Dr Michael Smyth & Ingi Helgason: Critical Design - Restoring a Sense of Wonder to Interaction Design
5 Apr 2012 - 12:12pm
Will the promise of Critical Design deliver after the disappointment of ethnography? Interaction Designers expected ethnography to reveal rich insights that would inform the creation of better products, services and experiences. However the pressure of solution-focused design practice turned out to be a poor fit with ethnography’s concern with meaning and cultures. In response, Critical Design is emerging as a new strategy for exploring the space that lies tantalisingly beyond the current and the now.
At the core of ethnography is observation and therein lies the appeal to Interaction Designers. The disappointment has been in the failure to translate from the rich descriptive picture of ethnography into the generation of requirements. This expectation reveals a misunderstanding as to the purpose of ethnography. Ethnography uncovers meaning, it does not identify problems or solutions. Interaction Designers have responded by taking a more ‘designerly’ approach to requirements generation by considering both the problem and the solution in a more fluid and intertwined manner. In this vein, Critical Design presents design as a catalyst or provocation for thought. Through ‘design fictions’ the approach attempts to challenge assumptions and preconceptions about the role that products and services play in everyday life. A series recent of workshops will be discussed that have blended aspects of ethnography and Critical Design to identify the future paradigms of interaction in the urban environment.