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Something Julia mentioned briefly in our discussion last Thursday stuck with me, and I wanted to bring it up – basically this notion of the audience or a cultivation of appreciation for aspects of a concept being important for conceptual design to be done at all. Put succinctly, there has to be a place to see these concepts. And moving it out of strictly the academic/curatorial level and into everyday homes breaks whatever barriers or walls of thought are brought in by even those institutions.

Now Julia had said something about the ‘everyday artist’ who works at some job which doesn’t necessarily fit his goals in order to pay the bills, but creates all sorts of artwork in their spare time. I think to make it a bit more specific, it should be someone who does this on the side, not as their job, and they should be ‘un-trained’ (Not have gone to school for it). And what I’m wondering if this sort of amateur level work is somehow necessary for a audience or a culture to build up around these designs.

In each of the other fields that Dunne and Raby bring up I believe this amateur level work is at play to some extent. Graphic Design, Fashion, Film and Game are all pretty obvious. Vehicles and architecture are more about remaking/remodeling than creating from scratch, but still I think the thought is there.

I think we’re beginning to see this in Product design/IT – Notions of everyday design, as explored in Methods, takes in this amateur aspect. Participatory design in a step in the right direction. The Maker Movement is probably the closest and best thing to this amateur product/IT design culture, and it’s growing in leaps and bounds… but still I don’t think it’s quite made the pervasive mark on our everyday to make ‘doing design’ be seen as a thing.

Once it does, or if it can, we as a society can begin to comment on the highfalutin top of the line designs that are only shown at trade shows, research papers, or inaccessible labs. Not to say that the expert opinions need defer to the masses, but at the moment it seems there’s only talk on one side of the table.


I have been thinking about how a lot of critical designs only exist as concepts. So some might say they don’t really exist, and yet, they are a great tool to stir our thoughts, and conversation starters. When I think of expensive sketches, I don’t necessarily mean in the sense that it has to be constructed, but it just has to be proposed. I like this idea. A lot. But it is not just the proposal, but the discussion, going through the process of designing this (even as a hypothetical), that makes us learn about our present, and expose the status quo in a way.

According to Dunne & Raby:

“The purpose of critical design is to make people think… Design needs to be closer to the everyday life, that’s where its power to disturb comes from… it suggests that the every day as we know it could be different, that things could change …things can be used and that we ask questions – questions about the here and now.”

So how can I bring this into my professional endeavours. Let’s say I get a client that is looking to improve the existing website. The ask is easy. So where would me throwing critical design concepts at my team come into play? I think there will be an interesting balance between cocepting and ideating just for kicks, before going back to the same design paradigms (the client wants a website, or the client wants an app), and slowly transition into different options, and being comfortable exposing the client to these, and who knows, maybe they like pushing those boundaries slowly. I like to think that if I make a point of always try concepting through a critical design lens, I will become more attuned to the boundaries of our design paradigm, and will perhaps be able to better serve the end user, by not subjecting them to a role I believe they should play in the system/service I help design. But I can already see the struggle. A constant uphill battle of satisfying the ask, and not adding to the world another senseless design, part of the trend, because at the end of the day, products sell (ughhh). But can we use what we learned in the process, taking those proposals, and going from the proposed future, to the present we are shaping?

My dad passed this article along to me the other day, referencing the movie Her in the context of critical design. I thought this passage was especially relevant to our recent discussions on Dunne & Raby:

At best, Her is a perfect example of what designers Dunne & Raby call “Critical Design;” it uses “speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life,” interrogating and opening up the secret language between products and consumers. What’s unique about Her is that though its speculative objects, the OSs, circulate as commodities, they can never be owned. Samantha has never loved anyone as much as she loves Theodore, but she is also in love with 641 other users. When Samantha disappears after that great breakup line, I want to read it as a critique of capitalism. She challenges the notion of private property by personifying its marketing ideology. Samantha exacerbates the contradiction we’ve all felt after purchasing some over-the-counter-culture.

