Layers: Weaving Narratives & Design to Construct Futures

Introduction — Floating space junk & other objects

Voyager 2 via Wikipedia

A call for designers

A new framework

Bringing together methods

  • Interspecies design: Embracing the principle that humans and the natural world are interdependent, aiming to develop intersecting solutions that take human and nonhuman actors’ needs into account.
  • Actor-network theory: Examining how everything is interrelated and how as we take more into account, complexity emerges.
  • Design & society: Harnessing a contextual point of view to consider the dynamics of how design creates feedback loops of change — and how we can start hacking some of these feedback loops.

Layers Canvas

Breaking it down

  • At the centre of the canvas is the object. That is the innermost circle.
  • Each of the lines that connects to the object at the center is a strand guide. Strand guides allow you to question specific aspects of the object. Here we are considering the following categories: Materiality, Production Process, Supply Chains, Institutions/Organizations, Markets, Trade, Consumers, Consumption, Communication, Semiotics and Meaning, Aesthetics and Use.
  • One way of understanding the relationship of these strand guides is by reading them in a counterclockwise manner. In this way, they describe the process in which the object is made, supplied, traded, consumed and understood.

Frontend vs. backend

  • If we divide it horizontally, we can describe two main ways of understanding the object. On the lower half we have the Front End of the object, which is linked to the Business Strategy and hence the viability of the object. Here, we are trying to understand the value creation process as the object exchanges hands and is consumed.
  • In the upper half we have the Backend, or the process that happens behind the scenes; the way it is produced, understood and used. The way the design process captures needs and cultural values, and materializes them is the key to understanding this side.

Materiality vs. meaning

  • To the left, we have the Physical or Material aspects of the object. In this half we consider the way the raw materiality is transformed into an object and then is moved and shipped.
  • On the right side we have the non-physical, the subjective qualities that are linked to the desirability of the object. When analyzing the strands related to this side, we are trying to dissect the way the object is perceived and consumed.

Strand guide

  • The first one is the Supply Chain strand guide, which make us understand the leap from manufactured object to commercialized product. What is the object made from? How is it manufactured? Who produces it?
  • The second is the Trade strand guide, which describes the way the end user gets a hold of the object. Who owns and sells the object? What institutions enable or regulate it? How and where are supply chains set up? Which markets do they serve? Where and how are they sold?
  • Then we have the Communication strand guide, describing the process in which the end users and general public come in contact in any way with the object. Who consumes it? Why do they consume it? How do they consume it?
  • Finally is the Use strand guide, which comes to describe the way or ways in which the user interacts with the object. How does it make you feel? What does the object mean? What is the cultural significance? What do the aesthetics signal?

How to use it?


  • Context — Exploring & understanding the role of context in shaping the products and services we design — thus expands our scope of responsibility as designers.
  • Relationships — Through deconstruction of object, we can uncloak the complex relationships we engage with as designers.
  • Blindspots — Through self-reflection and empathy we further uncover blindspots we wouldn’t perceive on our own at first glance.
  • Intersections —Through reconstruction we take intersecting needs into account, reminding us we can’t design in vacuums for the needs of one human or customer segment.




Exploring alternative routes forward through strategic design, speculative design, business design and more.

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Giuliana Mazzetta

Giuliana Mazzetta

Exploring alternative routes forward through strategic design, speculative design, business design and more.

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