Note — Apr 10, 2022

Three More Things You Won’t Believe About Speculative Design

This might be slightly too much in the direction of nitpicking for those not working in or closely following design, critical design, and speculative design, but considering how many articles I share on those topics, and on futures, it becomes kind of a must-share. Tobias Revell recaps the last couple of decades of those disciplines and reminds us that speculative design is “an academic research tool. It was tested and validated as a way of producing knowledge, originally in the academic context of the juvenile field of design research but sometimes in applied contexts too. The speculation is never the outcome: What you learn or uncover in the discourse with others or yourself is the outcome.” Hopefully, speculative design (and later futures) doesn’t become a dirty word like design thinking.

In 2020 I sat on a panel for a speculative design award; half of the entires were just designs for future apps, autonomous cars, smart cities or gadgets. The element of criticality, for which speculation was a lever, had been overshadowed by the opportunity to create ‘edgy’ aesthetic-led future visions that supported pre-existing assumptions. […]

This context created a particular thinking about design, society, power and people which it may well be inappropriate to duplicate to the present day in different places. The opportunity now is for new types of design, imagination and critique that maybe take the best bits of those practice but grow it into something better and more needed for today. […]

If the speculation is simply meeting or amplifying inherited expectations about the future then it, again, is not useful. Whatever process, method or approach your design uses, it should, must be critical. It must be vulnerable and challenge yourself and others and be aware of its context and implications.