I’m interested in what people think of the author’s portrayal of Dunne & Raby in this context; it strikes me as sort of a “passing reference,” without obviously going into a great deal of depth, but seeing the film as a critique of capitalism piqued my interest somewhat. What do you guys think?

” Ideals are not measured by whether they conform to reality ; reality is judged by
whether it lives up to ideals . Reason’ s task is to deny that the claims of
experience are final- and to push us to widen the horizon of our experience
by providing ideas that experience ought to obey . ”

This was an awesome and powerful quote. I do agree with Susan Neiman, reason has constricted designers in a small box that we can’t seem to get out of. Design is mostly now focused on appeasing the market and strictly producing items for the market. Most of the fun parts of design has disappeared; we can’t think outside of the box called ‘reality’ and just go crazy with design. To me, design is a way of conveying ideas to others that are willing to hear you out. Nowadays, we allow society’s voice of need take us out of saying what it is just to follow a certain structure. Then too as Dunne and Raby pointed out, what is needed for this field to flourish is money and need (pg. 21). Something interesting that Dunne and Raby pointed out was that,

“Customers need to be flexible, forgiving, and adventurous.”

I believe this is true for all scopes of conceptual design. What customers think of nowadays is if something will benefit them in the here and now. Will it be faster, smaller, and make them more lazy? Most customers are not interested in the experimental ideas of conceptual design. They do not have the patience and they themselves are wrapped in the reality scope and will therefore not be interested in the imaginative realm.

Another point that I believe Dunne and Raby brought up that I totally agree with is that most designers, not just in the conceptual design, but in most areas of design; operate in the ‘perfect world’ (pg. 18). All we seem to do as designers is think of the most perfect situation which takes the interest out of design. To me, design is being flexible with the imperfect. I believe the conceptual design field goes berserk in the imperfect realm. It takes the imperfect and explores the ‘what ifs’, it may even take that imperfect and make it even more imperfect. It has no market to target, it’s just purely for the heck of it. I LOVE IT!!! I truly enjoy and sympathize with the idea of conceptual design. Perhaps it’s because I’m a person that is willing to step out of the norm and think of things that could be, but conceptual design sounds truly awesome. (<—Capstone senses are tingling…)

I don’t know why, but I seem to be stuck thinking about Critical design. I am still considering what Jeff said in the last post, and I am thinking about what maurice said. I will talk about those in a different blog post.

This one is more of a quick reflection on what we learned in class today, and how it may reflect on the role critical design has to play. Or at least the role I think Critical design plays.

Danto talked about artistic innovation: when art makes us perceive the boundaries. When we talked about the drift table, Danto’s argument resonated with me. What if the role of critical design is to perceive the boundaries? It is method for us (hoity toity designers and the non-designers) to discover and propose new paradigms.

When I think of Critical design, this is the aspect that I really connect with. Challenging the boundaries and exploring what hasn’t been. It is the same reason I like defamiliarization so much. Every now and then, someone should ask the question why do we do the things we do? Do they still make sense? How has the context changed? How can we adapt to the new context?

I guess I am a rebel without a cause and Critical design to me is ammunition to challenge everything! To boldly go where no designer has gone before!

As I read the Danto reading, 2 main thoughts came to my mind: Dewey and Critical Design.

For the part of the critical design thought, here are some key quotes that triggered the thought:

I seek to identify the importance of the art I discuss not in terms of the art it influenced (or which it was influenced by) but in terms of the thought it brought to our awareness.”  (p 63)

Warhol’s art, in film and elsewhere, goes immediately to the defining boundaries of the medium and brings these boundaries to conceptual awareness. ” (p 67)

“Andy took every conceivable definition of the word art and challenged it. Art reveals the trace of the artist’s hand: Andy resorted to silk-screening. A work of art is a unique object: Andy came up with multiples. A painter paints: Andy made movies. Art is divorced from the commercial and the utilitarian: Andy specialized in Campbell’s Soup Cans and Dollar Bills. Painting can be defined in contrast to photography: Andy recycles snapshots. A work of art is what an artist signs, proof of his creative choice, his intentions: for a small fee, Andy signed any object whatever. This list could be protracted indefinitely. To be sure, Warhol’s way was clearly a via negativa. He did not tell us what art was. But he opened the way for those whose business it is to provide positive philosophical theories to at last address the subject.” (p 71)

