speculative design

speculative design

Approach

Envisioning alternative futures and challenges conventional perspectives, Speculative Design transcends the boundaries of traditional design by exploring thought-provoking scenarios that may not necessarily be practical or immediately achievable. Practitioners use design to spark conversations about possible outcomes, societal impacts, and technological advancements, pushing the boundaries of innovation. This interdisciplinary field encourages us to question the status quo, provoke discussions about emerging technologies, and shape a more conscious and dynamic future.

Envisioning alternative futures and challenges conventional perspectives, Speculative Design transcends the boundaries of traditional design by exploring thought-provoking scenarios that may not necessarily be practical or immediately achievable. Practitioners use design to spark conversations about possible outcomes, societal impacts, and technological advancements, pushing the boundaries of innovation. This interdisciplinary field encourages us to question the status quo, provoke discussions about emerging technologies, and shape a more conscious and dynamic future.

What is speculative design?

What is speculative design?

Speculative Design is a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach that challenges the conventional boundaries of design. It explores possible futures, envisions alternative realities, and stimulates critical thinking. Although there is a large overlap between Critical and Speculative Design, Speculative Design is concerned about the future or the "what ifs". It encourages designers to create provocative scenarios and objects, pushing the limits of imagination and innovation.

origin

origin

Speculative Design as a concept found its roots in the mid-20th century. Designers like Dunne & Raby pioneered this approach, seeking to explore the unforeseen implications of societal, technological, and cultural shifts. Over time, it evolved into a dynamic approach focused on generating questions rather than definitive answers.


At its core, Speculative Design draws inspiration from various philosophical perspectives. From Constructivism, asserting that reality is shaped by perception, to Phenomenology, emphasising subjective experiences, these philosophies provide a foundation for designers to create alternate realities. Postmodernism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism further infuse depth, challenging designers to confront ethical dilemmas and envision diverse futures.

"Preferable futures"

"Preferable futures"

Possibility cone by Dunne & Raby
Possibility cone by Dunne & Raby
Possibility cone by Dunne & Raby

Speculative designers often explore diverse scenarios and possibilities for the future. These scenarios can range from the "probable" (what is expected based on current trends) to the "plausible" (alternative futures based on changing variables) and even the "possible" (extreme scenarios, whether utopian or dystopian). Within this spectrum, the "preferable future" is the envisioned outcome that aligns most closely with positive aspirations, ethical considerations, and the betterment of the human experience.

The determination of what constitutes a "preferable future" is subjective and can vary based on cultural, social, and individual perspectives. It involves an assessment of the potential consequences, benefits, and drawbacks of different scenarios. As speculative designers explore, question, and shape futures that contribute positively to society and align with shared values, it's essential that the determination of what is "preferable" involve collective decision-making.

Other key aspects & concepts

Other key aspects & concepts

Critical imagination

Speculative Design encourages the use of critical imagination to explore and question the implications of new technologies, social changes, and emergences. It invites designers to envision diverse, often unconventional, futures.

Design fiction

Through blurring the lines between reality and fiction, design fiction is a technique used to create fictional narratives, objects, or environments that serve as a catalyst for discussions on societal and technological developments.

Provocation

Speculative Design aims to provoke discussions, by challenging capitalistic approach to design that aims at creating solutions for monetary benefit. It presents a "what if?" approach, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo.

Pay attention to objects

Material culture offers insights into people's beliefs, practices, and values. Studying objects and their significance within a community reveals hidden dimensions of cultural meanings and social behaviours.

Moving design upstream

By exploring the "what ifs", Speculative Design challenges designers to get involved in earlier stage of the development of new technology, rather than being involved at the end to "package" it.

Ethics and responsibility

Ethical considerations are crucial in Speculative Design. Designers are encouraged to address the ethical, social, and environmental implications of their speculative scenarios.

Collaboration

Collaboration between various disciplines, such as design, science, technology, and social sciences, is common in Speculative Design to foster a holistic perspective on the future.

Notable thinkers

Dunne & Raby

Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby are prominent and possibly most known thinkers in Speculative Design. Their book "Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming" is a seminal work in the field, exploring the intersection of design, speculation, and critique.

Bruce Sterling

A science fiction author and designer, Sterling is known for coining the term "Design Fiction" in his book "Shaping Things". His writings and talks have been influential in shaping the discourse around speculative design.

Julian Bleecker

Bleecker's work in design and technology has explored the role of design in shaping the future. He has been instrumental in advancing the idea of "design fiction" and its impact on society.

related to speculative design

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