Fabien Girardin

Biography References

👋 Bonjour, I am Fabien.

I am an engineer, researcher, data scientist who walks alongside entrepreneurs and decision-makers when the path forward is unknown. With experience in prestigious academic institutions and in the industry, I explore ideas that do not have a shape yet. Refined over the last 15 years with my colleagues at Near Future Laboratory, my approach is about being curious, challenging strategic assumptions, and prototyping potential futures. We are publishing The Manual of Design Fiction, a guide to our practice, its origins, its utility and its impact.

Throughout my career, I 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 help executives make sense of socio-technological evolutions, to stretch people imagination through public exhibits, to teach and mentor young professionals. I still love doing all that.

Today, global multinationals, public organizations and small enterprises come to me looking for a pioneer, rigorous and humanistic mindset to explore 'what might comes next' in domains that data and digital technologies are transforming. For instance, my contributions led to the creation of data products at BBVA, to definition of new techniques for measuring visitor behaviors for The Louvre Museum, to the launch of a data visualization platform with Bestiario, to the design of a searchable earth platform for Satellogic, to the proof of concept of an air-travel detection system for Boeing and more.

I keep my mind fresh designing and writing software as a daily routine. My current pet projects are Rumbo, a tool that transforms GPS trails into 3D videos; and Próximo, an online text editor that puts stories on maps.

Each week I set aside a couple hours for Office Hours video calls for anybody to talk about early stage projects, ways to collaborate, a recent reading, a pressing challenge, etc. 📅 You can book a 45-minutes slot in my calendar.


Fabien Girardin (PhD) is a founding partner of the Near Future Laboratory, a distributed network of accomplished practitioners best known as pioneers of Design Fiction. Since 2009, they have helped over 100 organizations – from multinational companies and governments to NGOs and start-ups — bring focus to their visions and explore the unknown white spaces just beyond the core of their activities.

Throughout his career, Fabien has led and collaborated in dream teams that bring data science and design to the avant-garde of their domains. Most notably, 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 co-created with the data visualization studio Bestiario, 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 1900 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, Fabien speaks in international conferences such as O'Reilly Strata, TEDx, Sonar+D, Primer, Picnic, Lift, Barcelona Design Week, and Smart City World Congress. 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].

Fabien presenting at Primer 2018 in Helsinki.


Selected publications

[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. PhD thesis, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Recent posts

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.

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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