Envisioning Cards

Difficulty Level:

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Method Overview

The Envisioning Cards are built upon a set of four Envisioning Criteria that are intended to raise awareness of long-term and systemic issues in design. Each Envisioning Card represents a specific theme within one of these Envisioning Criteria. Based on roughly two decades of research into accounting for human values in the design of technology, the Envisioning Cards were developed by the Value Sensitive Design Research Lab at the Information School at the University of Washington.

Framework of ethics used



Method Intentions:

Get Started

Participants: Designers, Students, Clients

Materials Needed: Design Problem, The Envision Cards

The Envisioning Cards can be adapted to a wide variety of situations and uses. To get started, you may wish to simply spend some time viewing each of the cards. As a set, the Envisioning Cards cover many issues and concerns related to the design of interactive systems for human use. By skimming through the cards, you may encounter both familiar and unfamiliar themes (Friedman, 2021).

Suggested Uses
Below are a few suggestions on how you might use the Envisioning Cards in your design activities.

  • Getting unstuck. When your design team feels stuck on a specific problem, choose a random card from the deck and perform its activity. Once you feel you have made progress on issues raised by the card, draw another card or return to solving the problem.
  • Tracking progress. During the design process, identify cards that represent concerns specific to your project. Pin them up in a visible place. As you go through the project, use the cards to monitor your progress toward addressing these concerns. You might wish to annotate the cards using sticky notes, or by writing next to them.
  • Engaging students. Have your students select a few Envisioning Cards to help guide them during a design project. Alternatively, students may select a theme from an Envisioning Card and use it to guide research into related issues in the local community.
  • Soliciting clients’ concerns. Allow your clients to spend some time with the Envisioning Cards. You may wish to leave the cards with your clients, or spend time looking at the cards with your clients. Ask them to consider the issues raised by the cards, and to indicate their concerns to your design team.
  • Connecting with the local environment. Choose cards that represent your primary concerns. Take a camera and explore your office, work site, or other relevant location, and take photos that correspond to these cards. Print the photos and place them alongside the original cards to tie these cards to your local environment.

Further Reading

Batya Friedman and David Hendry. 2012. The envisioning cards: a toolkit for catalyzing humanistic and technical imaginations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Austin, Texas, USA) (CHI ’12). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1145–1148. https://doi.org/10.1145/2207676.2208562