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Speculative and Critical Design: Summer School

Speculative and Critical Design: Summer School

London College of Communication
Taught by
Created by the founding Dean of the UAL Creative Computing Institute, Tobias Revell


Theme for 2017 -The Limits to Growth: Design, Expectation and Reality.
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.Building on our work last year, the Speculative and Critical Design Summer School 2017 takes as its starting point The Club of Rome’s 1972 report The Limits to Growth as a way to critique contemporary issues in design, culture and society. Specifically, looking at how proposing and enacting futures builds cultures of expectation that can conflict with reality. In a world of post-truth, fake news and failing economic models and institutions what role does design have as part of the feedback mechanism for models of the future?

We will explore the limits of prediction, modelling, forecasting and systems thinking in shaping the designed world in addition to exploring how narratives of progress are produced and shape material culture.

The 6 day 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.

Full Description
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.

Student Work
Take a look at some short films created by students exploring the course’s key themes of future focused thinking and The Limits to Growth: Design, Expectation and Reality.

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 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'.

Find out more about service design in LCC blog post'Those who set the briefs design the world'by the course tutor Rob Maslin.

"I really enjoyed exploring the future mundane and how to carefully place subtle clues along a story line. I think this really changed my view on world-building and how to appreciate fictions with these backgrounds." - Arthur

"I especially enjoyed the variety of perspectives and disciplines presented to us through the speakers. This was extremely valuable as it gave us expertise we usually may not have access to and also introduced us to a diversity of new concepts thatcan now be applied to any practice. I absolutely loved this inter-disciplinaryand hybrid approach to learning." - Ania

"This new-found way of thinking has given me an opportunity to imagine future scenarios or parallel worlds that I would have never thought of otherwise. Only an expanded mind can aim to find alternatives to existing capitalist driven structures, and to design for sustainability." - Molshree

"I loved the number of speakers, I didn't expect that you would have so many - every day we had speakers and it wasn't just a different introduction to another aspect of speculative and critical design, but it was a window to all these different practitioners to see how they work and how they think. The accessibility to them, given that how inaccessible this field of study can be, that was pretty cool."

"We had many different people [teaching,] who were all professionals with different perspectives."

"I’m taking with me a deeper understanding. I want to take back what I have learned in the tool kit and apply it in my own personal work."

Hear more feedback from students in these interviews on Vimeo.

Read detailed reviews by students in the article Limits to Growth on Medium.

Image Gallery
Take a look at our Flickr Image Gallery to see inside the classroom during one of previous Speculative and Critical Design Summer Schools.

Tutor Description

This course has been created by the founding Dean of the UAL Creative Computing Institute and will be delivered by members of the academic team.

Ben Stopher is the founding Dean of the UAL Creative Computing Institute. Ben is an academic and a designer with extensive experience as a practitioner and creative consultant in digital design and computational practice.

As a researcher, he explores how globalised digital culture shapes design practice and his doctoral research explores models of distributed and augmented ideation through speculative prototypes and user research.

Ben re-joined the university to establish the CCI from UCA, where he was Executive Dean: Faculty of Art, Media and Communication Design. Prior to that he served as a programme director at LCC, where he led the Interactive and Visual Communication Programme, encompassing interaction design, visual communication, games design and animation.

In this time Ben was the UAL academic lead for the EU funded (INTERACT mobility project. (INTERACTive Studios & Innovative Networks for Future Design Careers) and was responsible for responsible for London’s first maker faire.

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.

Available dates

If no dates are showing then please Enquire about this course and we will contact you when new dates are published.