Creativity Design Innovation

Speculative design and innovation

What is speculative design?

If someone has explained the term speculative design to you before, you’re not alone in feeling confused. Speculative design is relatively new, meaning it has a variety of different terms; critical design, design fiction and disruptive design to name a few. It’s defining qualities that set’s it apart from more traditional design is its emphasis on future thinking.

Most design methods build off the current technology and culture of the time, with the objective to develop ‘products’ or ‘solutions’ that address current demand, or shortly in the future. Speculative design speculates multiple aspects of the future and creates narratives to act as the bases for design.

For most of us, we don’t live in the future. However, as many Sci-Fi films have told us, knowing the future ultimately changes it. Speculative design doesn’t claim to act as a future forecasting process, but it does offer the opportunity to speculate how multiple futures could play out. It’s this loose, playful way that speculative design gives you the ability to think divergently upon the future of business, culture, politics and the environment.

How can speculative design be used as a method for innovation?

Innovation on a whole suffers from our cultural ability to see only in the short-term. This is simply because the ‘future’ is unknowable and intangible. Speculative design offers businesses and public sector to creatively approach understanding the future and giving guidance to innovation. Put simply, if your following a vision it’s easier to develop technology to enable it.

Speculative design applications don’t end there. Creating artefacts of the future can ultimately change our behaviour. This is where the line blurs between art and design. Here design is being used to structure how people think and feel about the future. Artefacts are created to inspire critical thinking and provide a bases for discussion.

For most businesses thinking creatively about the future 5 years from now is difficult. Businesses use speculative design to think 5 – 10 – 20 years into the future, but why stop there? For public sector, they need to be thinking generations ahead with their policy making, not just what might benefit some people now.

The dangers of speculative design

Speculative design sometimes works by provoking emotions in people on culturally sensitive topics. The responses to speculative design can, and usually are, unpredictable with rare unintended negative effects. For artists this is part of the job, but with governments and businesses this can be a costly and damaging risk. Alternatively, if not done correctly meanings can be misinterpreted and have the directly opposite effect you intended.

The main danger with speculative design is simply who is using it and why. Like propaganda, it can be used to manipulate opinions and alter perspectives for immoral reasons. I know this sounds like ‘Inception’ but take comfort in the knowledge that speculative design on its own is usually dismissed as simple artistic representation.

Examples of speculative design

Speculative design isn’t just a theoretical process, it’s already being used in government and entertainment. The application of speculative design varies greatly and doesn’t have fixed outcomes, meaning good examples are rare. Please see the links below for examples and if you have the time, watch ‘Black Mirror’. Alternatively, good books to read are also listed below.

Reflections on education, skills and forecasting futures – UK Gov

Anab Jain -Ted Talk

Black Mirror


Dunne and Raby: Speculative Everything

Critical Design in Context: History, Theory, and Practices

Where might it go in the future

For the moment speculative design is being mostly used for research and experimental policy projects. However, speculative design has the tools we need for development of policy in conjunction with design thinking, such as human-centred design. We can expect businesses realising it’s potential to sell longer-term products and ideals. Hopefully we can see speculative design becoming one of the many techniques to navigate our direction as a species. Or at bare minimum we get more Black Mirror episodes.

Creativity Design Innovation

Service design:  Basic tutorial

Service design:  Basic tutorial


Service design is the simple application of design as a process to develop services. It’s a method to structure the revival of existing services and develop new ones that reflect the standards that users currently expect.

Clunky, unclear, time consuming bureaucratic systems will simply be unacceptable by clients and customers of the future. We are undergoing a cultural digital transformation that demands simplicity. You might be able to ignore updating your systems for now, but your competition certainly isn’t.

The opportunity here is to use service design, or more accurately design thinking, as the method for incubating innovation. Design offers a multifunctional framework to develop services, culture, products, business strategies even company parties.

The best way to understand service design is to try it out, so we’ve prepared something special for you. If you are new to service design or just looking for a cheap way to do some team building, we’ve created a six stage one day program to try out.


What you will need


Firstly, a current service. Pick one of your services that seems to be lacking or choose an example business you have service-related beef with.

