Tuesday, April 9, 2013

CCDN 271: Assignment Two: Identifying a Standpoint & Support

The influence Critical Design enforces over Affirmative Design and its actual validity as a true 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.

The essay will argue that Critical Design has little capacity to instigate massive change. Critical Design is unable to lead with consumable examples and at best only challenges the status quo with provocative questions and ideas. I will assert that for change to really happen, it has to be generated through popularity - affirmative processes that effectively change the status quo, not challenge it. This essay asserts that big corporations truly hold this sort of power, as suggested by Linn & Hayman’s article Can Big Businesses Make the World Better While Making Money? This essay contends that Critical Design should not be acknowledged or credited with anything other than complex strategies for suggestion.

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 having to relinquish control, allowing for a maker society where rather than selling products, the corporations sell the means to make the products. This essay will also look at how design as a practice has been affected, but not truly changed, by Critical Design. It will also look at how Critical Design is too inwardly focussed to create a noticeable grassroots effect, as supported by Yauner’s investigation Can Critical Design Create a Debate, if it just keeps Talking to Itself?.

Nominating Massive Change as the intersecting theme, this essay will look at the global impact created by an evolving culture of design and the design method; supported by Melles & Feast’s research Design Thinking and Critical Approaches: The Pragmatist Compromise, as well as Coughlan’s article How Might Design Catalyse Massive (Positive) Change?, where the design theory is given an increasingly different role in a changing capitalist world with respect to consumers and producers. It will provide a valid critique of Critical Design in a world dictated by consumers and powerful corporations. The essay will also seek to understand why Massive Change occurs, and what corporations have influenced the world of design to instigate said Massive Change. The primary text I will use is Massive Change by Bruce Mau and the Institute without Boundaries.


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

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. (2012). Can Critical Design Create a Debate, if it just keeps Talking to Itself?. Retrieved from http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/

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