The Present is Less than the Future: Mental Experimentation and Temporal Exploration in Design Work

Christina Hellström, Tomas Hellström

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article explores the dimensions of time and temporality in the context of product design. The study builds on a phenomenological approach, where in-depth, explorative interviews with six product designers were conducted. The results provide insights into how the designers use mental experimentation and imagination by actively envisioning various futures, or ‘possible worlds’ in the design process, and how they use these temporal explorations in conceiving of novel design concepts. Apart from temporality figuring as the designer drawing actively on past experiences, we were able to discern two additional cognitive factors affecting how designers use temporality: by projecting a future goal; and by investing this goal or image with an emotional loading, i.e. by ‘emoting a vision of the future’. Finally, these results are used to extend current thinking on the role of time and temporality in design processes, and suggest a line of further inquiry into the significance of affective dispositions and moods on temporal orientation in other creative contexts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTime & Society
Issue number12-13
Pages (from-to)263-279
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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