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Methods – Scenario

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What it is:

Scenarios are storylines that explore how people might interact with a particular design or context of use. By provoking discussion, they help to develop and evaluate ideas. This method enables concepts to be tested from a human and experiential point of view. Scenarios are imaginative, can be presented through a variety of media including texts, illustrated storyboards or film, and can feature multiple characters to describe product or service interactions. Scenarios vary from real-world narratives grounded in everyday behaviour to more speculative, science fiction ones that can open up discussion around  broader social challenges.






Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High

Low | Medium | High


Insights into future use of products and services

Best suited to:



Mid to late stages of the design process

Taking a critical and speculative design approach to challenge assumptions and preconceptions

Communicating design concepts and user issues

Testing abstract or large-scale concepts with users



Type of interaction:


Goes well with:

Personas, Interviews, Observations & Shadowing, Probes

What designers say

‘…Scenarios may be presented as texts, storyboards, videos, plays, etc. Individual practitioners find that particular presentation techniques suit their working methods. Beyond the design team, scenarios can be used to communicate concepts either within an organisation or for evaluation with potential users…’   Alison Black


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Redesigning the Ambulance: improving mobile emergency healthcare

Designer Gianpaolo Fusari employed the use of scenarios to test ambulance design concepts with paramedics. This enabled him to explore issues around equipment layout and storage which can affect paramedic performance in critical, life-threatening situations.

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Transitions: communication, ageing and independent living

Stephanie Chen created design scenarios to explore new service concepts for Nokia by using six personas to explore key transitions that taken place in later life.

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Seamless Mobility: technology enabling work-life blend

Cian Plumbe used scenarios in his project with BlackBerry® to communicate how new services could be used in the near future to help people ‘blend’ their work commitments with their home lives.

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Background and further reading

Scenarios can be traced back over centuries to the use of war games by the military. But it is only in the last 30 years, in the face of increasing uncertainty and complexity, that corporations and other large global organisations have begun to develop sophisticated scenario-planning processes (Centre for Scenario Planning and Future Studies at University of Strathclyde).

Fulton Suri, J. & Marsh, M. (2000) “Scenario building as a ergonomic method in consumer product design” in Applied Ergonomics 31 pp. 151-157

This paper describes the advantages and pitfalls of using scenarios and where they are best placed in the design process.

Astbrink, G. & Kadous, W. (2003) “Using disability scenarios for user-centred product design”, Proceedings of the Association of the Advancement of Assistive Technology in Europe (AAATE) 7th Annual Conference, Dublin 2003.

This paper outlines the use of scenarios and personas in an academic and industry partner project exploring user-centred design in the development of wireless products.