We can see interesting aspects in the quotes above. First, an artifact, design, piece of art, critical design (any), brings to the foreground specific thoughts to our awareness. With Folkmann and the Dunn and Raby’s poop lunch box (and others), we saw that the medium and execution of the artifact, along with the aesthetic coding embedded in the artifacts help the artists increase our awareness to specific topics. It is interesting to see also bringing about the “boundaries of the medium” as a way to expand the problem space (my mind is now going to Defamiliarization as well). So then, is the merit of art and critical design that they bring to the foreground specific ideas/feelings/awareness (which of course goes beyond aesthetics perceived sensorially)? I really like the thought that Warhol did not define art, but simply opened up the space for discussion on what art is. It makes me think that the discussion itself is art. So, was our discussion in class art or was the artifact leading to the discussion art? (I lean towards the latter, but we somehow “changed” a bit from having the discussion itself).

As for the Dewey thought:

In a way, it seems that the underlying argument that Warhol could have made is that everyday life is aesthetic, but not everyone is in-tune or aware of the aesthetic qualities of everyday life. Dewey was an advocate for aesthetic experiences outside of museums, in our day to day activities and environments. Some of the key quotes I associate to this thought are:

“Pop art is a way of liking things. So it was not just the ordinariness of ordinary things that came to constitute his subject matter. His art was an effort to change people’s attitudes toward their world.” p 74

“It could only be framed when it became possible to accept the ordinary and to see that something could be art and yet look as much like an ordinary object as one ordinary object looks like another-the way Brillo Box resembles Brillo boxes as much as they resemble one another… Philosophical understanding begins when it is appreciated that no observable proper- ties need distinguish reality from art at all. ” (p 80)

“Unlike Duchamp, Warhol sought to set up a resonance not so much between art and real objects as between art and images, it having been his insight, as my aphorism from Kierkegaard implies, that our signs and images are our reality.” p81

In a way, I feel the social agendas of Dewey and Warhol align in a way. Dewey wanted to create a better life through aesthetic experiences, as an active, participatory relation to artful material and collective activity. So it requires an active subject. I would argue then that Warhol was trying to make people more active subjects in everyday life, more in tune with the beauty of everyday objects. Throughout the text we see references to a “difference between art and reality”, so “something could be put forward as art which so verged on reality that the two were undistinguished by any interesting perceptual difference.” I find this thought interesting because art in a way has to be grounded in our reality to be able to effectively bring to the foreground specific aspects of our culture, ideologies, etc.  So the two should not be differentiated in my opinion.

So I am very lost trying to explain or even understand what is Critical Design. I am writing this blog to just work through my own thoughts and see what I end up with. Basically this post is just an exercise to stretch out my brain.

I think the argument I am going to try and make is the Critical design is  a design aimed specifically towards designers. Specifically designers who live a sort of privileged life.

When I think about the Teddy bear blood bag, if it is an example of critical design, then I feel the targeted audience is actually designers. It is making a claim that we need to think about how we are effecting the future. How we are only looking at energy through a very limited scope. I think of their “human poop energy future” and I am reminded of the ways villagers in India create energy. Because of economic reason, they actually use animal feces to create power. Commonly known as Gobar-gas in India.

I am not arguing if this method is feasible or not, I am arguing how using poop as an energy source would not be considered critical design in villages in India.

I am going to stop here for now as I need to do more research to back up claim. But let me know what you think. I want to work on this more!


Check that out. Its on the market, and its fully functional. Yet, I think this makes us think in similar ways that critical designs do. Is this simply a product, or is it critical design?

I was really intrigued by our art vs design conversation in class that I’m started to wonder if this is a great topic for a final paper. Art vs Critical Design, Art Function vs Design Function. I’m drawn into aesthetics and trying to find exactly what it is I want to talk about. Would love any suggestions or conversations around this.

Here are a few notes I took during class I thought were interesting.