Second, time. You will need to get some time allocated with no distractions for at least one whole day.

Third, willing bodies. If you can, get a cross section of your business, five people should do. Decision makers, designers even the cleaner, all these people have valuable perspectives that you need.

Fourth, an agenda. Plan out your time, you will over run. You could spend days on each of these but try and keep it to an hour per activity.

Fifth, tablet templates. You’ll need either to print off 30 blank tablet templates or a box of craft supplies, depending if your service is digital or not.

Sixth, an open mind. Listen to one another and stay on topic without jumping ahead.

Seventh, post-it notes, so many post-it notes. Don’t forget the pens, because everyone else will.




1)      Start with value

What do you value? Understanding what your business values can be difficult, but it’s vital for having a long-term decision-making plan. Start by writing out your values, then try condensing them down into three key values.

Advanced level: Reduce your values into a three word ‘why statement’.

2)      Understand your users

It’s easy to spot the pitfalls in services, except your own. Look at your services through the eyes of your users. Start by mapping out your user’s journey through your services. Think how they arrive at your service, then note each interaction and action both you and your users have. Pay attention to how they might feel at each and every stage.

Advanced level: Map out your current service from multiple perspectives, including deaf, blind and non-tech savvy.

3)      Ideas, ideas and more ideas

Using the problem areas, you identified from the user journeys, with your values in mind, think of over one hundred different solutions or alternative services that would be ideal for your business. Don’t think if an idea is feasible or realistic, just fire out ideas.

Tip: Everyone should have a pen and post-it note pad in their hand, not one person writing all the ideas.

Advanced Level: Cluster those ideas into levels of feasibility.

4)      Test it, break it, remake it

Prototyping is just a fancy term for making a ‘mock-up’ or model of something like a service. Designers use them to communicate solutions, test with users and develop better ideas. You will do the same. Assuming your service is digital, use your tablet templates to create a service flip book with each new slide representing an interaction your user has with your service. Alternatively, get creative with your glue gun, and create something that represents your service idea.

Tip: It doesn’t have to look pretty; it just needs to communicate your idea. Rough looking is an advantage here.

Advanced Level: Be critical, find a way to ‘break’ your idea and remake it.

5)      Get feedback

It’s time to face the noise. Get people to give you feedback on your idea. Push yourselves to ask people from outside the business, maybe go to a coffee shop and ask around there. Alternatively, share it on a service designer group and ask them to give their thoughts on it. They can be brutal, but it’s always useful.

Tip: Don’t be precious and don’t defend your idea.

Advanced level: Let other people change your idea, allow them to add slides in or take them out.

6) Evolve

Finally, take everything you’ve learnt and feedback you’ve gathered, redevelop your idea and improve the quality of your prototype. Do this until you think your idea is worth taking forward. Present this to your colleagues and get further feedback on your idea.

Advanced level: Present your idea as if on ‘Dragons Den’ or to a business board of directors.

To conclude, this is a cut down version of service design, and we would suggest you seek professional user researchers and service designers before progressing to production. Time spent here is double the time saved later.

If you have given this guide a go, we want to hear what you think. Your feedback is what allows us to deliver better content that ultimately helps you and, make services better for everyone. If you want a more in-depth experience into service design, we can come to you! Just contact us and we can help you get the knowledge you need.

Design Mindfulness

The key benefits of mindfulness for designers

‘Mindfulness’ is an emerging term. Many companies are using to address company culture issues, like stress and staff loyalty. But, what is meant by mindfulness? And do you really need to think about it for yourself or your business? Read our tips about mindfulness for designers to see how this trend can actually be useful within a creative field.

What is meant by mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a convoluted and sometimes politically charged term. it stems from Buddhism and self-care practices. However, it has evolved over time. Nowadays, it seems like it totally depends on your personal perspective. You probably know that mindfulness is a form of self-care for your mental state. It is a journey of personal emotional growth and has been developed into practical applications for reducing stress, lightening emotional loads and greater self-awareness. The practice of mindfulness knocks on the doors of philosophy and psychology. But, it’s important for you to understand that results are subjective. Practising mindfulness may work better for some than others. Understandably, you might be reluctant to try mindfulness practices as the results are hard to measure and are different for everyone. However, it is being recognised as a pretty ‘safe bet’ to spend time building your mental resilience and paying attention to your own mental state, so we’d suggest it’s worth a go. And remember, like with exercise, you don’t really feel the results until after few weeks. If you are tempted, you can try guided meditation as an introduction to mindfulness with Headspace. They provide a free set of sessions to see if it’s for you.

