A-Z Popular Blog Design Search »
Related Guides

4 Types of Critical Design

 , July 05, 2018 updated on February 24, 2023
Critical design is the development of non-obvious design concepts that challenge the status quo. This can be used to provoke new ideas for systems, products and services. Critical designs aren't typically useful or commercially viable but may serve to inspire a leap forward in value with completely new ideas. The following are common types of critical design.


Fiction often inspires the future. Critical design may take the form of a story or media presentation that challenges base assumptions about the present, past or future. For example, a critical design could use counterfactual thinking to tell a story of how history would have unfolded without the presence of fossil fuels on the planet.


Speculating about the future. This can involve projections based on current trends or suggesting that current trends are about to suddenly end or reverse. Speculation can also involve thought experiments such as how the future will view current designs.


Developing theories and models that challenge design conventions. For example, suggesting a completely new method to capture holograms that would improve quality if it could be implemented. As a design concept, implementation details can be completely omitted such that the design may be impossible or have disadvantages that would become clear to implementers.


Critical designs may be developed as prototypes that are typically designed to challenge assumptions as opposed to a typical prototype that is intended to be a potential product. For example, an interior design that challenges conventional forms and design principles.
Overview: Critical Design
The development of non-obvious design concepts that challenge the status quo.
Attributed to
Anthony Dunne’s book Hertzian Tales (1999)
Also Known As
Related Concepts
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


A comprehensive guide to design.

Functional vs Non-Functional

The difference between functional and non-functional with examples.

Technology Design

A list of common types of technology design.

Speculative Design

The definition of speculative design with examples.

Interaction Design

A guide to interaction design.

Customer Journey

A complete guide to the five stages of the customer journey.


The definition of coolness with examples.

Design Analysis

The definition of design analysis with examples.

Color Characteristics

The basic characteristics of colors.

Design Innovation

The common types of design innovation.

Design Innovation Definition

The definition of design innovation with an example.

Design Fiction

The definition of design fiction with examples.

Design Composition

An overview of design composition with examples.

Is Complexity Good

An overview of complexity and its pros and cons.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map