Speculative design’s tricky future

Great piece from Tobias Revell about the wrinkles in the speculative design bedsheets: Five Problems with Speculative Design.

I have a hunch that speculative design is the next big thing, on the brink of being seized and pillaged by the digital design community. Like Tobias I worry that this process will strip away all critical angles. Without criticality, speculative design is just an anodyne horizon-stretching exercise. Vision videos, office workers moving banal UI around glass walls. A mildly useful adjunct to affirmative #ShipIt design, but saying nothing about morality, inequities, etc.

Or perhaps we’ll swing the other way, and churn out rote make-u-think dystopias that deepen designers’ reputations as obstructionists, wolf-criers, and general pains in the collective ass.

Either way, we’d squander the true power of speculative design, which IMO is to engage a diverse public in tough discussions about our futures, and to spread power from technocrats to the people. It’s not about promoting corporate goals or our own pet narratives.

Cennydd Bowles