Part 1 of 9: What are "The Dream" and "The Dream Continuum"?

The Dream is a powerful interviewing and interpretive technique that prepares designers for their best work.

This is part 1 in a 9 part series that explains my powerful design-research technique of looking for insights about how people pursue their Dreams.


In 2014 I discovered and honed a powerful model I use to interpret interviews as a designer and that I call “The Dream”. You’ve probably heard the saying “keeping the dream alive”, but its significance is largely overlooked, and overlooking it often results in uninspiring companies and designs that don’t sell. It’s so important that I now include it in every business plan. 

A dream is different to an aspiration, and identifying it can unlock insights on how to stay engaged in an individual’s or group of people’s endless desire to consume, collect and creatively produce something. Within each of us it also propels us to keep doing good and expresses our unique essence. Each of these activities brings us closer to experiencing the ever-elusive and evolving dream we have in mind. And to help get us there, each activity builds on the previous by realising a part of the dream in a way that is more real than the last. (It might involve a virtual experience first that leads you to discover more of the truth and finally hold the real objects you first saw.)

All this happens along a timeline that I call The Dream Continuum, because the passionate pursuit never needs to find an end. Instead, the Dream Continuum’s purpose is to give us continuous fulfillment by offering experiences that are more real each time we have a crack at achieving our dream. But we’re also clever to delay some gratification after each experience, saving some for later, by evolving what the dream looks like with our new-found knowledge and delightful lessons we learned from that last attempt. In doing so we forever push achieving the dream into the future. There’s always the next awesome thing to try. After all, achieving what we dreamt of would destroy dream. And for that reason, dreams that are impossible to achieve (like ones that would require a time machine to experience) give us a voracious appetite to consume, collect and creatively produce stuff faster and on a bigger scale than dreams we continually have to slow or stop ourselves from achieving (like ones you can just whip out your wallet and buy outright). 

It’s easiest to explain how it works by just telling the story of how I discovered it, which I'll do in Part 2. In Part 3 I'll deconstruct it into its basic working mechanisms. And in Parts 4-7 I'll show how to use the technique.