The rich visual toolkit for discovering the future

December 14, 2015 10:53

Please take a look at our Facebook page for a photo impression of An Interesting Day (also for non-facebook users)!

By Freija van Duijne

Bring together a mix of futurists, trend researchers and foresight practitioners with experts from Rijkswaterstaat and their stakeholders for one day of workshops and talks on visualization, and the results are nothing less than visual music. Mutual understanding and inspirational conversations that lasted throughout the day. Here are some highlights. Take a look at the images to get a more visual impression.

12249746_10153917723803714_7813480489499234780_nFrançois Jegou and Christophe Gouache presented visualization as a process to discover the future, often in co-creation. Visualization makes the future tangible. In one of their projects they designed billboards of products that do not yet exist. And people responded as if they were real. Similarly in an exhibition on the future of food, the public was having discussions on what they had seen as if this was already there. Visual storytelling, for instance on the re-design of an urban centre. The stakeholders involved used this to prepare an agreement on the re-design and achieve common ground in a much quicker way. Later, we all started working with the cards from their projects to design our own future and experience this approach of using visualization. The cards indeed help triggering a conversation, but also steered towards certain futures, in this case more sustainable futures.

12313807_854050468047486_6278689720618132529_nVanessa Jane Smith and Gemma Gahan provided their visual reflection of the day. Vanessa explained that by listening to the conversations, certain words resonated in a visual way. Visualization to them is “the art of listening” through connection. By observing what is happening they create a visual impression that again triggers a conversation.

Igor Mayer kicked off the afternoon session by showing the possibilities of serious gaming. The Star Trek Holodeck is the example of a virtual reality playground. This concept that brings you to a different space could also work great for organisations to train and rehearse decision making. The possibilities of new technologies are endless. The only way to learn about the impact is by playing. Mayer had one main message to all of us: Go and play!

The remainder of the afternoon was one potpourri of breakout sessions. Ed Fennema followed up on the concept of serious play. Harry van Boven showed how this can be used in crisis simulations. Etienne Augé took us to the world of science fiction and let us experience what it does to our creativity, the way we perceive problems and solutions. Nanon Soeters showed how to use images in telling a story about emerging trends. Nik Baerten and Nicole Rijkens also presented a tapas of visualization tools that they use in the foresight practice. Leonie Mijnlieff demonstrated how looking at art can stimulate creative thinking. Frans Scheepens gave a tour behind the scenes of the LEF building, which is specially designed to trigger creative conversations. Vanessa Jane Smith hosted a conversation on how to use visualization in your daily work and note taking. Nick Price gave an insight in his own practice of how he uses visuals in discussing strategy development with clients. Petra Wiesbrock shared with us the latest visualization tools in software to support foresight studies.

12311166_854050354714164_4234355928928540028_nAll of these sessions sparked creative energy within the group of participants. Animated conversations continued during the drinks session. And many literally stayed until the building had to close.

About the Author

About / Bio
I am affiliated with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Just finished a secondment at the OECD cabinet office, where I helped designing and preparing a Scenario Based Policy Discussion Session for the Ministerial Council Meeting under the chairmanship of the Netherlands. Back in the Netherlands, I work at the Direction Agri and Nature Knowledge on projects such as shaping technology policy to meet societal demands for the future. In addition to my job at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, I have my own professional practice. Future Motions is specialised in future studies and strategy. I also give presentations about future studies and trends. I am facilitator of group sessions in any stage of a foresight project. And I do "train the trainer" sessions. I am author of short articles about the future, which are published on and the World Future Society Lastly, I am president of the Dutch Future Society, a network of futurists, trendwatchers and strategy experts to meet and learn professionally.
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