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March 2021

Using ‘what if’ scenarios to find opportunities for future design impact

Even though our favorite stores, restaurants, and businesses seem to open up again, we will not be able to completely head back to our old ways any time soon. Products, services, and experiences have to be reinvented to fit the requirements of new behavioral patterns. This realization triggers a new source of inspiration for design and strategy.

'What-ifs' became part of our reality

As a designer, my favorite source of inspiration is people. Observing their behavior and learning their thoughts helps me understand the world around me. It also leads to new opportunities for solving problems. The design of new solutions asks for creativity. To get my creative juices flowing, I like to challenge myself by envisioning what the behavior or thoughts of potential users would look like within different contexts. I call these contexts ‘what-ifs’. What if… the sun would be the source of all our energy? What if… all houses would have recycling stations? What if… we would live our lives within a 10 km radius? This last scenario, together with so many others, has become part of the new reality.


Design as a force for good

The pandemic has an impact on most of our lives and influences our behavior. We have to reinvent products, services, and experiences to fit the requirements of our new behavioral patterns. As a designer, I see this challenging future as an opportunity to use the impact of design as a force for good. Businesses across all branches have the chance to reimagine their future, give new meaning to their offering, and shape their landscapes for the coming years. An era of new human behaviors will influence the design of almost everything.

Scenarios that spark your imagination

I listed a few what-ifs to help you find new opportunities and get prepared for this future.

  • What if… we could influence the physical journey through spaces from beginning to end?
    Should we rethink products in stores to stand out differently?
    Could we let wayfinding in hospitals take place digitally?

  • What if… cities expand their car-free zones by 500%?
    How would people commute?
    Would there be more space for nature and biodiversity?

  • What if… open spaces became public living rooms?
    How would we communicate house rules and safety measures?
    Would nature be a stakeholder in architectural projects?

  • What if… buildings and architecture would become health ecosystems?
    Would every building have outdoor spaces?
    Could new building materials help us filter air?

  • What if… public transport would have to become touch-free?
    How could we redesign trains and busses?
    Would travel prices include a hygiene fee?

Reimagining the future Answering these questions and applying these scenarios to your business with your (potential) users in mind will help you to reimagine your future. If you are looking for inspiring ways to include your customers in your innovation process, we would love to help you.

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