Interaction Futures & Speculative Design #01


This is a new unit for designing future things. Tobias Revell ran a lecture called ‘critical exploits’ for Interaction Design Communication students for introducing discipline’s criticality and speculative approaches and looked at various examples of Critical design.

First of all, what is Speculative Design and Critical Design?

Critical Design takes a critical theory based approach to design. This kind of design uses design fiction (a method of critical design that uses fictional and narrative scenarios to envision, explain and raise questions about possible futures for design and the society) and speculative design proposals to challenge assumptions, conceptions about the role of objects play in everyday life. Popularized by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby through their firm, Dunne & Raby. It was first used in Anthony Dunne’s book Hertzian Tales (1999) and further developed in Design Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects (2001). Critical is more of an attitude than a style or movement; a position rather than a method. It’s opposite with affirmative design: design that reinforces the status quo. The aim of critical design is emphasising the other possibilities of design beyond solving problems. The image below compares affirmative design and critical design in several ways.

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A critical design object will often challenge its audience’s preconceptions and expectations thereby provoking new ways of thinking about the object, its use, and the surrounding environment. Its opposite is affirmative design Objects made by critical designers frequently employ classic design processes—research, user experience, iteration—and apply these working processes to conceptual scenarios intended to highlight social, cultural, or political paradigms.

Nevertheless, Critical Design is discussed as an approach in Design Research, as a way to critique social, cultural, technical and economic controversies through designing critical artefacts.

The concept of critical play has come into vogue in recent years. Researcher Mary Flanagan wrote Critical Play: Radical Game Design in 2009; Lindsay Grace started the Critical Gameplay project in 2009. Grace’s Critical Gameplay project is an internationally exhibited collection of video games that apply Critical Design. The games provoke questions about the way games are designed and played. The Critical Gameplay Game, Wait, was awarded the Games for Change hall of fame award for being one of the 5 most important games for social impact since 2003. The work has been shown atElectronic Language International Festival, Games, Learning & Society Conference, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems among other notable events. — wikipedia

“Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method. Its opposite is affirmative design: design that reinforces the status quo.” —  Hertzian Tales (1999) / Dunne & Raby

Design as critique is not a new idea.(Italian Radical Design 1960s-70s)

Speculative design aims to present new possibilities, through a believable path that links possibility with the present. Whether a speculative project presents something positive or negative, the fact that it is possible is something that can genuinely empower change in our lives today.

– Hertzian Tales (1999) / Dunne and Raby

– Technological Dream Series 1: Robots / Dunne and Raby (2007)

– Paro / PARO Robotics

– The Continuous Monument / Superstudio (1969)

What is future?

The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.  —– William Gibson

– The Futures Cone / Dr Joseph Voros’ Version (via Stuart Candy)

– 99 Cent Futures / Extrapolation Factory (2013)

– The Golden Institute / Sascha Pohflepp (2009)

– A Brief History of Power / Tobias Revell (2011)

What is design friction?

Slate: So what is a design fiction? Bruce Sterling: It’s the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change.

– Productivity Future Vision / Microsoft (2009)

– Productivity Future Vision / Microsoft (2011)

– Productivity Future Vision / Microsoft (2013)

– How it feels through Google Glass / Google (2013)

– Minority Report (2002)

– Telecommunications of the 1990’s / Post Office / BT (1969)


to be continued…

Interaction Futures & Speculative Design #01