Criticality: Introduction

To start this 3 week project we had a lecture from Theo and Carol about Critical Design. This is a term which I have come across before but I wouldn’t say that I have an understanding about. However, this lecture from Theo gave me the knowledge and understand about what critical design is, the quote below give an overall insight into what I gained from the experience.

“Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products (graphics) play in everyday life.” (Dunne & Raby, 2001)

” Its opposite is affirmative design: design that reinforces the status quo” (Dunne & Raby, 2001)

“Critical Design undermines the default notion of design as an affirmative, commercially-oriented practice that shies may from thorny ethical issues” (Paola Antonelli)

We discussed the differences between affirmative and critical design using the list complied by Dunne and Raby. For me there are distinctive difference between the two different types of design. Affirmative design is related more to commercial design focusing on solving a problem and making money. Whereas critical design is concerned with awareness and finding the problem. It makes us think about a topic rather than making us want to buy it.

We also spoke about embodiment of ideas and how this is a principle within critical design. It talks about the idea being encoded by the creator into an object then having to be decoded by the viewer in order to understand the meaning. This links back to the ideas within semiotic theory which I have knowledge about through writing my dissertation.

Furthermore, there was discussion around the term Zeitgeist, which is yet another principle that can be used within critical design. Zeitgeist is about the spirit of the times, based around the cultural views at the time. An example was the 60s being about free love. I hadn’t heard about this term before but thought that it could be interesting too considering. Fedility is another principle about how accurate a design is communicating, accuracy in this sense is the effectiveness of communication. This is something that I need to think about when creating my outcome for this brief is that it should be conceptual and appropriate for the outcome.

I know feel although I have a better understanding of what is required from this project and about critical design. The key points for the lecture were:

  • Critical creates awareness
  • Holistic approches
  • Challenging assumptions
  • Critiques/Reveals/Proposes
  • Embodiment in Diegetic Design Artefacts.
  • `Fidelity

Example of Critical Design from Lecture

Theo’s presentation also included some examples of critical design. This critical design project called ‘Appocalypse’ is a project which changed the names of popular apps in order to make the viewer aware of some of the thing that these apps might elude too. This was interesting to see because it help consolidate my understanding of the term critical design.

Appocalypse, Gardner, 2018 [Theo’s Lecture]

Another example that Theo showed us was a project called “Polluted Water Popsicles’ which was a series of popsicles made from sample of water which highlights a water contamination in that area. This for me showed the simplicity of the ideas which are created through critical design, it highlight to me that I didn’t need to come up with an elaborate idea. A simple idea executed well would work just as well.

‘Polluted Water Popsicles’ I-chen, Yi-hen & You-ti, 2017, [Theo’s Lecture]

The brief

The brief for this project is open giving us the freedom to create something that it unique for our portfolios, while still creating graphic communication outcomes. The outcomes will depend on the nature of the topics which we chosen and our critical approach towards them. The next stage for me to start thinking about topics of interest and areas that I want to distrust and make people aware of.

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