How is mindfulness used in business?

Some of the applications of mindfulness are great for business. Many businesses are realising the short-term and long-term effects of mindfulness by using practices to improve creativity and reduce stress. This means they see employees become happier, more productive and more innovative. You, too, could experience these benefits. Common mindfulness methods that you might already be using to improve your work include: 1. Meditative practices (breathing and thought-based exercises) 2. Flow-based exercises (yoga, tai chi, etc.) 3. Nature immersion (nature walks, gardening, etc.) 4. Introspective conversation (therapy, group sessions, etc.) If you want to know more, we have written a blog on the subject of mindfulness in business.

Mindfulness for designers

1.     Creativity

Mindfulness has great positive impacts on your abilities to think divergently, convergently and critically for creative problem-solving and decision-making. Divergent thinking is an aspect of creativity. It’s that elusive part of the process where truly original ideas come from. In simple terms, it’s the ‘thinking outside the box’ stage. With mindfulness providing the right mental environment, you can play with ideas, and explore new and exciting futures. Nothing blocks inspiration like worrying about deadlines or other stressors.

2.     Focus

We’ve all been told that it’s important to focus, either by our teachers in school or at a place of work. Focus can be difficult for some and easy for others, however it’s dependent on your ability to ignore distractions and perform one or a set of tasks in sequence. Mindfulness can be used as a tool to reset and refocus your mind, so you can more easily enter a state of flow. Flow means you are so focused that your mind is working smoothly and efficiently on a task, and not getting distracted. As a designer, flow is extremely important for productivity. As a result, the process of mindfulness has proven very useful for people with ADHD. When practiced on a daily basis, mindfulness can train the mind to refocus more quickly after brief periods of distraction. These results aren’t just for people with ADHD, though. Mindfulness can improve anyone’s abilities to focus.

3.     Perspective & empathy

A common practice for designers is to think about your users or clients and ‘put yourself in their shoes’. Mindfulness allows you to ground yourself in the present moment. And, it heightens your capacity to empathise. This effect of improving empathy allows you to understand the perspective of others by developing how you articulate your own emotions. Mindfulness can also give you the mental space to think about what is really important about your design work. What is it you are trying to achieve and is there a better way to do it?

4.      Reduces stress & improve overall positivity

As designers it’s hard to be creative when under pressure, or when your emotions are taking up a relatively large mental load. With mindfulness, you can keep your emotions in check and reduce stress in the process. For most designers, keeping your mind clear and free of mental stress is the key to becoming more creative. And, as an added bonus, you’ll be happier, too. “As a designer and creative thinker, mindfulness has allowed me to control my ADHD and enter new ways of thinking about the future, greatly improving my idea generation quality and speed.” – Joshua Hart, CEO, Mindfulness Design.

Further reaches of mindfulness

Mindfulness is something anyone can practice, and though this blog post is about mindfulness for designers, the benefits can really apply to anyone in a role that requires creativity. And, it goes beyond work: you can use mindfulness as a method for thinking about your life and the inner values that matters to you. It might feel uncomfortably ‘deep’, however, mindfulness gives you the ‘permission’ to think deeply and critically about who you are and what motivates you. You should remember that mindfulness isn’t the answer to the big questions in life, it’s just a process to living more authentically to yourself. If that translates to your design work, or to any creative work, then that work will benefit. If you’re interested in learning more about how design thinking and mindfulness can help in this arena, why not speak with us:

Book a chat with us


Top 5 tips for your innovative journey

The twists and turns in the journey of innovation

As you’re probably aware, business innovation is competitive. You’re faced with the challenge of producing original and valuable ideas on a consistent basis. However, you’ll be comforted to know this is the case for all businesses, from the smallest corner shop to the biggest corporations and tech giants. And, with modern technology, the playing field has never been more level.

