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Book: Speculative Everything

Updated: May 12, 2021

Speculative Everything is an intentionally eclectic and idiosyncratic journey through an emerging cultural landscape of ideas, ideals, and approaches.

Critical and Speculative design was popularised by the authors of this book, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby through their firm, Dunne & Raby. Hence, speculative everything is a gateway into the world of critical and speculative design. It is essentially a collection of speculative and critical design projects through which Dunne & Raby convey their idea of design. Their idea of design (A) as opposed to the commercial idea of design (B) that majorly prevalent across the world and increasingly becoming 'the design' is presented below.

Design has become so absorbed in industry, so familiar with the dreams of industry, that it is almost impossible to dream its own dreams, let alone social ones

They introduce something called conceptual design which is about providing an alternative context to design that is driven entirely by market forces. It is a space for thinking, trying out new ideas and ideals. Conceptual designs are not only ideas, they are also ideals.

Ideals are not measured by whether they conform to reality but is judged by whether it lives up to ideals.

Reality of design today is that it's a largely a narcissistic and commercial endeavour, while its role can be so much more, like challenging social norms, satire, critique, raising awareness and reflection. We should not just imagine new tech, materials and manufacturing but also look at things like narratives, meaning and need to rethink the everyday life at large. Design is more than just a corporate tool of creation.

“Critical design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions, and givens about the role products play in everyday life.”

The book also emphasises the role humour plays out in design and offers certain tips on how to effectively include them and conshumourism has taken a leaf or two from this tree of knowledge.

Dunne & Raby and Michael Anastassiades, Huggable Atomic Mushrooms

The book also draws attention on the consumer culture and questions as to how when we discuss large issues we do so as citizens and yet it as consumers at marketplaces that we largely shape our reality.

Rather than thinking about architecture, products, and the environment, we start with laws, ethics, political systems, social beliefs, values, fears, and hopes, and how these can be translated into material expressions, embodied in material culture, becoming little bits of another world that function as synecdoches.

Speculative Everything is the go to book for anyone looking to take critical and speculative design seriously and it is just a beginning. The book still slightly suffers from the white gaze of the world. Luiza Prado questions the critical in speculative and critical design here.

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