Thursday, 23 October 2008

Critical Design

On Monday afternoon we were introduced to Critical Design by Graham Pullin. He gave us a good insight into what Critical Design is and how we might use it as a tool thoroughout our MDes and beyond. Graham states that Critical Design is 'not blue sky thinking' it is less optimistic and often uses black humour. It is a vessel to engage an audience with a problem by connecting them to an object. It in itself is not trying to solve a problem just highlight the fact that one exists. Critical Design I feel is a tool to make us think and question why we are doing something, it removes our blinkers and opens our eyes to problems that may exist but that we never consider.

Graham talked about Dunne and Raby, Dunne who pioneered the term Critical Design now runs the Design Interaction course at the RCA (Royal College of Art) in London along with his partner Raby use Critical Design frequently in their work.

'Dunne & Raby use products and services as a medium to stimulate discussion and debate amongst designers, industry and the public about the social, cultural and ethical implications of emerging technologies.'
(Dunne & Raby on themselves)

Above is what Dunne and Raby call their 'Electro-draught Excluder' this screen proves no protection from any sorts of radiation but living with it causes the subject to be more aware of the fact that we are surrounded by all sorts of radiation thanks to mobile phone transmitters, wi-fi, TVs etc and that we feel safer if we are given a 'placebo' that makes no difference in what we are absorbing whatsoever.

Another one of Dunne & Raby's projects that Graham Talked about was their Science Museum 2004 work which was a series of three images showing at first glance an idyllic future. I fine these images to be chilling, more so because they could actually become a reality... The main image shows two children in a room full of cadges, pets one might assume at first glance, but then you notice the child at the back of the room feeding one of the mice into the television set... will this be our answer to the energy crisis?

Two images accompany this photograph

The one on the left is a possible solution to the energy crisis. Bags of blood that we can use for power, be it animals or human. According to Dunne & Raby 'A meet-eating robot has been developed by the University of South Florida. Microbial fuel cells contain living bacteria which break down food and convert the nutrients into electrical energy'.

How would society cope with this animals as fuel conundrum? A beautifully presented mock up book right gives a possible insight into what we could face if this technology took off. The Tag line reads 'Avoiding emotional attachment to animals purchased for use as energy'.

I guess it just goes to show as Graham said 'their is always a flip side to a new technology'

How would society cope with this shift in energy use, what are the social and physical implications to this type of fuel? I must admit i find Critical Design fascinating and will be following Dunne & Raby ( and the Design Interactions Course at the RCA (

For more information on Critical Design check out Dunne & Raby's book Design Noir and Crispin Jones a designer who commercialises Critical Design(

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