The journey of innovation is a process. There are digressions and false starts that can leave you feeling everything is ‘two steps forward, one step back.’ You may end up with unexpected outcomes, which in another view could be looked at as failure. Failure is almost always part of progress. What you need to realise is that innovation itself is growth and learning. To use innovation for business is to embark on a developmental journey, while still retaining the ‘spark’ that identifies you and your business.

What is innovation in business?

‘Innovation’ as a term or practice can mean many things within the business or public sector. However, put into simple terms, innovation in business is about providing a product or service that improves the lives of others through creative solutions.

Top 5 tips:

1. Know who you are as a business and reflect those values as you innovate

You need to understand your business and why you do what you do. This is one of the defining characteristics that sets your business apart from countless others. When you innovate, you are creating a personification of your business values. If you value human connection and togetherness, your outcomes will feel whole-hearted and genuine.

2. Innovation is for those who dare

It’s usually seen as a risk to innovate, with costly development and next-to-no promises of a return. However, the world is moving forward and so too are your competitors. If your business isn’t looking to the future, you will remain in the past. A 2015 study reveals that 84 percent of consumers surveyed will make purchasing decisions influenced by whether a company is innovative or not. It is daunting, but rewarding.

3. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas.

Brainstorming is the go-to method for coming up with ideas, however the concept of brainstorming actually puts structures in the way of your thinking. It’s a process of identifying a string of logic and thinking of ideas surrounding a certain set of requirements. This is the biggest mistake you can make when thinking of initial ideas. Context is the enemy, here.

Ideas are random and usually without any structure. This is where the process of divergent thinking comes in. Your mind is an unbridled, unfocused entity that you can only guide. Try allowing yourself and others to explore thousands of ideas that are wacky, crazy or even out-right bonkers. Along the way you may find you’ve created the seeds of something genius. One critical moment can realise the potential of a truly unique idea.

4. Understand your niche and the lives you seek to improve

Understanding who you are trying to help – and why – is one of the most important steps towards developing your product or service. Never forget that your ‘users’ are people after all. Your business is about making other people’s lives better. If you aren’t making people’s lives better, what’s the point? With that in mind, get to know your customers, your employees, your shareholders. Don’t let bureaucracy or ‘professionalism’ (that kind where nobody actually talks to one another like human beings) get in the way of true progress.

5. Innovation doesn’t end when you finish a project

Frustratingly, innovation is a journey that never ends. When you think you’re finished, the very next day you must make a conscious decision to discover what lies beyond your new creation and how you could do it better. If you stop innovating – even for a moment – you might miss out the opportunities you’ve created for yourself.

Take Kodak for example.

Kodak developed the first digital photographic camera. However, their main source of business was selling film rolls. It’s now well known that digital cameras reign supreme, but Kodak was focused on their original business rather than exploring the opportunities this invention offered, which other companies happily capitalised on, leading to the eventual collapse of Kodak.

Successful innovation is often about a continual stream of learning and development across multiple companies  and people, and, we become more and more connected, with international collaboration. Try not to hoard your innovations. Allow others to experiment and use your ideas to discover new ones. This is how you get a feedback loop that galvanises further growth. As long as you keep innovating, you don’t need to worry about what other people or companies are doing.

How we can help you with your journey?

Are you interested in starting or developing your own innovation journey? We offer workshops and consultation to help your business get the most out of your journey. If you want to know more about our innovation journey, please follow the links to find out more about our process and methods.

At Mindfulness Design, we specialise in a human approach towards business, whilst using design thinking to help other businesses grow and develop. We offer a range of tailored options for your business to get the most out of a learning experience that is right for you.

Book a free chat today!



4 types of practices for mindfulness at work

Mindfulness in Business

You stressing? Let’s talk about mindfulness at work. ‘Mindfulness’ has become bit of a buzzword in the wellness industry. Now, it’s making its way into business spheres. The term is sometimes considered diluted or politically charged, along with ‘well-being’ and ‘wellness’. But, this is something everyone can benefit from. Literally everyone. Simply put, mindfulness is being mentally present in the moment. It’s being able to think introspectively.

