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Design fictions

Problem Statement

With the dramatically increasing rate of technological and societal change it is becoming more-and-more difficult to estimate future trends and to design complex systems which take many years to develop. Further, there are well known characteristics of human memory and human cognition which make it difficult for people to visualise and to imagine personas and scenarios which have not been encountered previously. Colloquial expressions such as “see it to believe it...” or “a picture is worth a thousand words…” are symptomatic of the difficulty in understanding matters which have not yet been experienced via sensory perception. Further, human responses such as “fear of change” and “nostalgia” are symptomatic of the difficulties associated with understanding new environments and new experiences. Despite the difficulties, however, there is no avoiding the need to design complex systems which become operational many years into the future. Approaches for simplifying the design process and for reducing risks and costs are thus urgently needed. One approach is that of “design fictions”. Design fictions are representations of possible future realities which are immersive and engaging to a sufficient degree to permit today’s stakeholders to become citizens of the future scenario. While extremely promising, there is currently a need for research regarding the characteristics of “design fictions”, regarding their degree of immersion and regarding the length of time which the people of today need to inhabit the scenarios in order to become well versed in the world of tomorrow. The proposed research will investigate the key issues of “scenario selection”, “degree of immersion” and “exposure duration”.

Programme of work

  • Literature review of human memory, human cognition and human responses to change.
  • Literature review of trend analysis techniques and design scenario generation techniques.
  • Literature review of strategies for human immersion with particular focus on the parameter of time.
  • Development of multiple “real fictions” for use in the design of complex mobility systems.
  • Testing of the multiple “real fictions” with a minimum of 15 individuals varying gender.
  • Testing of the multiple “real fictions” with a minimum of 15 individuals varying age.
  • Testing of the multiple “real fictions” with a minimum of 15 individuals varying nationality.
  • Testing of the multiple “real fictions” with a minimum of 15 individuals varying the exposure time.
  • Development of criteria for the definition of optimal “design fictions” in relation to mobility systems.
  • Final reporting

Value of the research both commercial and academic

The proposed research will substantially and decisively extend the knowledge of the issues involved in “design fictions” and is expected to produce important clarifications regarding how, when and why the approach might be applied. Further, the research will develop new evidence of the ability of “design fictions” to enhance customer experience and to deepen customer loyalty.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you would be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.

Meet the Supervisor(s)

Joseph Giacomin - Joseph Giacomin is a professor of Human Centred Design at Brunel University London where he performs research leading to products, systems and services which are physically, perceptually, cognitively and emotionally intuitive. He has a Ph.D. from Sheffield University in the United Kingdom and both Master's and Bachelor's degrees from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. U.S.A.. He has worked for both the American military and the European automobile industry. He has produced more than 120 publications including the books "Humans And Autonomous Vehicles", "Automotive Human Centred Design Methods" and "Thermal - seeing the world through 21st century eyes". He is a member of the editorial boards of Ergonomics and the International Journal Of Vehicle Noise And Vibration (IJVNV). He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute Of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIEHF), a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), a member of the Associazione Per Il Disegno Industriale (ADI) and a member of the Royal Photographic Society (RPS).  Professional qualifications - PhD, MME, BME, F.Erg.S, FRSA, F.ADI