Call attention to ordinary objects
-make us think about or see beauty in everyday objects
-respect everyday objects

-What is art, what is design?
-Is critical design not art?
-What creates the difference between critical design and art?
-non-instrumental value vs instrumental value

The other night I stumbled onto artist Stephanie Syjuco and was really taken back by one of her projects,  “Modern Ruins (Popular Cannibals)” 

“Syjuco takes beloved archetypes of modernist furniture and reproduces them dump-style to explore a range of ideas related to production, consumption, class, and economies. These works continue her investigation of copies and counterfeits, while also examining Modernism’s promise of utopian progress and the reality of that vision today.”

Here is a photo of the semi-completed work.


What I find interesting is the idea of counterfeit being art. Do what degree is counterfeit art? Could these crafted pieces be place by the real items but hold more meaning?

I’m going to try do do something a little bit different with this post; I’m making a pass over the reading this morning before class, and then post a followup after I’ve had a chance to read other’s responses. – J

Attempting to take apart Folkmann’s excerpt on aesthetics is an exercise in patience, more than anything else. By the time I reached the end of the reading, it dawned on me that it is actually very well organized; the topic is just divided into so many sub-classifications, it can be difficult to hold the whole concept of the paper in one’s head at once. At the outset, Folkmann makes a concerted effort to identify aesthetics “as a relationship between subject and object rather than an essence that can be physically grasped, determined, and circumscribed,” (Folkmann, p27) which to me suggests that his appreciation of aesthetics is closely tied to perception of an artifact. However, he also elaborates that his discussion of aesthetics in design “will not go through the traditional discussions of art as a medium of aesthetic appreciation and communication,” which separates it from simply a curatorial critique of a collection of designs. (Folkmann, p28) By scoping his examination of aesthetics in this way, Folkmann is able to explore the space of aesthetics as it relates to experience.

Folkmann divides his overview of aesthetics in design into three key distinctions (or dimensions) of aesthetics;

…I claim that design is important by virtue of its sensual effects (the sensual-phenomenological platform), its ability to challenge our understanding (the conceptual-hermeneutical platform), and its capacity for creating and construing meaning on the level of society (the discursive-contextual platform). (Folkmann, p32)

The first of these, the sensual-phenomenological, is centered around form and appearance, and how our sensory perception of an artifact influences both ourselves and the objects that are observed. But Folkmann criticizes the dichotomy between subject and object, and instead embraces the idea of ambience. The key tenets of ambience involve the subject/object relationship, but as a coherent whole rather than distinctly separate entities, and also can be manipulated through aesthetics. (Folkmann, p36) Taken holistically, the sensual-phenomenological allow us the “means of structuring the appearance and the surface that signify ‘world’ in our perception and cognition.” (Folkman, p38)

The conceptual-hermeneutical platform is the construction of “meaning” in aesthetics. Meaning in this sense is comprehension; whether a design or design aesthetic makes it easier or more difficult to understand its intended purpose. With this follows the opportunity for aesthetic objects to provide us with new lenses for understanding the world in an artifact-mediated way, “as schemata for a new kind of perception and understanding that transcends everyday perception.” (Folkmann, p46) Folkmann goes on to demonstrate this idea through a series of examples of chairs, which although they contain a large amount of “meaning” in their physical forms, nevertheless retain some degree of utility and function inasmuch as they are objects to sit on.

The final category of aesthetics Folkmann identifies is the Contextual-Discursive (or Aestheticization) platform. This is the “ethical aesthetics” approach to design, which incorporates the means of “distribution [of] the sensual with an emphasis on the overall impact of aesthetic media” (Folkman, p57). To me, this is the part of aesthetics that deals with the “ecology” of design: where and how the design situates itself in the context of the world around it. It is also viewed here as a mediator, through its material and sensual impact, to guide a person towards its intended experience. I found it interesting that Folkmann chose to include the critical design movement within his discussion of aestheticization, as a form of disruption; this to me raises questions not only about sensual and materiality, but also about proposing new models of structuring experience. (Folkmann, p66)