The design, enrichment or displacement of foresight?


Foresight is one of the fields in which design extends its interventions, alongside management, the integration of new technologies and eco-design approaches. Design enters into foresight by promoting its innovation processes.

Design has a clear impetus, as can be seen in its ability to attract students from diverse backgrounds: a five-fold increase in the number of students enrolled in design schools. (Source: Télérama Oct 2009 "Un métier à tiroirs")The expansion of the company in companies and administrations, the multiplication of "prospective design" units in companies. (Source: L'Usine nouvelle 2008 "La folie créatrice du design prospectif") to imagine new products well in advance, or in the boom of "service design" (scripting of uses linked to a product).

Design, historically focused on products, has opened up to services due to their growing share in the global economy (up to 75% in industrialized countries). It is based on the premise that by taking into account the user's experience, it is possible to enrich the form and functionality of a service, and that services must be constantly optimized and improved to remain desirable and competitive.

Today, design no longer has to prove its multi-faceted and integrating dimension: it knows how to combine anticipation of trends, taking into account available technical means, marketing information and R&D. In companies, designers now compete with marketing and R&D for the management of new product development projects. Philippe Durance The main argument put forward by designers is that design can reinvent everything, even public services, because their job is to design. They seek to apply to the world of ideas approaches that originally concerned mainly industrial products. Today there is a real "coup d'état" by designers, at European level, in the field of innovation". (Millennium interview 3).

What are the contributions of design to foresight?

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mannedcloudThe design is based on the drawing. Visualization is involved at all stages of projects, from the first drawings to image-based scenarios and prototypical devices. Through drawing, image, video, design brings a new way of observing reality, of thinking about objects. Roman ThévenetThe designer, who is also a designer, very clearly underlines the capacity of design to put us in front of objects that allow us to think differently: "I see design as a different way of doing foresight. I see design as a different way of doing foresight: Jean- Marie Massaud has designed a flying hotel in the form of a huge blimp. This project, "Manned Cloud"will not see the light of day for about ten years, but the designer produced a vision for this flying hotel, he designed it, modelled it. All of a sudden, we are faced with an object that makes us dream, allowing us to envisage another form of tourism, for example. In the 27th RegionIn design, we are going to look for the capacity to project ourselves into the future, to make an idea of the future palpable, even if there is not always a "physical object" at the centre of the reflection. »

It is a first function, which joins the first virtue of the image mentioned above. It also brings, even more decisively, an ability to immediately "tangibilize" ideas, analyses, concepts and projections, which serves both to better "manipulate" these ideas, in the sense of discussing them and making them evolve, and at the same time to better share them, in the sense of making them understood, discussed and disseminated.

This strength of design obviously has to do with the capabilities of the image. It is manifest in worlds that only knew the written word, such as administration or foresight. It is precisely in foresight that the demand for design stems in part from a congenital frustration: foresight publications are, with few exceptions, inappropriate and poorly read, which makes it difficult to transmit ideas. The possibilities offered by images are welcomed with enthusiasm - perhaps too much so, according to the testimony of the designer Brice Dury, who believes that design tends to be thought of by foresight as a miracle solution.

Foresight actors regularly call upon the services of designers. During the " La Poste 2020 ", or during the process " TGV 2010-2020 "In each case, designers have been involved, with obvious contributions according to the people who led these initiatives.

According to Edith HeurgonThe prospectivists, who exchange mainly speech or text, need to concretize their concepts and analyses, which they can do, through images or objects, through designers. It is in this sense that they are accelerators for conducting participatory foresight approaches. Thus, in the approach La Poste 2020  which mobilized in focus groups nearly 500 people in 5 French departments, I had asked the designer Brice Dury to imagine the objects of La Poste in 2020, which made it possible to introduce into the debates imagined representations that speeded up the understanding of the participants. The use of images is a means of broadening the modes of observation of reality".

An official of the 27th Region, Stéphane Vincent, underlines in very clear terms the capacity of design to make representations, ideas and projections tangible: "For me, who am not a designer, the most striking contribution of design is precisely that of tangibilisation: design deploys a much wider range of possible formats than those of classical prospective. We work with a designer, François Jégouwho took an early interest in foresight, and worked at Futuribles. In prospective formats, he produces, for example, 2 or 3-minute video sketches that present a service, a device, a policy, a situation... (...) As part of a project on nanotechnology, François Jégou took photos of fake nanotechnological products that seem to have come straight from a supermarket shelf, like onions with the words "does not make you cry" on the package, supposedly because nanotechnology has given them this property. This raises the very real question of whether we are comfortable with this kind of application. More generally, it raises questions about the use of nanotechnology. » (Millennium interview 3).

If the image promotes projection into the future (this is the second virtue of the image) by tangibilizing visions of the desirable future, it is not an end in itself: it is to better debate their merits (is this what we want?) and question their feasibility (how to get there?). We are talking here about an image produced by designers, but it could just as well be an image produced by science fiction or by other means.

