Increasingly, companies are tasked with depicting how a disruptive innovation will impact the future. This requires more than a storyline and PowerPoint slide—especially when an innovation will change the world in truly novel ways.

Automakers have concept cars. Architects have 3D models. Communicators need their own prototype. At Everhouse, we call it a futurescape.

We define a futurescape as a tangible and comprehensive depiction of an innovative idea’s future impact. This is a prototype of a future where your idea, innovation, or technology exists and thrives, so that others can better understand your idea, its implications, and its impact. This model can come in the form of a series of short stories, interactive exhibits, a virtual reality experience, detailed illustrations—the sky is the limit.

Take the innovation of a flying car. A futurescape for a flying car might take the form of a 3D city rendered in virtual reality. In this VR world, users might “walk” through the carless streets, which have become open-air markets and urban farms. In this futurescape, maybe all driving is automatic too, so when the viewer steps into a flying car, they find a carpool of networking job seekers, an executive celebrating business victories with a cocktail from his swanky in-car bar, or a mom in a salon-car getting a manicure on her way to pick up the kids from school.

People best understand by experience, so creating a slice of the future that people can see, feel, taste, and/or smell will help you garner stakeholder buy-in, build excitement, and communicate effectively.

Building Your Futurescape

As the owner of a great idea, chances are you can already vividly imagine the future where your innovation lives. The tricky part is taking those thoughts and wrangling them into the real world. Here’s some steps you can follow to build your own futurescape:

Step 1: Shift Your Mindset

First priority is to shift from market development mode into storytelling mode. Return to your Innovator’s Intent: What is the desired outcome for your innovation? Is it simple, such as establishing farming on Mars? Or complex, such as developing a better way to structure an equitable society on Mars? Take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of your strategic roadmap and clearly define your idea’s unique value proposition.

Step 2: Define Your Setting

As in all good storytelling, it’s important to root people in a sense of time and place. For your futurescape, start by identifying what setting can show the true scale or impact of your Innovator’s Intent. For example, does your futurescape need to show an entire country and its economic structure? Do you need to show the social dynamics on a city block? Maybe just someone’s living room or a grocery store aisle?

Say your company has developed an innovation in genetically modified foods, and your Innovator’s Intent is to make lab-grown food that’s both healthy and delicious. The setting for your futurescape could be simple: An elegant dining table during a five-course meal. You would map out each course, a detailed menu, the appropriate place settings, and so on.


Step 3: Develop your main characters

Ultimately, your audience is the main character for your futurescape. However, it’s important to identify whose shoes they’re stepping into in your futurescape. Who will be using your innovation in the future?

Think about the typical guidelines for persona development, but remember your characters live in the future. Human nature probably won’t change, but your characters may face problems or concerns that we haven’t faced yet in today’s world. Try and flesh out your characters concerns, desires, and fears from the perspective of your futurescape, instead of mapping modern pain points on a future state.


Step 4: Add Action

Add some structure to your futurescape in the form of a light narrative. We recommend keeping the narrative simple, so the focus remains on the futurescape itself. Choose any type of action that will help your viewer experience your futurescape. In our flying car example, the storyline could be: The viewer travels from their home to the office one morning. In our five course meal example, the plot could be: sitting down to a Michelin-starred meal.

Step 5: Add detail

It’s time to let your imagination run wild. This is your chance to make up new places, foods, celebrities, social structures, local slang, street names, government types—you name it. Add as much specific detail as you can, whether directly related to your innovation or not.

It’s these small details that make your futurescape feel both real and achievable. It’s a classic case of the power of “show not tell:” You can tell people that your farming technology will grow giant vegetables on Mars, or you can show them a futurescape in which the sheer size of potatoes grown on Mars has made giant bowls of Martian Mashed Potatoes the signature dish in the planet’s hippest restaurant, Ares’ Table.

If you’re stuck and having trouble adding detail to your futurescape, consider the following questions:

  • How might your innovation be used in unexpected, weird, or unintentional ways?
  • What new jobs, stores, professions might your innovation lead to?
  • If your innovation exists, what other technologies might exist as well?

How might your innovation impact what someone sees? Hears? Smells? Feels?


Step 6: Make it Real

This is where you take your futurescape and make it tangible and immersive. Most individuals and even companies probably don’t have the funds to create a full-scale exhibit of their futurescape, similar to Bill Gates’ original Xanadu 2.0. However, there are several formats from which to choose that are sure to fit your audience and budget. Consider the following options:

Written stories and illustrated vignettes

We all know it’s tough for consumers to stomach a wall of text, so combining text and illustration in unique ways is a great, budget-friendly option for your futurescape. Maybe you create a series of highly stylized storyboards depicting key scenes in your futurescape. You could also commission a graphic novelist. Illustrated vignettes with light copy are a great way to capture emotion and tone.

A good example: We recommend looking for artists outside your organization with distinctive styles and portfolios. For example, we used Adrian Fernandez to create moody, futuristic illustrations for a client, seen throughout this Insight.


Video production has come a long way over the past two decades and today, it’s often an affordable, go-to option for creating content. We believe that video is a great vehicle for a futurescape, but with proper time, attention, and investment. For a futurescape, we recommend finding a creative team with a track record of imaginative, forward-looking storytelling. It may be worth hiring a creative director from outside the marketing world to help you convey your futurescape. 

A good example: We love how Corning Glass uses video. Way back in 2011, the company created a futurescape around glass innovations. The video was so popular that the company created a follow-up a year later.

Augmented/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

AR and VR can transport people to places that are otherwise impractical or currently nonexistent. With it becoming more accessible and affordable, now is a great time for companies to explore AR/VR as an immersive storytelling format. If you’re considering using AR/VR, make sure it’s strategic and not simply for that wow factor.

A good example: In 2017, Palo Alto Networks created a VR experience to demonstrate for prospective employees what the future might look like with the company’s security systems in place. We like how this VR experience puts the viewer in a familiar situation—heading to a job interview over public transportation—but in a novel environment shaped by Palo Alto Networks’ technology.


Like AR/VR, building your futurescape as a physical model or exhibit is a great option to create a fully immersive and interactive experience. Models and exhibits can be set up at tradeshows, in your business lobby, or at museums. You can even create entire events around your exhibit and invite customers, industry influencers, and employees to experience it. This format lends itself well to sparking conversations about your innovation and the future.

A good example: In 2011, London-based ecoLogicStudio transformed the Swedish region of Osterlen into a futuristic exhibit all about algae farming. Through a collection of interactive sites and events, ecoLogicStudio demonstrated how algae farming could be used to transform the region’s economic and urban systems.


Step 7: Present your futurescape

This is where you communicate your vision, gain stakeholder buy-in, and build excitement. Some futurescapes, such as those using video, may require little to no explanation. Other experiences, such as exhibits, may require a guide to help viewers step into the world of your innovation and find their place in it.