Introduction to Speculative Design Practice – Eutropia, a Case Study



As the part of the exhibition Design fiction: Eutropia – Introduction to Speculative Design Practice small educational booklet/reader about speculative design practice was published.

As the part of the exhibition Design fiction: Eutropia – Introduction to Speculative Design Practice small educational booklet/reader about speculative design practice was published. Editors are Ivica Mitrović, Marko Golub and Oleg Šuran. Booklet also includes interviews collected during UrbanIxD project and Interakcije workshop (Anthony Dunne, James Auger, Nicolas Nova, Tobias Revell, Dionysia Mylonaki, Liam Healy, Tuur van Balen, Nicholas Mortimer, Michael Smyth).

Booklet is free to read and download! ( / PDF)

From the text “Introduction to Speculative Design Practice” (by Ivica Mitrović)

Speculative design is a critical design practice that comprises or is in relation to a series of similar practices known under the following names: critical design, design fiction, future design, anti-design, radical design, interrogative design, discursive design, adversarial design, futurescape, design art, etc. For instance, design fiction is a potential genre of speculative design practice, and “critical design”, as defined by Dunne, is a possible approach.

Speculative design is a discursive practice, based on critical thinking and dialogue, which questions the practice of design (and its modernist definition). However, the speculative design approach extends its critical practice one step further, towards imagination and visions of possible scenarios. Speculative design is also one of the most representative examples of the new interaction of disciplines. It is therefore interesting to see how new designers view their practice: they call themselves trans-disciplinary, post-disciplinary or even post-designers, quite often even simply – designers. However, occasionally they do not even indicate that their perspective is design at all.

By speculating, designers re-think alternative products, systems and worlds. Designer and teacher at the RCA James Auger says that this design (i) moves away from the constraints of commercial practice (directed by the market); (ii) use fiction and speculates on future products, services, systems and worlds, thus re- flectively examining the role and impact of new technologies on everyday life; (iii) and initiates a dialogue between experts (scientists, engineers and designers) and users of new technologies (the audience).

Although the speculative approach to design can primarily be seen as an attitude or position rather than a traditionally defined methodology, especially since many designers practice the approach without using this term for it, we can still point out some distinctive characteristic of the approach and determine a basic framework. Since speculative design continuously interacts with other related practices, fields and disciplines, it uses any methodology that is accessible and appropriate at any given moment. For instance, it legitimatly uses tools, techniques, instruments, methods, genres and concepts such as the, fictional narratives, film language, screenplay, storyboard, user testing, interviews/questionnaires, games, but also media and pop culture phenomena, such as the hidden camera, elevator pitch, observational comedy, stand-up, etc. Anything considered suitable at a given moment is legitimate. The process can be split in a
few steps: the first one implies critical design research to define a design space.
 After this, speculative concepts and ideas are generated and further developed
to finally articulate forms which are suitable for communication.

From the text “‘What if?’ – Two or Three Notes on Speculation” (by Marko Golub)

On the one hand, “speculative” really implies a relatively broad scope of connotations, and on the other, it also implies a kind of precision and even exclusiveness of its own contextualisation. In its basic meaning, in the context of analysing design as a practice, this term unambiguously highlights its active analytical, intellectual and discursive dimension, which is a direct link to the notion of critical design. Another important aspect results from film and literature traditions of so-called speculative fiction whose capacity to imagine possible realms is shared with the idea of so-called design fiction. And finally, the very practice of “speculation” in design is almost unavoidably inspired by possibilities of certain variance, noise and unbalance of the dynamic relations between societies, technologies and humans, where it shares the same focus with interaction design.

At the first glance, one might think that this implies nothing but opening 
another niche for a new type of specialization, worse still, binding the design
 practice and discourse to an even deeper, more hermetical and exclusive design
 meta-language; however, for the time being it seems that this is luckily not the 
case. Since it is not oriented only to mass production of real physical products 
but rather to an opportunity to re-think conditions in which such products 
might become part of our everyday lives and the resulting consequences/im
plications, speculative design often uses narrative techniques found in video, film, television or the mass media in general. Namely, speculative design pro
totypes (or prototypes that emerged as the result of speculative approach) are
 extremely interdependent with the imagined context for which they have been
 initially designed, and therefore, to become understandable, they require their
story to be told in a clear and intelligible manner that is closest to our everyday 


Nakladnici / Publishers – Hrvatsko dizajnersko društvo / Croatian Designers Association, Odsjek za dizajn vizualnih komunikacija Umjetničke akademije Sveučilišta u Splitu  / Department for Visual Communications Design, Arts Academy, University of Split; Urednici / Editors – Ivica Mitrović, Marko Golub, Oleg Šuran; Tekstovi / Texts – Ivica Mitrović, Marko Golub; Uz sudjelovanje / With contributions from – Anthony Dunne, James Auger, Nicolas Nova, Tobias Revell, Dionysia Mylonaki, Liam Healy, Tuur van Balen, Nicholas Mortimer, Michael Smyth; Prijevod / Translation – Mirna Herman Baletić ( Language Lab ); Zahvale / Special thanks to – Dejan Kršić, Mirjana Jakušić, Gwyan Rhabyt, Luciana Škabar; Dizajn / Design – Oleg Šuran; Tipografsko Pismo / Typeface – Thema & Thema Moderato ( ); ISBN 978-953-6778-10-2.