Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby are noted for their work in speculative design. They are quoted as stating:
Dunne & Raby use design as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of existing and emerging technologies. (Dunne & Raby, 2016)
I can’t possibly cover all of the work that this prolific partnership has generated, but one particular project has captured my attention and helps to explain their approach to using design as a means of communicating speculative future thinking.
The United Micro Kingdoms project was commissioned by the Design Museum and uses speculative design to communicate four alternative imagined futures for the UK. It envisages a future where the UK is split into four separate autonomous states that choose very different social and political directions. The concept is well informed by contemporary thinking and published research, but the often abstract concepts can be hard to communicate. The use of ‘good design’ to help make the thinking behind the work accessible is not dissimilar to the methods used in film to help the audience imagine a different reality. Their work is designed to inform, but mostly to spark debate.
Dunne and Raby contend that if we speculate more—about everything—reality will become more malleable. The ideas freed by speculative design increase the odds of achieving desirable futures. (Dunne & Raby, 2013)
I have seen ‘critical design’ and ‘critical artifacts’ used as research tools through the work of Professor Paul Chamberlain of the ADRC at Sheffield Hallam University. I have also used speculative design as a means to communicating ideas at the culmination of some research into how caring can help users extend the life of their possessions in the Critical Care project. I am interested in using a form of speculative design to express ideas about how designers might tackle certain problems. It seems possible that this same work can be used to trigger reactions that can form the basis of further research.
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