Speculative and Critical Design Summer School

Engage with speculative and critical design through practice and theory. Learn from some of the leading contemporary design thinkers. Grow your network in an important and emergent field of future-facing design. Speculative and critical design looks at ways that speculation and future visions can be used to inform and critique our relationship with technologies and the designed world...

Taught by: Ben Stopher, Tobias Revell, Nicolas Nova, Paul Graham Raven, Georgina Voss, Catharine Rossi, Anab Jain, David Benque, Dan Lockton.


Engage with speculative and critical design through practice and theory. Learn from some of the leading contemporary design thinkers. Grow your network in an important and emergent field of future-facing design. 

Speculative and critical design looks at ways that speculation and future visions can be used to inform and critique our relationship with technologies and the designed world. Speculative and critical design offers a toolkit of methods and techniques that are increasingly important in a range of design disciplines for developing thoughtful and rigorous products and services, beyond suggesting a simple set of methods.

The two-week course will establish the major tenants and principles of the speculative and critical design field. You will be invited to enter a dialogue with other designers about the nuances and potential applications of a new cannon of projects and products that aim to inform the contemporary design landscape.

Based in our industry standard design prototyping studios and using London as a base you will take part in practical workshops, carry out field-work in the city and take part in lectures from some of the leading thinkers and makers. Speakers will be announced in due course.

During the first week we will cover practice and theory workshops complimented by lecturers on key subjects and workshop leaders. In the second week you will involve completing a project culminating in a mini-exhibition to be held at LCC. 


Speculative and critical design is now a central part of the current design landscape, working both as an interdisciplinary toolkit and a field in and of itself. It is a vital cornerstone of the contemporary design vocabulary for any established practitioner or student alike. Opening up a space for designers to produce work that critically explores the consequences of mass production, mass deployment and mass communication, speculative and critical design practices are relevant to many forms of contemporary design.

Working with both practice and theory, this course will establish the major tenants and principles of the speculative and critical design field as well as invite participants into a dialogue about the nuances and potential applications of it. Participants will learn how to quickly prototype and demonstrate complex design and technological concepts through the use of design fictions and diegetic prototypes as well as a gain a critical understanding of the limitations and potential of this language as a tool for change. 

The course will locate speculative and critical design by exploring key themes of future focused thinking. These include:  infrastructure and systems, the anthropocene and network politics. 

Topics covered

  • An overview of the field of Speculative Critical Design, definitions, key concepts and practitioners
  • Overview and discussion of key themes in future thinking - infrastructure and systems, the anthropocene and network politics
  • Research techniques and methods for SCD
  • Horizon scanning, foresight and methods and tools for future thinking
  • Rapid prototyping and conceptualising for SCD
  • World-building and narratology techniques for design
  • Design fiction methods and media across film, photography, print, models and performance

Course Outcomes

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • Have a concrete and critical understanding of the field of speculative and critical design, its methods, key practices and central principles.
  • Be able to conduct future-facing design research and ideation
  • Be able to create demonstrative design fiction projects that communicate complex design, technological and socio-cultural ideas
  • A completed speculative critical design project in the form of film or prototype
  • Possess a new toolkit of techniques and methods for integrating with a range of practices

Who Should Attend

This course is aimed at established practitioners and postgraduate or higher students from a range of disciplines: architecture, art, design, fashion, policy, urbanism, technology, social sciences, media and cultural studies. No particular level of practical or technical experience is necessary but some design experience will be useful. 


Advanced. You will be and established practitioner, a recent graduate (post-grad) or current PhD student looking to embed an understanding of SCD and its methods and approaches in your approach to your practice research. You will have a portfolio of design work. If you have any questions about whether the course is suitable for you please contact us.

This course will run from 4th to 15th July 2016. A full schedule will be announced soon. If you are interested in joining this course please contact us to register your interest


This course will be taught by:

  • Ben Stopher, Director of Interactive and Visual Communication and Course Leader for MA Interaction Design Communication at London College of Communication
  • Tobias Revell, Course Leader, BA Information and Interface Design and  Course Tutor. BA Interaction Design Arts (formerly Interaction and Moving Image)
  • Plus guest academic speakers and industry thought-leaders.

LCC Blog:

Read more about the new and emerging field of Speculative and Critical Design in Tobias Revell's blog post 'Speculative and Critical Design for Designers'.

Tutor information

Ben Stopher is Programme Director of Interactive and Visual Communication and Course Leader for MA Interaction Design Communication at London College of Communication

For the last ten years Ben has worked as a designer and an academic specialising in interaction design, design for interactive media and interface design.

As a designer and studio partner at Inventive & Co, Ben has extensive experience as a practitioner and creative consultant in graphic and digital design and has recently worked people ranging from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, to designers Paul Smith and Vaughan Oliver. 

Tobias Revell is a critical designer and futurist and graduate of BA (Hons) Design for Interaction and Moving Image at LCC. He’s been teaching on the course since graduating from the Royal College of Art’s Design Interactions MA, where he is also a visiting lecturer.

