Using design as a tool for communicating technology visions

Author: Jonna Häkkilä, professor, University of Lapland

Printed electronics, adaptive environments, embedded sensor solutions, nanomaterials… When envisioning the technologies of the future, we can so easily use words that have little meaning for the man on the street. It is easy to use techno slang and lose the attention of a wide audience when thinking of the future possibilities that technologies open. Instead of isolating the development of high-tech through PhD only monologs, instead we should do the opposite, and capture the attention of average citizens when thinking about our common future. This way we can involve individuals and societies in a public discussion about the needs, promises and risks that new technological innovations can bring.

Communicating the promise of future technologies through design is a way to reach out to a wide audience. By using tangible examples, we can show what the future could look like. With design artefacts, we can make abstract terms concrete, stimulate imaginations, provoke emotions, and create chances for dialogues about the directions in which the technology may be taking us. With design, we can inform and even make manifest what kind of world we want to live in the future, and what it could mean to our everyday lives and the objects around us. We can explore different forms of potential technological futures, and gain feedback on design directions. We can demonstrate ideas, for instance, how a future smart handbag with a display could work [1], or how ice-hockey training gear could become intelligent [2].

Kaiku avajaiset 22.2.2016At Arctic Design Week held in Rovaniemi, Finland, during February 2016, the Naked Approach project, in collaboration with design students from the University of Lapland, exhibited several interactive design concepts. These concepts illustrated a future vision for calmer and more aesthetic ways of using technology. Design artefacts, such as smart light controls, contextual multimedia streams and future vehicles, give a more solid meaning to future technologies. By touching and trying out the tangible exhibition pieces, the visitors had a personal experience of the possibilities that the technology future could be. The Kaiku exhibition will move from Rovaniemi to Milan, where it will be exhibited in Ventura Lambrate in April 2016, amongst exhibits from the world’s top design institutes.

jonnahakkilaJonna Häkkilä is professor for Industrial Design at University of Lapland, Finland (2014-), and an adjunct professor (docent) in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at University of Oulu, Finland. Prior to this, she has worked as Director of User Experience (UX) at Center for Internet Excellence, University of Oulu (2012-2014) and as Research Leader at Nokia Research Center (2007-2011). She is also a co-founder of a user experience design house Soul4Design. She is an active member of international HCI research community and Finland chapter of ACM SIGCHI. She has published over 70 peer reviewed scientific papers on HCI, focusing on mobile and ubiquitous computing and user centric design. Her current research interests lie in interaction with new materials, tangible interaction, and in utilizing design methods for creating and assessing future technology visions.


[1] Colley, A., Pakanen, M., Koskinen, S., Mikkonen, K., Häkkilä, J. (2016). Smart Handbag as a Wearable Public Display – Exploring Concepts and User Perceptions. In Proc. Augmented Human 2016. ACM.

[2] Häkkilä, J., Alhonsuo, M., Virtanen, L., Rantakari, J., Colley, A., Koivumäki, T. (2016). MyData Approach for Personal Health – A Service Design Case for Young Athletes. In Proc. of HICSS 2016.