UNIT 6.3.


This unit aims to:

  • look at the display and presentation of visual posters
  • learn how to annotate and orient a futures design poster
  • consider the importance of gestures in communicating futures design
  • explore futures design scenarios and their time and place relations
  • review scenarios paying attention to their visual and verbal textures



2 hours


The word ‘design poster’ is commonly understood as a representational device used specifically for display and presentation purposes. Here, presenters point to the poster and describe the contents, using verbal and gestural mode of communication. However, for us posters are not just representational material. They are a mode of visual communication that is connected to different modes of visualisation, not all mometic or corresponding to reality. It may also not be depicted in a photorealist mode of picturing a situation, setting, persons, activity or artifact.

A FUTURES DESIGN poster may contain a clear legend, and a set of annotation and orientations that are conveyed in related body text. However, this does not mean the chunking of text from a report, thesis or academic related paper. 

Many design-research posters are far too a matter of cut and paste overly dense chunks of written journal type writing into a medium that is not designed for long form expository writing. A good poster ought to be connected to a clear presentation In and of itself), accompanied by a spoken talk or orientation, often with Q&A, and perhaps a longer academic research document, and related website or report. 

A good poster presentation pays attention to orienting and annotating visual material with related and clear verbal expression. Part of the success of this is the visual work that gestures do. Gestures are non verbal and we use them to convey a mix of sense and feelings, places and items. Yet they are also a strong part of the interplay of visual and verbal modes of communication. This is as equally important to how we convey futures design work, including posters.

We lean in or turn towards the poster when making key points. We gesture towards specific items, elements, processes and results, using a range of signals, using our hands, arms, eyes and heads. Visually, these serve to identify, support, accentuate and direct our attention, our gaze and connections made between the visual and the verbal in the presentation. At times, gestures are non-verbal, at other times that are merged with the visual and verbal in providing integrated annotations, description, explanations and prospects in futures design.


1. Locate a Futures Design related poster from within your own design university, (from a course, student’s work, exhibition, archive, or even another department to the one where you study).

2. Make a copy of the poster in the largest form you can, in print or digitally.

3. Study the poster, paying attention to how it visually communicates its depiction of a designed future. What do you notice is at work in the way the visual and verbal text contrast and/or complement one another?

4. What do you find is assumed in the visual modes of communication? What is under articulated verbally? Is this in labelling, annotation, captions, deceptions, related explantation and references to other works/projects/research.

5. How can you visually improve the poster: write or draw on it, rework or replace an image, make visual linkages between elements, use space differently to highlight visual relationships between elements etc.

6. How can you verbally complement or clarify the image by replacing words, improving a caption or rewriting sentences, or even adding a short text of your own.

7. Stick your poster up on a wall, or share it with others (as a draft only  and not for publishing).

8. Discuss the differences in the visual-verbal attempts you have made compared with the original text.


Future scenarios can only exist because they are mediated verbally and visually. We can imagine them in our minds perhaps but they need to be made material for others to access and think with them. In this sense FUTURES DESIGN scenarios are performative: they enact options, alternatives, visions and versions of futures. In FUTURES DESIGN terms, if a scenario or setting and its activities and actors do not perform roles and engage us, then the future does not exist.


The mediation of FUTURES DESIGN demands working with dramaturgy and narrative, with roles and relationships. These are conveyed multimediationally, whether in short films, photostories, collages or ‘what if’-type productions or projections of future events or processes.

But the related question is where are these design fictional, projected alternate lifeworlds and events located? So we shift from the ‘what if…’? to the ‘where if….?’

1. What do you think this ‘where if’ refers to in a futures design view?
This focus on the where helps us select settings and environments, the nature of events and how they may play out. THis may be understood in terms of anticipation of what lies ahead.

2. What do you think is meant by the ‘when if’?

3. What place in time do you locate your current or planned project?

4. Is there only one time frame?

5. In what way is time itself central to how the scenario of your project might play out?


1. Go online and find two examples from design universities that work with of FUTURES DESIGN scenarios.

2. Study the two scenarios closely and any related writings.

3. Write a 200 word review of the content of each scenario and genre of its visualisation (comic, photo essay, card game, video sequences etc), paying attention to the words you use to characterise its setting, actors and events.

4. What is your overall evaluation of each scenario? What would you do to improve its visual presentational format and the way words are used to introduce, explain and motivate for its purpose.

Download this UNIT in printable format: 

Print Version



Bleecker, Julian. 2010. “Fiction: from props to prototypes.” Proceedings of the 6th Swiss Design Network Conference: Negotiating Futures – Design Fiction, 58-67. Basel: Swiss Design Network.

Candy, Stuart. 2018. “Gaming futures literacy: The Thing From The Future.” In Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the 21st Century, edited by Riel Miller, 233-246. New York, NY: Routledge.


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