Design Role: Envisioning: an introduction

Envisioning is about those design activities devoted to figure out and represent, in a visual language, potential design trajectories/ideas/solutions for Framework projects. Envisioning takes place basically to inform and build up the vision of a FP.
Outputs of this activity are generally scenarios and simulations.
At the beginning of a project it is in the hands of the designers choosing to start and to stimulate a strategic conversation with the project stakeholders to build, share and agree on the overall vision that will characterise the project, about its strategic aims, about what is expected from it to affect and in which way it will change the context in which it will be developed.
As secondary level, envisioning also occurs to figure out Local projects that can emerge as possible specific design solutions: ideas of products, services, interactions that can be represented in form of sketches, prototypes, mock-ups, storyboard, videos that represent and show and communicate the idea of a local project.

Tentative guidelines:
• Promote collective projection processes that focusing a shared desirable future situation, facilitate the agreement on a back-casting process to reach it…
• Materialise the vision through visualisation and possibly simulation process to make it accessible and tangible for the various populations involved and enhance its convergence building power…
• Anticipate breakthrough solutions and strategies even providing at start only tentative or fuzzy visions to familiarise with unexpected discontinuities and assess potential stakeholders adhesion…

Detailed analysis:
Envisioning to communicate and raise consensus about a problem/project
Projects collected for SEEK are often leaded by design team (students and teachers) from schools that for the educational activity requested in laboratories have started to work on an experimenting domain as is, at the moment, for design, social innovation, to elaborate vision and scenarios for possible projects and detailed ideas and solution potentially implementable. Envisioning in these cases seems to take the configuration of a design research activity that having recognised a problem start to envisioning possible strategies to solve it.
This is what is going on in Chong Ming project, where, by the means of a series of 3 workshops students have worked trying to solve a list of problems:
The periurban countryside area is under the pressure of urbanization.
The industrialized agriculture is poorly efficient, and the income of farming is quite low.
The existing condition of health care, education and transportation could not satisfy the demands. More and more farmers left their villages and settled in the city.
On the other hand, the populous Shanghai city has a great deal of demand of agricultural products, especially safe, local, seasonal food. And the interest of agritourism is visible among the citizen.
This by envisioning a vision like:
a rural-urban area where agriculture flourishes feeding the city and, at the same time, offering citizens opportunities for a multiplicity of farming and nature related activities and by visualising it with different support (sketches, videos, pictures, interviews).
The envisioned vision and the materials produced during the workshops are becoming the basis on which to communicate the problems of the Island and to raise the awareness about them and the consensus of different stakeholders to promote a design project devoted to implement the vision in a series of real initiatives.

Envisioning to build a common vision for a Framework project
Some of the cases collected (advanced as Feeding Milano or at the beginning, as Nord-Pas- de-Calais) are characterised by the fact that they are real project leaded by Design: that means that Design, represented by a team of professionals or researchers, has received funds to build up a social innovation project. In these cases envisioning become the first step of a framework project and it aim is to build, together with all the interested stakeholders, a possible scenarios for the project. This is what is happening in Nord-Pas-de-Calais where: envisioning is used to kick off a framework project: a design-driven projection allows to build a ‘demonstrator’ of what the potential framework project could look like. The form (here multiple video-sketch) is chosen to be as suggestive as possible to raise stakeholder interests and engage the strategic conversation.

Envisioning to figure out possible Local Project/solutions/small scale experiments
For those cases that are in the stage of designing solutions it always, in the SEEK collection, took the form of a local project (a self-standing project that, in the context where it is embedded must be: economically, technologically and socially viable. And, therefore, it must refer to locally already existing active communities or to communities that are activated by the same project proposals). For local projects envisioning works in order to produce solution and ideas to be visualised by mock-ups, videos, storyboard that make LP visible and help to communicate them to the project co-design community.
For Feeding Milano this goals has been reached by implementing different contextual workshops, leaded by design researchers from Politecnico of Milano with the interested communities make concrete the ideas of the project.
For Malmo envisioning has been more a collaboration between the design team and the community of the project to explore how to set up small scale experiments in real context (with low costs) based on functioning prototypes. By conducting the experiments a follow up has been made to articulate the qualities revealed by experiments and articulate specific qualities among stakeholders.

Key points:
Envisioning can be a shared process between designers and stakeholder to develop a project vision and scenario
Envisioning can be a design activity that aim to figure out ideas of possible local project
Envisioning can produce different visual outputs to communicate with different stakeholders (from visual storyboard that tell a story to the stakeholders to small scale experiments that, by the means of functioning prototypes make the envisioned solution real and experiential for stakeholders).

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