Scenario Making And World Building

In order to design for a better future, we have to build worlds that are unrealistic but not undesirable.

Tabloid size paper, newspaper clippings
Understanding the nature, context and motivations of our designs

“It’s clear that reality only works for a privileged minority, but designers advocate a realist approach, which means they work within the constraints of reality as it is, for the minority.”

— Dunne and Raby

Preconditioned notions of reality forecloses our imagination of possible futures. In order to design for a better future, we have to build worlds that are unrealistic but not undesirable. Looking at how certain designs work within different contexts can help us identify edge cases and open possibilities for better iterations of what may work for the real. We already designed an unreal world with fictional concepts like money, numbers and laws. The only reason we continue to design within these boundaries is because we are oppressed by their limitations.

“In this role, the designer’s task is to give from to a multiverse of hidden possibilities that contribute to a culture of imaginative alterity materialized in ways that engage the mind by challenging it, shifting its focus, arresting it, motivating and inspiring. Raising awareness that if reality is not given but made. then it can be unmade, and remade. This is not simply about the re-imagining of everyday life - there are plenty of examples of this - it is about using unreality to question the authority of a specific reality in order to foreground its assumptions and ideology.” writes Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby writes on their article titles Design for the Unreal World.

Alternate Histories

This exercise focuses on using speculative scenario making and world-building tools to imagine beyond the aesthetics of our current constructed realities. By doing so, designers can have a better understanding foreseeing alternate realities where their designs can exist: both utopic and dystopic.

Further Reading

Spotter’s Guide to Quadrants

Cross Qualdrant Bulletin

The Quadrants are an aide to categorizing and sensemaking for an increasingly complex world in which what is actual and what is illusory are often difficult to disambiguate.


Adam Curtis

A film that examines how global realities are constructed by politicians to achieve specific ends.

Theory of Objects

Alexius Meinong

Gives equal importance to things that can only exist in fiction or in imagination as it does to concrete or actual objects.

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