Fringe Sketch

The interactive visualization you see on our home page is called a Fringe Sketch. It results from the first part of the Future Today Institute’s forecasting methodology.

Our goal in the first step of forecasting is to define a very broad [x] for our clients and partners. Because we know that technology is deeply intertwined with a number of other areas of modern change—the economy, education, government, media, and more—we cannot think about the future of a technology without simultaneously considering movement across all these other areas.

When developing a fringe sketch, we use a series of questions to guide our research on emerging technology, science and other areas of change. We categorize our research using a series of nodes and connections. Mapping the fringe forces us to think very broadly—not just about an emerging trend, but how that trend relates to a broader ecosystem. Taking this broader view, where nodes and relationships are both considered in tandem, is critical. This approach can be used to map the fringe for a product—for example, what is the future of credit cards? Or a social issue—what’s the future of gun violence in America? Or even an entire industry, such as what is the future of book publishing?

The fringe sketch is perhaps the most important part of our forecasting methodology. We've been tinkering with how we model the data, and what variables we hone in on during the regression analysis portion of fringe sketching, for the past 11 years. The goal with the fringe sketch is to get back to zero—to reset the information stage so that it can be fully mapped. The fringe sketch alone does not tell us what the trends are that we should follow. Rather, it positions us to consider all of the possible sources of change ahead. From here, the next step of our methodology is called CIPHER, and it's about looking for hidden patterns.