Fabien Girardin, Dipl.-Ing. Ph.D.

Biography References

👋 Hello, I am Fabien.

I am a researcher and engineer in emerging technologies and managing partner at Girardin & Nova. With a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Digital Communication and 15 years of experience in academia and the industry, my mission is to help organizations (e.g. BBVA, Boeing, Le Louvre, the Swiss Federal Department of Defence) prototype and discover 'what might come next' just beyond the core of their activities

My research has been cited in more than 2000 academic publications and my creative work has been exhibited at the Museum of the Future in Dubai and the Design Museum in Barcelona among other international cultural institutions.

Refined over the last 15 years with my colleagues at Near Future Laboratory, my approach is multidisciplinary. It is about mixing creativity and imagination with logic, structure and engineering skills. We published The Manual of Design Fiction, a guide to our practice, its origins, its utility and its impact.

Working on the Manual of Design Fiction with Near Future Laboratory colleagues.

The Manual of Design Fiction. A practical guide to exploring the near future.


Fabien Girardin (Dipl.-Ing. Ph.D.) is Managing Partner at Girardin & Nova, a multidisciplinary agency which addresses pressing planetary matters from the digitization of cities to the implications of environmental change.

Throughout his career, Fabien experienced first-hand what it means to run a company that lasts, to co-create and launch products, to lead teams of talented technologists, to be on a board of directors, to help executives make sense of socio-technological evolutions, to stretch people imagination through public exhibits, to teach and mentor young professionals.

Most notably, he was a founding partner of the Near Future Laboratory, a distributed network of accomplished practitioners best known as pioneers of Design Fiction. In parallel, he was co-CEO at BBVA Data & Analytics, a center of excellence in advanced analytics that derived knowledge from financial data[1][2][3][4]. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he pioneered techniques that analyze digital traces of human activity for urban innovation[5][6] and applied them in the industry for Le Louvre[7], the Boeing Company[8], Navteq, City of Geneva, among other clients. Subsequently, he collaborated with the data visualization studio Bestiario, to bring to market a visual programming environment that democratizes data manipulation and visualization as part of a practice he coined as Sketching with Data[9].

Fabien holds a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science and Digital Communications[10] from Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona, Spain. Along his academic journey, he was also affiliated with the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His research has been cited in more than 2000 academic publications.

Prior to his graduate studies, he joined the Swiss Federal Institute of Technologies in Lausanne (EPFL) to manage and investigate the use of technologies for collaborative learning. Earlier in 1997, he developed a web directory popular in Switzerland that he later sold to a local Internet Service Provider[11] to finance his studies in Computer Science at the Biel School of Engineering and expand his horizons working as a software engineer in Silicon Valley.

Besides occasional lectures in universities, design schools and business schools (e.g. ESADE, IAAC, IED, HEAD, Politecnico Milano), Fabien teaches at University School of Design, Innovation and Technology (UDIT) in Madrid. He speaks in international conferences such as O'Reilly Strata, TEDx, Sonar+D, Primer, Picnic, Lift, Barcelona Design Week, and Smart City World Congress. And his work has been exhibited at the Museum of the Future in Dubai, the Design Museum in Barcelona[12], the National Football Museum in Manchester, the CCCB in Barcelona, the Fundacion Telefonica in Madrid, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima and the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague[13].

At Primer 2018 in Helsinki.

Born in Switzerland, Fabien has lived in Geneva, Oakland, Palo Alto, Barcelona, Boston and Madrid. He has recently moved to Gijón, Spain with his wife Eva and two children Noah and Luna. He speaks fluent French, English, Spanish and a rusty German.


Selected publications

Bleecker, J., Foster, N., Girardin, F., Nova, N. (2022). The Manual of Design Fiction. Near Future Laboratory Publishing.

[1] Alfaro, E., Bressan, M., Girardin, F., Murillo, J., Someh, I., Wixom, B. (2019). BBVA's Data Monetization Journey. MIS Quarterly Executive 18 (2).

[2] Alfaro, E., Murillo, J., Girardin, F., Wixom, B., Someh, I. (2018). BBVA Fuels Digital Transformation Progress with a Data Science Center of Excellence. MIT CISR Publications.

[3] Girardin, F., Fleurquin, P. (2018). Designing for Trust with Machine Learing. AAAI 2018 Spring Symposia.

[4] Girardin, F., Lathia, N. (2017). When User Experience Designers Partner with Data Scientists. AAAI 2017 Spring Symposia.

[5] Girardin, F., Calabrese, F., Dal Fiore, F., Ratti, C., and Blat, J. (2008). Digital footprinting: Uncovering tourists with user-generated content. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 7(4):36-43.

[6] Girardin, F., Vaccari, A., Gerber, A., Biderman, A., and Ratti, C. (2009). Quantifying urban attractiveness from the distribution and density of digital footprints. International Journal of Spatial Data Infrastructure Research, 4:175-200.

[7] Girardin, F. (2013). Insights from network data analysis that yield field observations. Ethnography matters.