Tobias is a practicing critical designer and artist, exhibiting regularly worldwide, most recently at Z33 in Belgium, Ars Electronica, Science Gallery, Dublin, V2 in Rotterdam and the Venice Architecture Biennale. His work spans media from installations and prototypes to films and photography, studying relationships between territories and geographies of different structural frameworks, in particular studying rogue and outlier events and people that characterise conflict in our relationship with technology. 

Nicolas Nova is co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a research agency based in Europe and California, and lecturer at the Geneva School of Arts and Design (HEAD – Genève). His work lies at the intersection of ethnography, interaction design and futures research, with a particular interest in ubiquitous and mobile technologies and the cultural practices surrounding new media. He is interested in observing and documenting digital and new media practices, as well as creating design fictions, i.e. speculative designed objects exploring the experiences of near future. He has given talks and exhibited his work on the intersections of design, technology and the near-future in venues such SXSW, EPIC, the AAAS conference, O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, NEXT, the design week in Milano, the Institute for the Future, and the MIT Medialab. Nicolas holds an undergraduate degree in Cognitive Sciences (University of Lyon), a M.Sc in Educational Technologies and Human-computer Interaction (University of Geneva) as well as a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction from the Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL, Switzerland). He was previously a visiting researcher at the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA), and a researcher at the Media and Design Lab (EPFL, Switzerland). Nicolas is finally co-founder and curator at Lift Conference, a series of international events about digital culture, design and innovation.

Paul Graham Raven is a postgraduate researcher in infrastructure futures and theory at the University of Sheffield. He's also a science fiction writer, literary critic and essayist -- with bylines at MIT Technology Review, ARC, BBC Science Focus and the LA Review of Books -- and a critical futurist. He lives a stone's throw from the site of the Battle of Orgreave in the company of a duplicitous cat, three guitars he can barely play, and sufficient books to constitute an insurance-invalidating fire hazard.

Georgina Voss works at the intersections of design, futures, and politics, focusing on the political and infrastructural systems underpinning technology and innovation practices. She is co-founder of design and research consultancy Strange Telemetry; teaches design and politics at Goldsmiths, University of London; and writes for The Guardian 'Political Science' blog. Recent work includes Familiars (2015), commissioned by Brighton Digital Festival, with Wesley Goatley; and Senescence (2015) with Strange Telemetry, marking first active use of speculative design in UK government policy processes. Her doctorate was awarded by SPRU, University of Sussex, and she is the author of 'Stigma and the Shaping of the Pornography Industry' (Routledge 2015).

Catharine Rossi is a design historian based at Kingston University, London. She is the author of Crafting Design in Italy: From Post-War to Postmodernism (2015) and The Italian Avant-Garde: 1968–75, co-edited with Alex Coles. She has worked on exhibitions at the V&A and MoMA and curated installations on Radical Design at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and Venice Architecture Biennale. She has written for a number of publications, academic journals and magazines including Disegno, Domus and the Journal of Design History.

Anab Jain is a designer, filmmaker, and co-founder of Superflux, a critically acclaimed foresight, design and technology innovation company. Superflux consistently produces inventive work in the realm of emerging technologies for business, cultural, and social purposes. Anab’s work has won awards from Apple Computers Inc., UNESCO, ICSID and Innovate UK. Her work has been exhibited at MoMA New York, V&A Museum, Science Gallery Dublin, National Museum of China amongst others. She is a TED Fellow, a RSA Fellow, sits on the advisory boards of Broadway, Mztek, and curates the Long Now Foundation’s London Meetup Group. Anab has led technology and design innovation projects for numerous organisations including BBC, Sony, Samsung, Microsoft Research, Nokia, Govt. of UAE and Anthemis. She regularly speaks about the impact of exponential change and emerging technologies on people, society and culture. You can follow her on twitter @anabjain

David Benque - MPhil/PhD candidate – Design Interactions Research, Royal College of Art, London Consulting Researcher – Microsoft Research, Cambridge UK David holds a BA in graphic design from the Royal Academy in the Hague, the Netherlands, and an MA in Design Interactions from the Royal College of Art in London, United Kingdom. Stories are the way we grasp information and integrate it within our own world. When it comes to science and technology, they are often polarised narratives (utopian or dystopian hypes). My practice of design aims to craft more subtle, critical and ambiguous scenarios at the intersection between science and and society. Using a wide variety of media from three dimensional models to graphics, illustrations or video, and collaborating with other disciplines in the sciences and humanities, I aim to encourage the public to question and re-assess their relationships to science and technology.

Dan Lockton is a designer and researcher interested in the ways in which the design of systems interacts with people's understanding of the world, and how that leads to particular actions, particularly around sustainability. Dan is joining Carnegie Mellon University's School of Design as an assistant professor in September 2016. At present he is the research tutor for the Innovation Design Engineering PhD programme at the Royal College of Art, supervising projects in areas including second-order cybernetic interaction with the Internet of Things, designing ways to make product repair more emotionally engaging, and applications of synaesthesia within interaction design.

Dan is author of Design with Intent (O’Reilly, late 2016), based on his PhD at Brunel University, about design for behavior change; he also has a Cambridge-MIT Institute Master's in Technology Policy. He is interested in qualitative interfaces, agency, algorithms, analogue computers and cybernetics. @danlockton on Twitter.

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