Using Future Thinking as a steering tool for Generative AI creative output: a case study aiming at rethink lighting in the next future

Ivan Parati*, Mariia Zolotova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceedingpeer-review


Contemporary business sustainability relies on its flexibility and adaptability to unforeseen changes in societal and environmental challenges. In that sense, Speculative Design and Future Thinking offer a unique methodology for businesses to plan for the unpredictable. While those theories have been tested by decades of artistic and business applications, the recent introduction of generative AI tools widened the complexity and likelihood of answers that can be thoroughly investigated. At the same time, this enhanced capability to peek into our futures raises several concerns: How can we retain control of generative AI creative output using future thinking as a steering tool? Would that allow designers to proceed beyond strategic choices, addressing specific product development?This paper shares a case study of how future thinking was applied to provide a lighting manufacturer with design visualisations related to the lighting industry's future. HE institution offered this service (hidden for peer review) through an interdepartmental collaboration (Industrial Design and Architecture). Futures Thinking and Speculative Design apply as a methodology for consulting firms on strategic and communication choices (Mc Kinsey & Company, report, 2021). This case study explores the impact of such methodologies on choices related to product, interior, and systems design. Generative AI tools were prompted to visually interpret the forecasted scenarios through narrative discourse and creative works. the questions addressed were: What is the future of the light industry in the context of human emotions, enhanced user experience, well-being, or energy and resources?MethodsA workshop involving undergraduate and postgraduate students of the respective departments was organised in two phases: the first phase was about describing a scenario ten years in the future and conceptualising the design vision; the second phase was addressing the materialisation of light and its execution in a product or service proposal. After selecting the context, students followed methodological steps to envision future products, spaces and interactions following the four identified possible scenarios (Slaughter, 2013). In both phases, students used generative AI tools to visualise scenarios and solutions, Midjourney for the conceptual narrative, and Vizcom was used to generate illustrations of the interior/product lighting ecosystem. The latest tool does not rely solely on prompting but requires the designer to submit a sketch or a draft rendering of the proposed solution.ResultsThe design team of the participating lighting company attended each phase presentation involving products unfolding the relationship with the light in the future. The feedback received from the company appreciates the depth of the research and acknowledges the competitiveness of the identified research directions. The results achieved in the second phase of the workshop will be showcased at the IDI Shanghai yearly exhibition 2023.The format proposed could be easily adapted and implemented in a range of specific design domains, such as transportation and automotive, fashion and accessories, consumer electronics and household appliances, to name a few.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Interaction & Emerging Technologies: Artificial Intelligence & Future Applications Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Human Interaction and Emerging Technologies, IHIET-AI 2024, April 25–27, 2024, Lausanne, Switzerland, Technology & Engineering
PublisherAHFE International Open Access
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN 978-1-958651-96-4, ISSN 2771-0718
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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