “stories about possible worlds that are told through designed artifacts.” Think of it like designing a plausible but just out of reach future with a little reverse archeology thrown in.

A good example is the tricorder from Star Trek, but a better example is the Annual Report from the Future written by Julian Bleecker. Trying to raise money for a product startup, he struggled.

Translating a Vision into bullet points resulted in ‘slides’ that lacked the kind of acuity I thought the Vision deserved. Representing my imagination through clip art, and Excel graphs was like trying to enjoy a meal of broken glass. So, I wrote an Annual Report…from 2024.

I love this idea of creating a future to the degree it can be studied and analyzed. This is the exact kind of work we did in the IBM Design Incubator program based on the Loop: Observe, Reflect, Make. What I like about Julian’s work is that it’s outside of the digital world.

I’m happy to see other design programs are taking shape around this type of work. I know we moved the needle at IBM more than a few times with this type of work. It was liberating and illuminating for the divisions we worked with.

Design Fiction is a perfect way to get outside of bad traditions and legacy thinking.