The term critical design was popularised in Anthony Dunne’s book Hertzian Tales. In it Dunne introduces the idea of product design and electronic objects fusing into critical design where the object functions as critique. Critical design has since been adopted as an umbrella term for any type of design practice which suggests that design offers possibilities beyond solving design problems.
[We start by] mapping assumptions within and outside of an organisation about the future, and animate these ideas as tangible evidence of the future. Both negative and aspirational futures are embodied as designed touch-points. We focus as much on the effects of possible designs as the design of the service itself.
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. There are many people doing this who have never heard of the term critical design and who have their own way of describing what they do. Naming it Critical Design is simply a useful way of making this activity more visible and subject to discussion and debate.
Dunne and Raby – Evidence Dolls (via a huge set of images from the Critical Design exhibition from we-make-money-not-art)
Unlike traditional design, Critical Design is focussing on the communication of an idea rather the development of a product or service. Therefore any constraints that a designer might find in developing a product or service, such as budget, limited materials, time, physics, difficult clients, are for a Critical Designer only constraints in terms of the presentation of the idea. In a way, Critical design seems to need to set itself free of the constraints, and focus only on a thematic constraint so that it is able to be truly critical.
Boelen’s idea for the exhibition stemmed from a disappointment: when the work of Guixé, Bey or Raby & Dunne is featured in a design magazine, journalists usually focus on the gadget, gimmick side of the pieces. They pick out catchy works but tend to ignore the global vision of the designers. There’s also an international crowd out there that merely seem to imitate that gimmicky aspect of the critical designers’ work. (via Designing Critical Design – Part 1: Jurgen Bey – we make money not art )
Critical design, popularized by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, uses designed artifacts as an embodied critique or commentary on consumer culture. Both the designed artifact (and subsequent use) and the process of designing such an artifact causes reflection on existing values, mores, and practices in a culture.
A Critical Artefact Methodology: Using Provocative Conceptual Designs to Foster Human-centred Innovation
“This research develops a rationale for using provocative conceptual designs to foster the innovation of human-centred product ideas – a ‘critical artefact methodology’.”
“I suggest that critical design (Dunne 1999) and related design practices have similar characteristics and operation to Critical Theory: a view that the status quo (generally affirmed by design) somehow ‘oppresses’ society; that ‘enlightenment’ of the factors underlying this ‘emancipates’ society and is facilitated by a reading of critiques (alternative proposals such as critical artefacts).”
By exploring the relationship between the scientific community and the entertainment industry in the construction of fictional films, this paper investigates the impact that fictional representations, created with the assistance of scientists, have on the construction of scientific knowledge and the public understanding of science.
The Science & Entertainment Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Sciences that provides entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines.
I would say some representations of science can significantly impact public understanding,” for better and for worse, Kirby says. He views 2000’s Mission to Mars as “harmful,” perpetuating a bogus idea in the public mind because the film depicted as real the geological feature known as the Face on Mars, which actually is an optical illusion.
Because of the great persuasive power that film can thus impart to relatively few scientists, it is important to understand the role of fictional films in science communication and scientific practice. The battleground over scientific ideas is not limited to scientific meetings and publications, or even to traditional popularizing realms such as documentaries and news articles. Any time a scientist discusses, or portrays, scientific information, he or she is engaged in an act of persuasion.
*On the other hand, maybe this is the way that “design fiction” is *destined* to look. My feeling is that good “design fiction” ought to be like good “critical design,” it ought to be subtle and taut and aimed at provoking some cognitive dissonance. But maybe that’s a niche effort doomed to blow right over most people’s heads. Scifi is pop culture. Most design guys I know, who are into science fiction, like big, glossy, popular, sci-fi movies and television shows. They’re not mulling over JG Ballard’s architectural thinking on their way to the Dunne and Raby exhibit.
New digital design tools have given birth to something new, potentially wonderful, often silly, and dare I say even “green”: the transition from the “experience of the artifact” to the “consumption of the idea of the artifact.