Design fiction is a design concept based on narrative. This is often used to challenge the status quo with speculative and critical designs that are intended to provoke new ideas. Design fiction makes use of storytelling, predictions, models, theories and prototypes that outline ideas for systems, products, services or design principles and processes. The following are common types of design fiction.
Most design fiction outlines design at the concept level. This allows for imaginative designs as the details of implementation don't need to be worked out.
Science Fiction PrototypingThe use of a science fiction stories to outline design concepts. Imposing constraints on a design to explore creative possibilities. For example, a design concept for intercontinental high speed trains that must be competitive with aircraft in terms of travel time and energy consumption.
Design PrinciplesExploring a design principle. For example, designs for self-powered vehicles based on the principle of design to the edges such that they are accessible to a broad range of people including people with disabilities.Considering a situation or analogy that simplifies a complex problem or posses an interesting question.
A thought experiment that changes facts about the past to imagine how things could have been different.Applying design to areas that aren't traditionally viewed as design problems such as politics, culture and society.Designs that explore the complex variables in a system.
Exploring things that are unknown in order to provoke thought. For example, designs that tackle unresolved questions in a science or domain.
Unknowns UnknownsDesign concepts that uncover new unknowns or that explore the concept of unknown unknowns.Design fiction may challenge functional fixedness, the tendency for people to view objects and spaces as having a static set of uses.
Proposing seemingly contradictory ideas in order to shake confidence in the status quo. For example, a design that explores both the value of less is more and less is a bore.Stories designed to create disagreement and discord in order to smash status quo thinking.
Pitching a system that has obvious negatives in order to generate resistance.Exploring pessimistic scenarios as a means to improve design ideas.Painting an inspiring picture of what people can be in order to make the status quo feel hopelessly inadequate.Designs that deal in emotion to create a sense of wonder as opposed to conveying ideas.Concepts that challenge the complexity of systems or products to suggest there is a way that is both simpler and more valuable.Exploring extremely complex solutions as a rejection of minimalism.Design fiction may suggest that current, proposed or theoretical systems will have unintended consequences.Showing how things got worse slowly such that people accepted what was once unacceptable.A common theme of design fiction is that current designs suffer from a failure of imagination such that they assume the future will resemble the past.Design fiction that compares processes of emergence with designs that are planned upfront.
Deux Ex Machina Stories that paint a bleak picture and then suddenly solve all problems with a surprisingly twist.A problem analysis technique that can be used to tell stories. Asks the question "why?" five times in succession to uncover fundamental motivations, needs and causes.A common approach to design fiction is to use slice of life storytelling that depicts people interacting with designs in scenarios that are familiar to the target audience.
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