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Design Fiction

Design Fiction

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Published by: api-23858547 on Mar 02, 2010
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Design Fiction
A short essay on design, science,act and ction.
 Julian BleeckerMarch 2009
Design is everywhere these days. It gets attached to anything, it seems. It’sa way o distinguishing commodity rom considered cratsmanship. Look around a bit and you’ll nd many kinds o endeavors — service design,business design, product design, experience design, industrial design, circuitdesign, nance design, research design — that have had design stitched ontodesign with a simple hyphen.I might imagine that such happens rather generically. Te hyphen is atrope, a grammatical meaning-making code that says
we haven’t entirely worked through what it might be to do
simultaneously.We’ll work it out, but know this — we’re trying to do something dierent,and clever, and creative and thoughtul.
Design Fiction
Design allows you to use your imagination and creativity explicitly. Tink as a designer thinks. Be dierent and think dierent. Make new, unexpect-ed things come to lie. ell new stories. Reveal new experiences, new socialpractices, or that reect upon today to contemplate innovative, new, habit-able utures. oss out the bland, routine, “proprietary” processes. ake somenew assumptions or a walk. ry on a dierent set o specications, goalsand principles.(My hunch is that i design continues to be applied like bad ashion tomore areas o human practice, it will become blanched o its meaning overtime, much as the application o e- or i- or interactive- or digital- to any-thing and everything quickly becomes another “and also” type o redundan-cy.) When something is “designed” it suggests that there is some thoughtulexploration going on. Assuming design is about linking the imaginationto its material orm, when design is attached to something, like businessor nance, we can take that to mean that there is some ambition to movebeyond the existing ways o doing things, toward something that adheresto dierent principles and practices. Tings get done dierently somehow,or with a spirit that means to transcend merely ollowing pre-dened steps.Design seems to be a notice that says there is some purposeul reection andconsideration going on expressed as the thoughtul, imaginative and mate-rial crat work activities o a designer.Tere are many ways to express one’s imagination. I’ve chosen airly ma-terial ways over the years — engineering, art-technology, a small bit o  writing. Nowadays, design occurs to me to be especially promising alongside o the other orms o creative materialization I have explored. It pro-vides a way to embed my imagination into the material things I’ve beenmaking because it looks to be able to straddle the extremes o hard, coldact (engineering) and the liminal, reective and introspective (art). Designplays a role across this spectrum in various specic ways. Tere is no single,canonical design practice that is ound across this range. But, just as there is“computer design” or “database design” or “application design” as it pertainsto the world o science and engineering; just as there is design to be oundin the routines o art making, whether adherence to style or genre in such a way as one might reer to art and design, we can say that design, i only the word but probably much more, is a practice with the ability to travel and betaken-up in various creative, material-making endeavors. Probably because
Playing o design in the Dutch context broadly, I ound this adver-tisement at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in November o 2008, amonth ater most people mark the rst widespread global econom-ic quakes resulting rom many years o very poor, negligent and, insome cases, criminal “nancial design.” Te advertisement couplestwo particularly Dutch historical and cultural idioms: capitalism anddesign. Te advertisement is aspirational, but the apg Group tag line— “
Tomorrow is today
” — is a painully ironic bit o wisdom.
Fiction is evolutionarily valuable because it allows low-cost experimenta-tion compared to trying things or real 
Dennis Dutton, overheard on witter

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