I know the term “Design fiction” from one lecture of my program, but with only one class for 2 hours, I only got a simple impression of science fiction. However, I’m very interesting about this both art and science ambit and I think few of you have heard about it, so today I’d like to make a brief introduction of design fiction and sharing the result of my self-learning.

What is design fiction?

Design fiction is an emergent field within HCI (Human computer interaction) (Linehan, et al., 2014) According to the definition in wikipedia, Design fiction is

“A method of critical design that uses fictional and narrative scenarios to envision, explain and raise questions about possible futures for design and the society.”

If you think this explanation is too difficult to understand, than you can regard design fiction as the process of thinking of design as something that can shape the future, bring about chance, craft new sorts of habitable worlds. In other words this is to explore the future of future, like Blythe has claimed, to find out the possibility and potential value of new design work.

For example, here is a video of design fiction:

Just like the girl in the video that introduced: It is different from concept, which can be achieved to real product. Design fiction is more close to science fiction where you actually showing people what doesn’t exist in this world yet but could exist in the future, and the main purpose of design fiction is to finding out how this possibilities will change people’s behavior.

Design fiction is not only to tell you that there is something new, but to create a story to make you feel the experience that how new technologies would change your life. In this case, the design fiction is also called the science of story-telling. And there is a common way of showing the story, making a video about your design. And here is a good example:

It present many ways that may happen in the future, to describe the possible life style of human. And it is not only about the information technology, but including every aspect of our life, from eating to entertaining. Also, there are more ongoing and finished project in MIT Media Lab, which you can click to learn more about design fiction nowadays.

The meaning of design fiction

After knowing what is design fiction, I’m a little confused, what’s the meaning of doing design fiction, how would the result influence the real product design and creation?

In Quora, I find a question of what is the design fiction, and the best answer provided me some new ideas which I’d like to share with you. Tanenbaum, an assistant professor in infomatics at UC Irvine, shared his view. He said that the design fiction, which create stories of new technologies, is actually providing an opportunity to put technology in a human context instead of “purely engineering driven scenario”, and through the story-telling, the technology is given the consideration of the values, meanings, and the potential implications from both ethical and political aspects. Also, it can provide an opportunity to figure out the social element of a design’s use and potential misuse.

In a word, using this methods, we can see the new technology from a cultural standpoint, exploring the endless possibilities and test the potential boundaries of future. And using the conclusions we may find in the future of future, to direct our real world and provide suggestion to the trend of an technology’s developing.


In my opinion, the design fiction connect both art and science, like one essay has mentioned, it is poetics and creative (Markussen, Knutz, 2013), yet it has important meaning to the real world using the scientific analysis methods. Which make design fiction attractive for me to learn more.

After reading this post, have you know more about design fiction? Don’t forget to leave your comment to tell me your thoughts, let’s meet in future world!


Thank you





  1. Blythe, M. (2014, April). Research through design fiction: narrative in real and imaginary abstracts. InProceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 703-712). ACM.
  2. Linehan, C., Kirman, B. J., Reeves, S., Blythe, M. A., Tanenbaum, J. G., Desjardins, A., & Wakkary, R. (2014, April). Alternate endings: using fiction to explore design futures. InCHI’14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 45-48). ACM.
  3. Markussen, T., & Knutz, E. (2013, September). The poetics of design fiction. InProceedings of the 6th International Conference on Designing Pleasurable Products and Interfaces (pp. 231-240). ACM.
  4. Tanenbaum, J. G., https://www.quora.com/What-is-design-fiction



Further reading

  1. https://www.media.mit.edu/research/groups/design-fiction
  2. Julian Bleecker: A Short Essay on Design, Science, Fact, and Fiction:


  1. David Kirby:  The Future is Now:


  1. Paul Dourish and Genevieve Bell: Resistance is Futile: Reading Science Fiction alongside Ubiquitous Computing:


  1. Joshua Tanenbaum, Karen Tanenbaum, Ron Wakkary: Steampunk as Design Fiction:


  1. Bruce Sterling’s curated list of Design Fiction videos:



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