Imagining future places: How designs co-constitute what is, and thus influence what will be

Terry van Dijk*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Despite attempts to connect planning with design disciplines, some opportunities to do so still await further inquiry, particularly the conception promoted by Throgmorton of planning as persuasive storytelling. According to this perspective, we persuade one another about what the future should and can bring, as well as convince others to agree on and engage in a trajectory of actions. Decision-making is not about separate facts but concerns stories that strike a chord among those who can make things happen. Stories about the future may create resonance and amplify into anticipation, due to their persuasive character. This article points to three implications of planning as storytelling that will help us to better understand the effects of interactive regional design processes. Firstly, regional design is considered to be a form of devising and sharing stories; a perspective that better serves design than its usual conceptualization in the planning literature. Secondly, by considering regional design as story-making, it is also seen to affect the frames with which we perceive reality, thus intervening in the social, cognitive and intentional processes of presenting and constructing reality and regional action. Thirdly, if designs, considered in terms of the stories that they tell, change perceived realities, the interaction between governments and citizens, notably the role of communication, needs to be redefined. It would be justifiable to consider a more symbiotic model in which all communication is found to cause change and formal decisions only confirm events that are already underway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-143
Number of pages20
JournalPlanning Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May-2011


  • framing
  • regional design
  • story telling

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