This paper engages with the literature to present different perspectives between forecasting and foresight in strategic design, while drawing insights derived from futures studies that can be applied in form of a design-inspired foresight approach for designers and interdisciplinary innovation teams increasingly called upon to help envisage preferable futures. Demonstrating this process in applied research, relevant examples are drawn from a 2016 Financial Services industry futures study to the year 2030. While the financial services industry exemplifies an ideal case for design-inspired foresight, the aims of this paper are primarily to establish the peculiarities between traditional forecasting applications and a design-inspired foresight visioning approach as strategic design activities for selecting preferable futures. Underlining the contribution of this paper is the
value of design futures thinking as a creative and divergent thought process, which has the potential to respond to the much broader organizational reforms needed to sustain in today’s rapidly evolving business environment (Buchanan, 2015; Irmak, 2005; Muratovski, 2016).
Over the last two decades, constructive design research (CDR) — also known as Research through Design — has become an accepted mode of scholarly inquiry within the design research community. CDR is a broad term encompassing almost any kind of research that uses design action as a mode of inquiry. It has been described as having three distinct genres: lab, field, and showroom. The lab and field genres typically take a pragmatic stance, making things as a way of investigating what preferred futures might be. In contrast, research done following the showroom approach (more commonly known as critical design (CD), speculative design, or design fictions) offers a polemic and sometimes also a critique of the current state embodied in an artifact. Recently, we have observed a growing conflict within the design research community between pragmatic and critical researchers. To help reduce this conflict, we call for a divorce between CD and pragmatic CDR. We clarify how CDR and CD exist along a continuum. We conclude with suggestions for the design research community, about how each unique research approach can be used singly or in combination, and how they can push the boundaries of academic design research in new collaboration with different disciplines.