The Envisioning Criteria

The Envisioning Cards are built upon a set of five 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.

Stakeholders Time Values Pervasiveness Multi-lifespan
Drawing from Value Sensitive Design methodology, the Stakeholder criterion emphasizes the range of effects of a technology, both on those who are in direct contact with a technology (direct stakeholders), and on those who might not be direct users, but whose lives are nevertheless affected by various interactions around the technology (indirect stakeholders). Inspired by the long-term perspective of urban planning, the Time criterion helps guide designers to consider the longer term implications of their work – implications that will only emerge after the technology has moved through initial phases of novelty to later phases of appropriation and integration into society. The Value criterion emphasizes the impact of technology on human values. Our use of the term values draws from the Value Sensitive Design literature, “what a person or group of people consider important in life.” In interaction design, we have found values of interest to include but are not limited to: autonomy, community, cooperation, democratization, environmental sustainability, expression, fairness, human dignity, inclusivity and exclusivity, informed consent, justice, ownership, privacy, self-efficacy, security, trust, and universal access. The Pervasiveness criterion emphasizes systemic interactions that follow from the widespread adoption of an interactive technology. Technologies can become pervasive with respect to geographic (e.g., city navigation software use within urban areas), cultural (e.g., text messaging within the deaf community), demographic (e.g., online social networking sites among teenagers), and other factors. Multi-lifespan design is primarily concerned with significant societal problems that defy rapid solution. Genocide, HIV/AIDS, famine, deforestation, species extinction, forced exodus – these problems share some commonalities. In one way or another, they entail widespread losses to human beings, to other sentient beings, or to the natural world. The structure of these problems and their solution spaces require long periods of time to unfold. In turn, these problems call for designers to take a more proactive and long term approach to how we envision and design technology. The Multi-lifespan criterion prompts consideration and discussion of such concerns within the context of designing tools, technology, policy, and infrastructure.

Value Sensitive Design

Value Sensitive Design refers to an approach to the design of technology that accounts for human values in a principled and systematic manner throughout the design process.


Value Sensitive Design is primarily concerned with values that center on human well-being, human dignity, justice, welfare, and human rights. Tools such as the Envisioning Cards reflect and synthesize a variety of well-established methods in Value Sensitive Design. Ultimately, Value Sensitive Design requires that we broaden the goals and criteria for judging the quality of technological systems to include those that advance human flourishing.


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Similar Tools to Consider

  • IDEO Method Cards: 51 Ways to Inspire Design
  • Oblique Strategies: One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas

Further Reading

Friedman, B. and Nathan, L. P. (2010). Multi-lifespan information system design: A research initiative for the HCI community. In Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York, NY: ACM Press, 2243-2246. [PDF]


Nathan, L. P., Friedman, B., Klasnja, P., Kane, S. K., and Miller, J. K. (2008). Envisioning systemic effects on persons and society throughout interactive system design. In Proceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. New York, NY: ACM Press, 1-10. [PDF]


Friedman, B. and Hendry, D. G. (2019). Value Sensitive Design: Shaping technology with moral imagination. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.


Dunne, A. and Raby, F. (2001). Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects. Boston, MA: August Media.


Friedman, B. (Ed.) (1997). Human Values and the Design of Computer Technology. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Credits and Acknowledgments

Authors – Original Cards: Batya Friedman, Lisa Nathan, Shaun Kane, and John Lin
Authors – Multi-lifespan Cards: Daisy Yoo, Nick Logler, Stephanie Ballard and Batya Friedman
Advisors: Gail Dykstra and Richard Mander
Photos: Maxwell Andrews and Nell Carden Grey
Graphic Design: Daisy Fry


This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. IIS-0325035 and IIS-1302709. The initial print run of the original card set was made possible by funds from the Washington Research Foundation.