A mindset and an attitude rather than a set practice, it may be useful for a designer to review values and agendas before diving into the craft of Critical Design.
Critical design is not about criticism, that is something art often takes care of. Critical design is not art, because art, although commercial, is far too removed from our everyday lives and interactions. Critical design is, however, refusing to accept that the current state of things is the sole alternative, and suggests different realities, often placed in the near future. It won’t necessarily present an ideal or optimistic future, but suggests one possibility, presents it in a way that is tangible and easy to relate to and therefore easier to discuss and debate. Critical design aims to engage the viewer by being slightly off normal, provoke by touching at something familiar and stimulate thought by saying that this is a possible future, and make the viewer question whether this is desirable.
I have collected a few works, which I really like, from Dunne and Rabys web site. The first four images from the left are from an exhibition installation they did for the Science Museum in London. When, in the future, our current energy sources may no longer be available, at least not to todays extent, these may be possible alternatives. The combined lunch and poo box for example, suggests the importance of self-/ domestically generated fuel may gain.
Further, cutting edge science (which is where Dunne & Raby prefer to be) is currently experimenting with bacteria from living matter as energy fuel, and based on this, one may imagine a future where you feed your TV with pet animals. For obvious reasons, this concept comes with the book Avoiding emotional attachment to animals purchased for use as energy.
These concepts make me think of a comment made by Erling Dokk Holm in an article (in Norwegian) where he comments on how Norwegians, under the impression that electricity is free, but in times where we need to start looking for alternatives to the North Sea oil and gas, are protesting wildly against windmills, seeing it as they are an eye-sore in the otherwise beautiful Norwegian scenery..
The last three images feature the Faraday Chair from Hertzian Tales and the Electro-Draught Extruder from the Placebo project; both providing for a growing anxiousness around our increasing exposure to electromagnetic radiation and the Needy Robot; one of four, and exploring other, possibly more human sides of robots.
These projects all have some messy, dark, possibly irrational human fear or worry as a starting point (except for the robot maybe) and applies fictional or cutting edge technology to find hypothetical solutions. The reason I like these so much is probably based on a recognition of the emotions dealt with, as well as a fascination by my own reactions to them.