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‘Concept cars’ as vehicles for change in SMEs

Category : #FutureThroughDesign / outcomes, /publications · by Jul 24th, 2020

Mejia Sarmiento, J. R., Pasman, G., Hultink, E. J., & Stappers, P. J.

Making prototypes of fictitious artifacts has long been applied in corporations as a design-led way to envisioning the future. These techniques make use of design to explore speculative futures translating abstract questions into concrete objects and bringing the human dimension and experience into futures techniques. The design-led strategic foresight techniques follow making activities – including visual synthesis, prototyping, and storytelling – and result in experimental and experiential artifacts offering concrete, hands-on, and specific images of the futures. An example of these techniques is the making and sharing of concept cars, a long- standing practice in the automotive industry. These artifacts facilitate the sharing of future visions, which embody future ideas, to diverse people.
Whereas corporations use these design-led strategic foresight techniques as a driver for innovation, small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of society and the global economy, have been deprived of these kinds of explorations due to their being resource intensive. To help these enterprises, we developed DIVE (design, innovation, vision, and exploration) based on design-led strategic foresight techniques developed by corporations but adapted to the scale and needs of these small players. DIVE helps external designers and company representatives in making and sharing artifacts to envision the future of their company. The technique follows an analogy that invites participants to make a hole in the world as it is and descend underwater to the speculative futures and then come back to the reality. Along with this plunge into fiction, participants identify trends, create ideas about the future, and make a prototype of an artifact that is subsequently used to motivate people to talk about the company’s future and present. This artifact, the vision concept, includes ideas about the future product or service, the context, and the business itself.
This paper aims to evaluate DIVE as a design-led strategic foresight technique and focuses on the benefits and limitations of its application. It includes two cases that explored the future of the shopping experience for the company Solutions Group. It is a Colombian medium-sized enterprise that develops and produces point-of-purchase materials for consumer goods corporations such as Procter & Gamble. In both cases, the participants employed DIVE activities to make and share a vision concept. At the end of the cases, the DIVE outcomes were validated by three external innovation experts. DIVE proved its efficacy in supporting designers in setting future visions, prototyping vision concepts and stories, and making recommendations for different time frames, and participants also learned about the strategic value of design.

Read the full document here.

Cited (APA) as: Mejia Sarmiento, J. R., Pasman, G., Hultink, E. J., & Stappers, P. J. (2020). ‘Concept cars’ as vehicles for change in SMEs. In Temes de Disseny, Design Futures Now: Literacies and Making (36), pp. 40-69.

Javier Ricardo Mejia Sarmiento


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