Speculative Critical Design

“Some people say design is about solving problem. Obviously, designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists. Design is about cultureal invention,” said Matt Webb(2009).

The term critical design was popularised by product/ interaction design team Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

Critical design uses speculative design proposal to challenge narraw assumptions , preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life, while affirmative design reinforces the status quo. Speculative Critical Design is a the way designers think, it is not about how the world is but how the world can be, it is all about “What if”.

SCD aims to raise awareness, expose assumptions, provoke action, spark debate, which should be satire and critical by Wow factor. When design thinking suggested “Less is more”, speculative critical design suggested “Less is bore”. It usually comes in the form of film, television or books.

SCD has changed the whole design disciplines by helping to set the starting point for the future. Differ from design thinking, SCD here is to suggest problem. By creating scenrio of the question suggested by designers, “designers can fabricate an experience of that possible future. Looking forwards in time allows us to imagine problems that might still be beneath the surface or factors that are unknown but plausible or possible”, said Isa Kolehmainen (2016).

Future Cone (via nesta,2016)

By looking at the Cone, we can see SCD can be developed into various kind of design:

Design future: To think about what the futures could be by creating scenrio.

Design for debate: Preditable future, to think about the possible issues technology could bring

Discurasive Design: To doubt, judge and challenge the existed system or product

Critical Design: by irony and satire, challenging the understanding of people on particular objects, provoking and sparking debate.

We need SCD because not every problem in the world can be solven, designers have to think and raise the debate, let the human thinks how to collaborate with the future world and technology. While user-centered design suggested that designers can empathy what the users what and find out the best clue, it turned out to be a commerical trick. When people relied on technology, we are losing consciousness, letting the technology feed us with what they assume we need and want.

Take Dephone as an example of SCD. Designers thought smart phone has distracted human’s atttention on physical objects. Smart phone has also changed human’s behavior, even if they shared the same space, they have less physical interact with one another.

This project is a critical reflection on this reality and an exploration of new types of interaction.

Desigers tried lock down the smart phone and redistribute the functions of smart phone into physical objects around the house by Wi-Fi communication. The information is presented in an abstract and simpler way through LEDs, sound or mechanical movements users can “read” information such as the number of hours left to sleep, the unread mails, the schedule for the bus, the activity on facebook or ebay, allowing people have more interaction.

Dephone from Maria Beltran on Vimeo.

Speculative design: A design niche or a new tool for government innovation?
Nesta.org.uk. (2016). Speculative design: A design niche or a new tool for government innovation? | Nesta. [online] Available at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/speculative-design-design-niche-or-new-tool-government-innovation [Accessed 3 Feb. 2017].
Critical Everything
Laranjo, F. (2015). Critical Everything | Modes of Criticism. [online] Modes of Criticism. Available at: http://modesofcriticism.org/critical-everything/ [Accessed 2 Feb. 2017].
Questioning the “critical” in Speculative & Critical Design
Medium. (2014). Questioning the “critical” in Speculative & Critical Design – A Parede. [online] Available at: https://medium.com/a-parede/questioning-the-critical-in-speculative-critical-design-5a355cac2ca4#.ym2d73hl6 [Accessed 4 Feb. 2017].

Dephoneproject.com. (2017). The objects | Dephone. [online] Available at: http://dephoneproject.com/?p=111 [Accessed 3 Feb. 2017].