‘Mindfulness – the relaxed, non-clinging, non-aversive awareness of present experience – is a skill that, like any other skill, requires developing,’ says meditation guru Sylvia Boorstein.

Why should we care about mindfulness at work?

Well there are a number of benefits from using mindfulness techniques in your personal and work life, such as:

Decreased stress
Enhanced ability to deal with illness
Work performance
Improved capacity for creativity
Increased emotion regulation and self-control
And many more…

Surprisingly, getting started with mindfulness is remarkably simple to achieve. It just needs between 10 and 30 minutes out of your day. Try it out for a week or two and see if it has an impact.

The four categories of mindfulness

Mindfulness methods can vary from person to person. The main categories of mindfulness fall into:

1. Meditative practices (breathing and thought-based exercises)
2. Flow-based exercises (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
3. Nature immersion (nature walks, gardening, etc.)
4. Introspective conversation (therapy, group sessions, etc.)

You can mix and match these categories to best suit your situation. Mindfulness at work has particular constraints. However, most people focus on meditative practices or flow-based exercises. For the best experience, we recommend including all of these, if possible.

‘A corporate culture of mindfulness not only improves focus, but the ability to manage stress and how employees work together.’ – Case Western Reserve University

Mindfulness is routinely taking time out your day to remind yourself of your own humanity and innermost self.

Mindfulness at Work

Meditative practices

Meditation can differ depending on individual preferences; however, the most common practice is to sit with your eyes closed and focus on breathing, sensations and the environment around you. For businesses, this is the easiest method of mindfulness to encourage. No need for fancy spaces or cushions with scented candles. Meditation can be done in your chair at work. Try putting on a pair of headphones, even if you don’t have any music playing.

Meditation at your desk is a great place to start. If you want the best results, consider getting out in nature to meditate, or, if that’s difficult, creating a nature space in your break room.

Flow-based exercises

Flow exercises are usually performed in groups as it easier to get into a routine together. This can be a daily or weekly activity with friends or co-workers. Yoga is probably the most popular version of flow-based exercises, with different levels of difficulty. Tai chi focuses more on the mental aspects rather than the physical.

If you’re interested in introducing this into a business environment, it might be an idea to create a group for a quick session in the morning before starting work, at lunch, or even after the working day is done. When you’re starting out it may be an idea to bring in an instructor to guide you.

Tai chi doesn’t require mats or private rooms and can be done while standing. Yoga is the next step up. It has the ability to help the body release tension and enables a merging of physical exercise (feel those endorphins!) and a calming mental experience.

Nature immersion

Immersing yourself in nature seems like an easy and cheap solution to improving your mental health, but making it part of your daily life can be difficult, especially if you live in a big city. Encouraging employees to walk or cycle to work is not only a way to get people to exercise more, but it allows them to take in their environment. They can appreciate nature as part of their daily commute.

As a business, getting staff to go on nature walks or simply encouraging them to go outside in the sun for lunch is a fantastic way to release stress and improve their creative energy. Creating a nature space in the break room or as part of a relaxation space is a welcome compromise if there are no suitable spots nearby.

Introspective conversations

Introspective conversation is what many people would call a ‘deep meaningful chat’. It’s a little more than a quick heart-to-heart, though. Introspection is a mindfulness skill that comes with practice. It is the ability to think inwardly and asses your own position in the world, honestly and calmly, assessing your actions, feelings and consciousness.

Put simply, introspection is studying yourself to gain an understanding of what makes you, well, you.

This usually involves forms of therapy or coaching. However, once individuals have learned introspection techniques, they can share this ability with others. Naturally empathetic people are a great source of comfort when you are feeling stressed, but remember, they can’t take all your emotional burdens, so if you have a lot on your mind a professional service is perfect.

Businesses can provide over-the-phone counselling through services like BUPA, and a great company culture goes a long way to enable these kinds of conversations between colleagues.

If you are looking to encourage mindfulness at work and want to know more about the subject, we provide workshops and coaching to give you the knowledge and methods to develop your company culture and innovation.