The image also has a third, as yet unpointed, enchantment function. We quote from the proceedings of an international seminar on how design transforms public services (How Public Design, Copenhagen, 31 August 2011): "Visualization (...) has also become the essential means of thinking differently about the future.

It is in this spirit that Manuel Toscano (Zago, USA) promotes a reenchanting visualization in a world that has become too pessimistic to face the new challenges.

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Ramus Run Nielsen (2+1 Ideas agency) talks about "creating a visual story that makes sense of change and makes it desirable". For him, it is now more about "changing the narrative than promoting new concepts. (Report by the 27th Region,

Design does not only bring to foresight the capabilities of the image. It brings its approaches and tools. Foresight has multiple facets. By defining what is desirable, it defines a project. The designer is naturally in a dynamic of project, of realization. He must find tools: he will find them partly in the disciplines and tools of the SHS such as experimental economics, or social psychology, and partly in design.

Design contributes to the production of goods or services by integrating the dimension of uses, alongside other dimensions (technical, costs, ergonomics, aesthetics, etc.). One of the contributions of design is, in the words of Brice Dury, the "intelligence of uses" which is built up through several stages of a process, the diagnosis of uses based on their observation (Brice Dury indicates that he has the impression that he is making a prospective of the present through the observation of uses), tools for creativity and scriptwriting based on uses, and implementations which take users into account by making objects or services intuitive, easy to use, understand and appropriate.

By resorting to design, foresight intends to show that it is capable of evolving towards "doing", of contributing to, or even piloting projects, of integrating the question of uses, of making the link between analysis of reality and action on this reality.

The designer and the experience of use

When intervening in a prospective process, the designer will use the procedures and tools with which he is familiar: to understand the experience of using the object or service he is working on, or to find ideas or evaluate its value, the designer meets people, studies experiences, ways of doing things, ways of living. To gather information from actual or potential users, he will use interviewing and observation procedures, going so far as to interfere in the daily life of the user without disturbing him. He or she will pay close attention to the context of uses and to the "land" (but not according to the sociologist's approach).

This observation work typically uses interview, photo and video. The designer Eric Brandy agency Veeb Design detailed in an interview ( the design phases of the services : global understanding of the subject through information gathering and observation; definition of a problem; "ideation" where all stakeholders in the system are invited to generate ideas and invent solutions through brainstorming or workshop sessions ; filtering phase, which consists of narrowing and checking ideas against the strategy and verifying what is feasible or not; visualization phase in the form of a prototype which allows to feed thought ("it's think to build and build to think"), to test an idea and to reduce uncertainties before the project moves to the concretization phase.

The 27th Region, an initiative that questions the frontier between foresight and innovation

By intervening in foresight, doesn't design contribute to transforming it? To influence its project? To try to answer these questions, let us take the example of the 27th Region.

The initiative can be described as follows: "Territoires en résidences", an emblematic program of the 27th Region, deals with forward-looking topics: what is the future of rural stations, nursing homes, digital spaces?.. Each residence is positioned where there is an issue of public and social innovation. Are these prospective approaches where design would be mobilised to produce innovation? Or innovation, participative innovation, based on design methods?

The 27th Region, created in 2008, aims to explore new ways of conducting public policies, based on co-design and further mobilising the creativity and expertise of users. It defines itself as a "public innovation agency" at the service of the French Regions, and also as a "laboratory for the transformation of public policies in the digital age". These definitions place it a priori on the side of innovation rather than foresight.

One of the people responsible for this project, Stéphane Vincent, situates itself the "cursors" that the 27th Region has moved with regard to foresight practices: "All the methods we use were invented by moving the cursors of the classical methods:

- We moved the immersion slider in reaction to the fact that in classical engineering you spend little time with people, starting from the question: "what happens if you really give yourself time, when you live with people for a few days? » ;

- we moved the cursor of disciplines in reaction to monodisciplinarity: "what happens when interventions are carried out by people with different profiles, with sociologist, designer, etc. looks? » ;

- while in public action we have difficulty in documenting projects, we have moved the cursor of capitalization: "what happens when we really capitalize on what we do, according to the free software model, where developments are documented, where everyone can, with open source, copy and improve the system for the benefit of all? » ;

- we have finally moved the cursor of experimentation: in public action, everything happens as if it were possible to produce an ideal project without testing. ».

This project is in line with the prospective of the present on several diagnoses: key concepts in the implementation of public action, starting with expertise and decision making, are subject to a similar critical analysis. Contrary to the idea of a single act produced by a decision-maker, the decision is thought of as a collective and continuous process. The 27th Region infers that public action is then wrong when it creates participatory mechanisms solely to feed into decision-making (other moments exist and are more important), just as it would be wrong when it develops projects without continuous interaction with its stakeholders.

