All Design is Speculative?


Matt Ward says on the SpeculativeEdu Blog, that all design is speculative: 

Because we never design for today. We’re always projecting and imagining a world where our work will exist. Even design with the fastest turnaround times, from concept to production (say editorial publishing), you’re always thinking of a person in the future, using and engaging with your work. We design for a world that doesn’t yet exist. We’re constantly imagining (or making assumptions about) the conditions and possibilities of the future world we hope to inhabit. This is why, over the last decade, more work is focussed on different environmental and political possibilities, because these issues dominate our attention and imagination.

Especially now more than ever (in the midst of a pandemic) it becomes extremely difficult to predict the future. All the statistically-modelled predictions of the “end” of the pandemic have so far been inaccurate, as we moved ahead in this state of flux, transitioning to a future/ extreme-present that we did not see coming. The projects we worked on throughout the past year (and still continue to do so) are literally built on the notion of speculating how things will be, as a response to the pandemic in some way or the other. It was only now that we became aware of the multiplicity of futures. Time is relative.

So why does the term ‘speculative design’ get associated with a specific kind of work that comes out of the kind of pedaogy designed by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby at the RCA? Owing to this, speculative design has gotten associated with a certain elitism, dysfunctionality, and inaccessibility. Can we use speculation as a tool for social change? Can we use speculations as triggers for change, either on a macro or micro level? 

Can we reclaim speculation from a very specific school of design, and school of thought? Can we reframe our “solutions” as speculative interventions?

Here are a few slides from the Speculative Edu presentation by Ward and Others:

The big idea behind going for a speculative approach is to propose alternatives. Alternative ways of seeing, thinking, imagining, and hopefully, doing.