The term critical design was first used in Anthony Dunne’s book Hertzian Tales (1999) and further developed in Design Noir (2001). There are many people doing this but they have never heard of the term critical design and they describe their work in their own way.

屏幕快照 2016-02-21 下午6.43.29

•What is critical design?

“Critical design takes a critical theory based approach to design.This kind of design uses design fiction and speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, conceptions about the role of objects play in everyday life. “The critical design is more about values and an attitude, a position not a method, a way of looking at design and imagining its possibilities beyond the narrow definition. Critical design is a shift from designing for how the world is to designing for how the world could be. How the world could be is about generating many different possibilities for the future. Critical design asks the questions “what if?” and “what else?”. “Naming it Critical Design is simply a way of making this activity more visible and emphasising that design has other possibilities beyond solving problems.”

In my view, critical design is to thinking how things could be. It is about doubt and pushing thoughts further and it is about challenging assumptions, generating questions, making problems and framing problems sometimes. It is not about solving problems or making beautiful things. It may be  borrow much from art in the design process but it is definitely not art. Besides, “it’s worth noting that this process does not always immediately lead to functional objects, but rather, its use value is tied to the production of long-term thinking, empathy, and ultimately, more questions. ”

•How it different from conventional approaches to design?


This is Dunne and Raby ’s A and B of design on Core 77. On the left, design as it is; on the right, design as it could be. Critical design is about what design could be and the conventional approach is called affirmative design which reinforces the status quo. According to Dunne and Raby:”The relationship between critical and conventional design might be likened to the difference between conceptual art and sculpture. The former is more about the idea than the artwork; its aim is to provoke. The latter is about the artwork itself, its beauty, its execution, its take on representation or abstraction.” Critical design is more about thinking about the possibilities and finding the issues.


It is also a little dark but not for the sake of it.  Dark, complex emotions are existed, critical design draw people’s attention to a scary possibility in the form of a cautionary tale. This is not about to design things worse, it is about to challenge the normal world which people have been accustomed and to make people thinking in another angle.

•Some critical design project:


This is a critical design project which named “Future food” and designed by Vick Cai.

This project is a prototype about how and what we eat in the future. With the rapid development of the word, people become more and more busier and they have less time to eat. This project shows us a solution that how people eat faster and saving time in eating. And designer also generates a question: “Will your work be your everything in the future?”

This project shows how the future could be and provokes people to consider the question “Is it a really good thing in the future?”

Technological Dream Series 1: Robets / Dunne and Raby (2007)



United MicroKingdoms: Digitarians / Dunned and Raby (2013)


Overall, critical design is about thinking about problems more than solving problems.


Critical Design FAQ: Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby [online] Available at: http://www.dunneandraby.co.uk/content/bydandr/13/0&gt Accessed 28 January 2016]

Resonate (2013) Speculative Everything – Anthony Dunne [online] Available at: https://vimeo.com/65074246 [Accessed 28 January 2016]

Vick,C. (2014) Critical Design – Future food [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33S7XpaEm5c [Accessed 28 January 2016]

Artsy (2015) In Defense of Critical Design [online] Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-the-l-a-artist-run-galleries-you-need-to-know [Accessed 28 January 2016]

Domus 949(2011) States of design 04: critical design [online] Available at: http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/2011/08/31/states-of-design-04-critical-design.html [Accessed 28 January 2016]





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