Designing Fictionaries


Of the multiple directions i pitched, we decided to go ahead with designing fictional dictionaries of design. How this came into rolling is documented here in the ideation section.

The big idea here is that we create:

1) Fictional Scenarios
Using the notions of good, bad, and scary, collected in the research stage, we project timelines that are at once plausible and preposterous.

2) Fictional Personas
The notions of scenario and persona here are slightly deviant from their normative usage in design process. Here, the persona is a narrative tool. Using persona mapping as a tool to situate the notion of “the ideal designer” onto the dominant narrative of the scenario.

3) Diegetic Prototypes 
Design dictionaries that form the key vocabulary of the dominant narrative of each scenario- going beyond tools, techniques, media; to bring attention to intangible effects/implications/contexts/concepts that also form a theoretical, contextual and conceptual base of design as a profession and practice. 
Comments on form, structure, materiality and visual design- and its connections with power structures, and how it is represented in the discipline of graphic design.
Posters and secondary support materials to further establish the visual language of the timelines.
Newspaper clippings etc. to show the turn of events.

A Note on Shifting Perspectives
Over the past two months, things are really not the same as they were when this project started- lots of loss in terms of health, wellness, and work. I realised that it was time to rethink parts of the project.


Before actually designing the dictionaries, i need to engage with some authorship, to have the right content to design for. This will involve the following steps:

Part 1.

Crowdsourcing a list of words related to design. Rather than focusing on tools, techniques, and media, we would want this list to have conceptual, abstract, notional, and contextual words- which go beyond the idea of form and function, and also look at intention, motivation, and implication.

In an ideal scenario, this would start with a brainstorming exercise, in a workshop format, where a group of designers/design students would gather around, and put together an alphabetical list of design terms.

But for the representational purpose of this project, this was done with a smaller focus group, and insights were gathered over call, text, email etc.

Another source can be the indexes of design books related to social design, design politics, and design & tech.

This process, and the resulting list, is outlined here.
Part 2.
(& Recontextualisation)

The words are then sorted and aligned with the scenarios they fit in. 

Authorship comes into play when meanings are not taken as-is, but modified, restructured, and reinterpreted for the reimagined futures that these words are situated in. 

For instance, the word “surveillance” might mean one thing, but how does the government justify it, or how does the corporate-technocracy appropriate it? How does the resistance resist it?

The text is in progress here.

Part 3.

Each dictionary then becomes a diegetic prototype for the scenario it comes from, and also a comment on the form-content relationship.

Even for graphic communication artefacts, form follows function to an extent. We make form follow fiction:

What would make the govt issued dictionary look “official”?

What would make the corporate issued dictionary look corporate?

What are the semantics of visual design which make things look the way they do, and give a sense of authority and “authenticity”?

What would the resistance look like, if normativity and conformity look a certain way?


To further contextualise each fictionary into the scenario it inhabits, what supplementary materials do we need?




OTHER DESIGNED (or maybe non-designed) ARTEFACTS to translate the concerns into products.

And to adapt this into a pedagogical tool, what are the possible pedagogical interventions that this project could feed into?
The presentation for the project can take on the following narrative:

Who does design serve?

The Government

We go on and introduce the Ministry of Design, and the Fictionary issued by the Government.

This is supplemented by posters dictating the mandates of the Ministry of Design, and newspaper clippings, advertisements etc.

Big Businesses

Then we narrate the takeover of the ministry by big corporates. Diegetic prototypes like posters, and fictional products outlined in the document are introduced.

This in concordance with the corporate manual-styled fictionary.

The People

Here, we introduce the manifesto of design resistance, and the verbal and visual language of rebellion by design.

How to make it a pedagogical tool? How to increase engagement? How to present this?