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Concept cars as a design-led futures technique

Category : #FutureThroughDesign / outcomes, /publications · by Jul 13th, 2016
Mejia Sarmiento, J. R., Hultink, E. J., Pasman, G., & Stappers, P. J.

Innovation forces organizations to think about the future. The many techniques guiding these explorations are named futures studies, which are inquiries into images of the future and their surrounding elements. Although futures studies help organizations to change, their results are often difficult to interpret, and they frequently fail to involve middle-level managers or the public at large. As design is a future-oriented discipline, it is remarkable that the futures studies and innovation management literature do not cover design-led techniques to boost the innovation process. This paper fills a part of this gap in the extant literature by discussing Concept Cars in the automotive industry, a phenomenon in which design plays a prominent part. Since the first Concept Car, it has become clear that automakers do not make these tangible models to mass-produce and sell them, but they mainly view them as a brand builder. Although Concept Cars are broadly recognized as an interesting phenomenon, little academic work has been conducted on them. This paper discusses Concept Cars as a design-led futures technique, and aims to understand their purposes, outcomes, and development process. Our study used multiple methods, including ten interviews with design experts, observations on Concept Cars at a motor show, and a review of three Concept Cars. We find that Concept Cars help organizations to change through an inquiry into images of the future. Concept Cars offer a design-led approach of researching the future, where visual synthesis, prototyping, and storytelling play an important role. Concept Cars act as probes that simultaneously explore technologies and styling while also communicating a probable, plausible, and preferable future, in one time-horizon. Unlike managerial futures techniques, Concept Cars provide tangible futures that people with different backgrounds can experience, influencing several parties involved in developing an innovation. A Concept Car has two main limitations. The development of a Concept Car is a resource intensive process and results in a single outcome. We conclude that Concept Cars or Concept Products can complement other futures techniques and may also be used by companies operating in other industries when looking for new ways to innovate.

Keywords: concept cars, futures studies, speculative design, strategic foresight

Read the full paper here: Paper 1 to IPDMC 15042016

Cited (APA) as: Mejia, J. R., Hultink, E. J., Pasman, G., & Stappers, P. J. (2016). Concept cars as a design-led futures technique. In Proceedings of the 23rd Innovation and Product Development Management Conference (Vol. 1, pp. 1–21). Glasgow, U.K.

Watch the presentation here:

23rd Innovation and product development management conference at Glasgow, U.K. June 12-14, 2016

The special theme for our conference will be “Crossing Borders and Boundaries: The Changing Role of Innovation/Entrepreneurship” to reflect the current age of economic turbulence and dynamic, disruptive technological and social change. The nature of competition has been changed in a world of recession following the global financial crisis in 2007. Innovative and entrepreneurial activities are considered to be ‘key’ for a business sector which may risk becoming ‘trivial’ and, vice versa, ‘unknown’ innovations/entrepreneurs frequently emerge, shifting competition from closed to open and networked innovation systems spanning a variety of technologies, civic societies, markets, and geographies. Innovation and entrepreneurship clearly constitute one of the most central issues for management, as they directly speak to the competitive strength, sustainability and relevance of organizations and networks. Therefore, the crucial purpose of emerging, developing and developed economies is to promote entrepreneurship and innovation to enhance economic and social development.

Read more about the conference here

Javier Ricardo Mejia Sarmiento


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