[8] Girardin, F., Nova, N., and Dillenbourg, P. (2009). Detecting air travel to survey passengers on a worldwide scale. Journal of Location-Based Services, 3(3):210-226.

[9] Girardin, F. (2015). Sketching with Data, in New Challenges for Data Design. p6 189-205 Bihanic, David (Ed.), Springer

[11] Girardin, F. (2009). Aspects of implicit and explicit human interactions with ubiquitous geographic information. Ph.D. thesis, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Recent posts

The Principles of a Modern Computer Scientist: What the practitioners who will shape the future of Artificial Intelligence could learn from the achievements and shortcomings of the current generation of computer scientists. May 31, 2023

Teaching emerging technologies to UX designers: An annotated syllabus of a course I gave along with Rohit Gupta to teach UX design students the integration of emerging technologies into their core practice. May 3, 2023

An Archeology for the Future in Space: A detailed account of the role of “future archeologists” at the Museum of the Future and how they brought to the present a culture from the future. July 14, 2022

Prototyping in Data Science: A conversation between Jose A. Rodriguez and Fabien Girardin on how data scientists can think ahead of the curve. March 14, 2022

The Making of Things for Decision Making: The approximate transcript of a talk I gave at Sonar+D in the session “So, What About the Future?". October 1, 2020

When Automation Bites Back: The business of dishonest automation and how the engineers, data scientists and designers behind it can fix it. January 16, 2019

The Mindset for Innovation with Data Science: Principles to nurture a healthy and innovative Data Science function. May 11, 2018

The Design of Future Visions for Large Organizations: Clarify the present with Design Fiction: A tool to discuss the priorities for today which can make a preferable future attainable. March 28, 2018

After the Big Now: Imagine another version of the Internet respectful of people’s attention and time. January 25, 2017

Experience Design in the Machine Learning Era: Notes for designers and data scientists who create together systems that learn from human behaviors. December 9, 2016

The Life and Death of Data Products: The approximate transcript of a talk on products characterized by an experience that evolves according to user behaviors and constantly updating algorithms fed by streams of data. July 12, 2016

Social Media at Human Pace: The reasons why I developed Humans, an app that offers a way to rationally manage too many social media contacts and slows down the consumption of status updates, tweets, selfies, and photos of all kinds. January 11, 2016

The Global Village and its Discomfort: Or why designers and data scientists should learn from the anxieties, obsessions, phobias, stress and other mental burdens of the connected humans. December 10, 2015

Our Approach of Design Fiction: Reflections on what Design Fiction is, how it’s best practiced, and in what ways it can evolve. October 15, 2015

Selected media coverage

The role of the generalist in discovery-based creative, design, future-oriented explorations, NFL Podcast, December 25, 2020.

Quand la science-fiction aide les entreprises à percevoir leur futur, TOM, October 5, 2020.

How the practice of design has evolved with digital technology and what is its future, Design Nonfiction, August 4, 2020.

Fabien Girardin : un service au rythme de l’humain ?, Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés, October 29, 2018.

Fabien Girardin, ancien co-CEO de BBVA Data & Analytics, Be My Guest, December 18, 2018.

Accusés de rendre leurs utilisateurs accros, les géants de la tech réagissent, Le Temps, September 25, 2018.

En la transformación digital hay que generar valor a corto plazo y anticipar los 5 o 10 próximos años, Kepler, July 19, 2018.

Comment nous rend-on accros à nos applis ?, Le Monde, June 22, 2018.

Temps volé par nos applis: ce que proposent les frondeurs anti-GAFA, Socialter, December 14, 2017.

Big data en otros sectores, entrevista a Fabien Girardin, Knowmadas, September, 2017.

Qui sera responsable des maladies de la connexion?, Le Monde, February 25, 2016.

Muchos números para el fútbol, El Periodico, July 27, 2015.

Un catálogo de Ikea de ciencia ficción muestra el futuro de la tecnología, El Confidencial, July 2, 2015.

Interview with Fabien Girardin. Co-founder of Near Future Laboratory, Smart City Business Institute , December, 2014.

El 'efecto Mona Lisa' guia cada paso de los turistas en el Louvre, El Periodico, February 6, 2012.

La nouvelle science des données, InternetActu, July 12, 2010.

Flickr Photos Yield Tourist Trails, Technology Review, June 15, 2010.

Quelle ville voulons-nous offrir ? Quelle ville espérons-nous recevoir ?, Le Monde, March 6, 2009.

Internet revela los movimientos de los turistas en las ciudades, El Periodico, March 31, 2008.

[11] Avec Yoodle.ch, deux entrepreneurs rêvent d'un Yahoo à la sauce edelweiss, Le Temps, March 11, 2000.

Exhibited work

Orbital Space Station HOPE at the Museum of the Future in Dubai (2022)

[13] Winning Formula at the National Football Museum in Manchester, the CCCB in Barceloona, the Fundacion Telefonica in Madrid, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lima and the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague (2014)

[12] World's Eyes at Design Museum of Barcelona and LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial (2009)

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