Mejia Sarmiento, J. R., Pasman, G., & Stappers, P. J.
In the landscape of design research, several techniques of speculative design -or design about ideas- have been positioned, each with a different time frame. Design Fiction and Critical Design, for instance, emerged as making activities that explore the near and the speculative future, respectively. We previously defined Vision Concepts as a design-led technique that explores and communicates speculative futures. Even though Vision Concepts, such as long-term concept cars and products, have been part of the industry since 1938, previous work has failed to identify and understand them from the design research perspective or compared them with other speculative design techniques. This study intends to identify which spot Vision Concepts occupies within the landscape of design research. To that end, we developed a multiple case analysis that includes examples of Vision Concepts, Design Fiction, and Critical Design. This paper will help design researchers identify the similarities and differences between Vision Concepts and the other speculative design techniques and gain knowledge about when and why to apply this technique.
Keywords: vision concepts; concept cars; speculative design; design fiction; critical design
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.
I had the opportunity to present the paper “Design of Vision Concepts to explore the future: nature, context and design techniques” during the 5th CIM -Creativity and Innovation Management- Community Workshop, which was held in the campus of the University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands on 1 September 2015.
Here the video of Teresa Amabile from Harvard Business School who welcomes the participants of the workshop.
More information about the event here
Javier Ricardo Mejia Sarmiento