Signs for UK 2025
2015

This project was delivered by The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) for Hitachi EU, and involved a GSA team made up of four postgraduate Masters of European Design students (Lewis Just, Louise Mushet, Reynan Burden, and Gemma Lord), five full time interdisciplinary researchers (Alice Gunn, Chris Strachan, Gianluca Menini, Giulia Fiorista and I), and was managed by Kirsty Ross.

This foresight project asked us to use, as well as build upon, a series of foresight techniques created by Hitachi, in order to explore and define trends that may evolve over the next 10 years across four industry areas –  healthcare, finance, mobility and energy. While required to use mapping, research and storytelling techniques prescribed by Hitachi, we were also free to add to their process by using our own techniques and forms of presentation. We divided the GSA team into four groups, each one focussing on one industry sector, and each team then delivered a series of eight possible futures that explored various facets of their respective industry area. Each future was delivered as a textual description, supported by communicative artefacts, personas, illustrations and narratives. Ultimately the project was presented at Hitachi’s UK headquarters in London to the company’s European Executive Board.

For GSA, this project served as a pilot, exploring new industry and academic forms of collaborative pedagogy, while also providing the basis for further similar futures-oriented collaborations between GSA and Blue Chip companies.

Desk Research

Early stages of the project saw us approaching our respective industry areas in reference to UK-specific issues (such as regional disparities, growing elderly populations and cyber security concerns) as a technique to understand the drivers of change in each area. Through the collection of third-party sources (e.g. articles, papers, reports) and the mapping of these, we were able to start to define some of the trends and key drivers of these changes.

Overlays (below)
Mapping the PEST cards onto a matrix that cross-references our designated subject with prevalent UK-specific social issues.
STEP Cards (right)
Mapping out key articles, papers or statistics as evidence of change and categorising them in a STEP format (Social, Technological, Economical, Political).
Fieldwork

After presenting the desk research to the Hitachi team, they streamlined our focus, selecting specific futures to continue developing that were aligned to their own ambitions. Following this, we entered the field developing our understanding of the research areas through interviewing academics, engaging with industry experts and gaining firsthand experience.
Field Research (left, below)
Engaging with research areas through firsthand experience. Purchasing cryptocurrency (left) and exploring The Findhorn Foundation’s Barter Economy (below).
Future Scenarios (above)
Examples of final future scenarios extrapolated from the body of research.
Scenario Illustrations (below)
Industry area-specific illustrations, supporting and visualising the defined future scenarios, and exploring individual characters and their user stories.
Deliverables

Extrapolating from the research findings, each of the four teams produced eight potential futures, which manifested themselves as textual descriptions supported by a series of communicative artefacts, illustrations, personas and user stories. While each textual description gave Hitachi an overview of the issue and presented research in familiar, report-friendly format, the artefacts operated on a different level. The artefacts provided a ground-level snapshot of their respective futures, each conveying an aspect of the human experience of living in such a world, thus allowing high-level stakeholders within Hitachi to engage with the project content quickly and easily.
Digital Asset Divorce Form 

With the exponential rise in the production of data and the recognition of its value, specialist lawyers emerge to protect people’s digital assets. This e-ink form is used as part of a divorce procedure to divide a couple’s digital estate. The form is used in parallel with the user’s personal devices, addressing not only digital files but also joint subscriptions and the use of Bi-data.
Barbie

With the right accessories Barbie can get married, go to work, and have children, so can death be imagined as another milestone in Barbie’s life? British parents often shelter their children from the conversation of mortality, but schools are now teaching loss and grieving in the classroom. Children’s toys could act as a bridge between school and home, teachers and parents, make-believe and reality, prompting a conversation that may otherwise not occur.
Digital Wallet

This is an example of a digital wallet in 2025. The wallet is used to store, create and spend digital money. The wallet allows the individual to program their own currency, affecting their own modes of consumption, for example to helping them to achieve personal health goals. Equally businesses can use programmable currency to alter customer’s spending habits, such as when and where they spend.
Flexible Road Map

The roads are now used differently according to different times of the day. During a typical morning rush hour, pop-up stalls could sell quick breakfasts and coffee on the go. On the weekend, an entire road could be blocked off for a community event. On Christmas Eve, mobile retailers could line up to sell presents. Visualising these changes is crucial for local authorities as they try to attract consumers to their district. A new set of open data is now available for developers to create maps that help people navigate this changing urban landscape.
Financial Weather Forecast

The financial weather forecast mobile app represents our changing relationship with the weather and its direct relationship with renewable energy production. As the UK shifts towards renewable energy, weather forecasts will no longer present just the weather, instead, the strength of UK winds, along with all other renewable sources of energy, can be calculated by their economic benefit.
Cut the Carb[on]

Cut the Carb[on] is a low carbon-range of goods which caters to consumers’ desire to shop ethically. As consumers become more aware of the need to change their energy intensive habits, values change and more people seek ways of reducing their carbon footprint. If consumers lead the way businesses will respond. As sustainable values become more commonplace, living a low-carbon life will become an aspirational form of identity.
Communicative Artefacts (above)
Prototypes of products, services or objects existing in each of these futures, used as presentation aides to help communicate research to high-level stakeholders within Hitachi.