UNIT 1.1


This unit aims to:

  • provide you with an overview of the LEXICON
  • clarify the the purpose and operations of the LEXICON
  • introduce you to its content and methods
  • link you to related units and resources


Half hour


One thing we all know about the future is that it is always out of grasp. How though might we get to know it, its possibilities and its imaginary qualities to better plan, prepare and position how we work and live today? These are matters that are now deeply pressing and urgent.  

The FUEL4DESIGN Project takes up such matters through a set of activities arranged under Modules. This LEXICON is the first such module in the FUEL4DESIGN Project, but it is connected to five others that together make up the overall theme of DESIGN FUTURES LITERACIES. 

When we talk about design and futures we are particularly interested in extending our knowledge of language to explore connections and distinctions between how we approach design as an activity and how we understand ways to place and position it in facing challenges and changes to do with how we the future may be perceived, presented and projected.

By this we mean that design needs to be activated to not only prepare for likely or coming futures but also to conceptualise and problematic ones that may lie ahead, that we might need to imagine, and to propose.

Structure of the Design Futures Lexicon

An overview of the Design Futures Lexicon and its different parts.


What is this LEXICON?
THE DESIGN FUTURES LEXICON is a set of Design educational resources that focus on how words and language work in the ways we shape futures, productively and analytically.

The focus is on how words matter as material in the domain we call FUTURES DESIGN. This is a matter of working towards futures, not simply planning nor prediction. Words convey and communicate our designs for and about the futures; those designed futures also impact on how we use terms and concepts, definitions and expressions in our wider design discourse.

Who is it for?
These Learning Activities have been developed for Master’s and Doctoral level students of Design. They have also been developed to support and facilitate design futures education on the part of design educators engaged in developing design pedagogies that strive to meet current challenges and conditions but to generate design centred teaching and learning expertise that reaches 

What does it do?
The LEXICON offers a range of activities to support learning and teaching that seeks to reach beyond current and given Design courses and the wider Design curriculum and to participate in the shaping of ones that are ‘future-facing’. This LEXICON invites you to work actively with words in design learning that engages with views on futures and practices involved in shaping them. 

What does it contain?
The LEXICON contains a set of THEMES under which there are specific Units.  See LEXICON INDEX.

Each unit is designed to support you making connections between designing and language, where our focus is on  design-centred words about and for the future.

How might you use it?
The LEXICON is designed as a set of resources for you to activate in your learning. They may be incorporated in classes by your teacher or you can access them on your own or in pairs and groups. The Idea is that you can also return to the LEXICON in your studies if and as needed. You might even like to refresh an item or element concerning words and design when you are in a different project or a later stage in the same one. 


The FUEL4DESIGN project seeks to shape learning processes, practices and resources for a design education that is future facing. We aim to develop experience, tools, strategies and examples of how design can be better understood, practiced and communicated as one of the major creative disciplines that always works with futures, creatively, critically and productively.

However, we are interested in a design education that reaches beyond some of the troubling inheritances and current views and activities that curtail possible and potential futures that might be shaped differently via design. This means that DESIGN FUTURES LITERACIES need to be understood as experimental and formative, creative and critical, contextual and speculative.

For more information see: ON DESIGN FUTURES LITERACIES


Design is undergoing rapid, demanding and invigorating changes. We need to address issues of given and changing contexts of work and society. To do so we must engage creatively, critically and productively with the existing and changing conditions of work and socio-political change. Complex relations between systems, knowledge and action need to be shaped while examining and working to alter those very relations for the better. As generators of design, together, we work to build cultures of responsible and sustainable use and engagement, culturally and communicatively. 

This LEXICON offers an assembly of words, concepts and terms to encourage and support working in design in such tough times. How design goes about ‘languaging the future’ is likely to become all the more important as it faces and takes up the many challenges of a changing world and as a core sector and culture industry leader in going about making changes in that very world. 

We will need to not only think and devise future facing activities and professional specialisations and connections. We will need to be able to describe, define, annotate, orient, orient, critique and interpret our actions, processes, partnerings and products through language. We will need to invigorate that language in and through designing and the use of our designs by a diversity of users and publics. 

Language and especially future facing words have the potential to become important material for design and an additional connected and integrated means for design to imaginatively and practically shape futures in designerly ways.

The LEXICON provides some of the support needed to realise these potentials and for students and teachers to take up and orient the learning materials and resources to your own needs and contexts. The LEXICON may be selectively combined to meet the demands of our tough times. It will hopefully also suggest ways to work and think with and through ‘a futures design language’ within the specialist areas of design.



  • a collection of future oriented words gathered from Design and a range of sources to help build a common vocabulary for learning from a Futures Design view
  • a set of language based future facing design learning activities for supporting Design Master’s and PhD students studies, projects, tasks and work
  • an inventory of thematic, specific and case supported resources in support of working with language in shaping futures design learning
  • examples of ways we name, label, conceptualise, describe, critique and construct design’s roles in shaping futures
  • a space to locate and refer to a diversity of language related aspects in Design Futures Literacies and their connection to other modes of expression and communication
  • a resource to look into and understand how language may contribute to how Design may work with futures: near, middle distance or far off
  • ways to build design futures pedagogies that inform Futures Design as a field.

Download this UNIT in printable format: 

Print Version



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Future Education and Literacy for Designers (FUEL4Design) is an open project.
You are invited to contribute by presenting your own use of this UNIT as well as share feedback on this resource.


An addition or comment to a UNIT or the use of an ESSENTIAL you see as appropriate.


Making a contribution will help connect the LEXICON to other work, innovations, settings and persons.


Your contribution can be related to the content of the LEXICON, to the work you do or that of others.


Send your suggestions, cases, courses, projects and additions to: contactus@fuel4design.org