Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CCDN 271: Assignment Three: Make a Claim and Substantiate It

The influence Critical Design can have on Affirmative Design and its actual validity as a game changer is, in my opinion tenuous, at best. With Affirmative Design propped up by both the capitalist and consumerist worlds it would seem improbable that Critical Design could harness enough momentum to topple such a well-established and well entrenched stronghold in the market place.

Dunne & Raby state that one of the biggest misconceptions of Critical Design is “that it is only commentary and cannot change anything” (2013). Critical Design is closer to the everyday than art, and that is where its power to disturb current societal trends comes from. If Critical Design were too weird, it would become art, and yet if it is too normal, it would become part of normal life, assumed into society, and become part of normality (Dunne & Raby, 2013).

The essay will argue that Critical Design has little capacity to instigate massive change. Critical Design is unable to lead with consumable examples, as debates relating to critical design often rarely leave the elitist and relatively rarefied art galleries and institutions they are displayed in (Yauner, 2009). Critical Design at its best only challenges the status quo with provocative questions and ideas, due to the nature and scale of its work (Dunne & Raby, 2013).

I will assert that for change to really happen, it has to be generated through popularity or through corporate power - affirmative processes that effectively change the status quo, not challenge it. This essay asserts that big corporations truly hold this sort of power, as “One incremental change for them (the Home Depots and Nikes of this world) becomes massive change for the entire industry” (Mau, pp.26, 2004). Big businesses; such as Home Depot, have the ability to control the market and impose new policies because of their corporate bulk (Mau, pp.26, 2004). This essay contends that Critical Design should not be acknowledged or credited with anything other than complex strategies for suggestion, as the capacity for change comes from popularity, and critical design is due to its nature an unpopular sector of design (Barab, 2004).

Starting with Klaassen & Neicu’s paper CTRL-Alt-Design, this essay will look at the concept of open design; where product design is outsourced to the consumers themselves. The designers have to relinquish control, allowing for a maker society where rather than selling products, the designers create the means to make the products. “They must become metadesigners” (Klaasen & Neicu, 2011). According to Coughlan, design itself has the power to change the world, although some people would argue that design has also been instrumental in endangering the planet, reminding us to exercise a degree of caution (2010). The expansion of the maker society will usher in a new age, where design becomes a true force for positive change, (Klaasen & Neicu, 2011) and that design “may have its greatest impact when it is taken out of the hands of designers and put into the hands of everyone” (Brown, 2009).

Nominating Massive Change as the intersecting theme, this essay will look at the global impact created by an evolving method of design thinking, underpinned by some of the afore-mentioned sources. Design theory is given an increasingly different role in a changing capitalist world with respect to consumers and producers, as the roles of the two are beginning to change significantly (Klaasen & Neicu, 2011). The essay will provide a valid critique of Critical Design in a world dictated by consumers and powerful corporations, while also looking at the flipside of critical design and what roles it proclaims itself to fill. Understanding why and how massive change occurs, and what elements have influenced the world of design to instigate said massive change, is the key to realising the true potential or non-potential of critical design as a game changer.


Barab, S. A., Thomas, M. K., Dodge, T., Squire, K., Newell, M. (2004). Critical Design Ethnography: Designing for Change. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 35(2), 254-268. doi: 10.1525/aeq.2004.35.2.254

Brown, T. (2009, July). Tim Brown Urges Designers To Think Big [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_urges_designers_to_think_big.html

Coughlan, P. (2010). How Might Design Catalyse Massive (Positive) Change? The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, (37), 34-36. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/497142247?accountid=14782

Klaassen, R., & Neicu, M. (2011). CTRL–Alt–Design. In Proceedings of the Design History Society Annual Conference Design Activism and Social Change.

Linn, R. & Hayman, J. (n.d.). Can Businesses Actually Make The World Better While Making Money?. Co.Exist. Retrieved from http://www.fastcoexist.com/

Mau, B. & Institute without Boundaries. (2004). Massive Change. London, U.K.: Phaidon Press.

Melles, G. & Feast, L. (2013). Design Thinking and Critical Approaches: The Pragmatist Compromise.

Yauner, F. (2009). Can Critical Design Create a Debate, if it just keeps Talking to Itself?. Retrieved from http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/

No comments:

Post a Comment