Cognitive Futures 4 Reflection

Reflective writing: a basic introduction (pdf)


Reflective writing: Conative Futures

To conclude our study sessions considering alternative ways of thinking, we focused on critical design. Over these few weeks we have been using critical theory to unpick how our eyes and minds analyse the world, specifically focusing on design and sustainability. Critical design aims to change the preconceived notions of design and the way it is taught to future generations. We began by reading a chapter form ‘Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming’ by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby.

I was interested by the idea of ‘Dark Design’. ‘Design is assumed only to make things nice; it is as if all designers have taken an unspoken Hippocratic oath to never make anything ugly or think a negative thought.’ (p.38) This prevents design from addressing human problems, the negative parts of life that we all struggle with. Critical design does deal with these ‘dark’ or negative themes, but not just for the sake of it. The hope is that by defusing/dealing with these problems we can begin to challenge them.

‘Critical design might borrow heavily from art’s methods and approaches but that is it. We expect art to be shocking and extreme. Critical design needs to be closer to the everyday; that’s where its power to disturb lies. […] if it’s too weird, it will be dismissed as art, and if it’s too normal, it will be effortlessly assimilated.’ (p.43)

I found the above quote very interesting. As a fine artist, although I often come across works which are designed to be shocking, I am not a huge fan of them. Within my own work I prefer a subtler approach; I aim to be thought provoking, but not shocking for the sake of it.  Could it be said that I go against the ‘fine art norms’? The aim of fine artists is to explore themes and ideas which can only be described/represented in a practical form. But, fine art itself is fueled by the aim to change perceptions of ideas. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do things, therefore is it possible to have a ‘critical’ approach to fine art?


(Dunne, A. & Raby, F., Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, The MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2013, pp. 33-45)



Author: Crisiant Williams

I am a Fine Art student, studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

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