The 27th Region is campaigning to transform the way projects are carried out by favouring an experimental approach, with continuous testing and feedback with stakeholders and future users. It has a well-founded criticism of local authority management, which is said to have aligned itself with private sector management, and aims to conceive public policies differently, by rethinking engineering (evaluation, calls for projects, indicators, etc.). This initiative emphasizes the importance of methods and tools for two reasons: they have a political dimension; the tools also allow for the renewal of conceptions and capacities for exploring and debating foresight. "On management, on the way of doing foresight, we think that politics is singularly absent. Politicians often see in management a question of stewardship that others will deal with; there is no political vision and no debate on methods: why carry out foresight in such and such a way, experiments, calls for projects...? Contrary to the common perception that sees them as neutral subjects, with no impact, we think that these ways of constructing projects are political subjects. Behind the notion of social experimentation, there are thus important debates within multiple currents. We need to repoliticize the debate, to rehabilitate the method as a political subject. » (Stéphane Vincent, Millennium interview 3).

But the convergence with the foresight of the present is partly true, and partly the effect of a trompe l'oeil: the 27th Region thinks foresight and carries out its approaches essentially from the design, which introduces a difference of point of view difficult to perceive at first sight.

Let us return to the diagnosis of a double crisis of expertise and decision: it was first established by the prospective of the present, to re-found prospective on the conceptual level : Expertise is not only the business of experts, it is shared; decision-making is not a single act taken by isolated individuals, it is a continuous process that mobilizes many actors... The prospective of the present has also, without naming it, emphasized social innovation: prospective must rely on society's capacities for initiative and invention. This reaggiornamento has favoured the entry of design, itself in a dynamic of expansion and redefinition of its contours, into foresight approaches, but without ironing out fundamental differences.

It is thus interesting to observe how the concept of scenario is revisited by design in the context of "Territoires en résidence": "We have to agree on the words. In the same way that we don't understand the word prospective in a classical sense, I think we don't understand the word scenario in the same way. We come from industrial design and talk about use scenario (The use scenario is a widespread and very formalized methodology to define the functional needs of a project).

Such a user-centric scenario indicates how a product will be used. Our scenarios are not those of classical foresight that anticipate a possible development, they are understood in the sense of a story board, indicating how we would (or would not) like to live the world of tomorrow, but told "at eye level" of the inhabitants. Typically, this means that we are not going to build a prospective scenario at the end of several months of reflection, but to draw a scenario at the same time as the reflection takes place, constantly asking the participants whether they agree or disagree that this is how they intend to live. » (Romain Thévenet)

Here we can see the considerable difference with a foresight scenario: the exploratory and normative work progresses together, the experts become part of a process that is open from the outset to different forms of expertise! This opens up interesting avenues for foresight.

The importance given by design to daily life, to experiences, to the long observation of a field, to the point of view of the stakeholders, also creates a proximity with the prospective of the present. Thus, the 27th Region shares the aim of the prospective of the present to rehabilitate "people", their experiences, their knowledge of daily life, their capacities of expertise and initiative. However, starting from design, it thinks of stakeholders and users and, with the tools of design, is able to actively involve them (immersion, scenario, test, prototyping). Does taking into account user expertise, a former combat of local democracy, have much to do with user expertise perceived through the filter of innovation by design?

"We are convinced that expertise is present among citizens and stakeholders, but that this expertise is not enough. We need to ask people about the issue we are interested in, but we also need to see how they live this issue on a daily basis, because there can be a gap between what they say and what they experience. In the framework of our "Territories in Residence" programme, where we spend several weeks in immersion, journalism or field sociology are used, for example, to obtain a detailed understanding of the field, to start from practices, as opposed to top-down expertise. In order to identify new avenues for innovation and reflection, we need to use both participation and surveying the field. Immersion allows us to deal directly with the issues with the populations concerned." (Romain Thévenet, Millennium interview 3).

The 27th Region shares with the present foresight the idea that it is necessary to immerse oneself in a field, but more to "bring up" needs, solutions and projects than to conceptualize phenomena and shift questions. The way of approaching the field, and the function of research in it, is therefore very different from that of present-day prospective: the 27th Region does not use the capacities of SHS research to understand its fields.

The way in which design can lead to the reconfiguration of foresight is not without questions. The more the foresight is thought through the filter of innovation, the more it looks at questions of use and the search for solutions, the more design naturally finds its place in it. However, design alone will find it difficult to re-conceptualize complex objects; the capacities of the image do not replace those of the written word, they complement them; design can have the same effect as marketing by entering into foresight, i.e. extend service logics which, in practice, form the bedrock of commercial logics.

It is interesting to note that the designer Romain Thévenet recently questioned in a post entitled "design des services, tu perds ton sang froid" (Source: June 2011,‐de‐services‐tu‐perds‐ton) this activity precisely because of this "Trojan horse" aspect.

Design is therefore an enrichment for foresight, provided that the latter clearly defines its own project, clearly states for example that foresight is not akin to innovation or the search for solutions, but is on the side of reflection.

Cédric Polère for

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