Participation in Speculative Design (2020)

Design Research / Design Theory and Methodology / Speculative Design / Participatory Design


Speculative design is an approach that, through speculation into the possible, aims to challenge the status quo, explore the implications of emerging issues, and frame debate around matters of concern [1]. While the goal of speculative design is in engaging publics in debate and exploring alternatives to the dominant narrative, the speculation as remained exclusive to the designer as an author [2] and most of the work is disseminated in gallery spaces, limiting the reach and depth of the debates generated [3].

However, over the last decade, different projects and practitioners have emerged that push speculative design work into new contexts and aligned with a participatory ethos. This project tries to understand better the intersection between participatory and speculative design and the challenges associated with this participatory turn.


P-> SD is a critical toolkit designed to explore the space of participation in speculative design. It has been created to support designers in combining these two approaches by providing a set of questions for reflection about the process.

The final outcome is showcased in this website and is the result of eight semi-structured interviews with design practitioners:


Additionally, you can also read the full thesis here.

The project was done in collaboration with design fiction studio Imagination of Things and  is the result of a six months research project for my master’s thesis on Strategic Product Design at TU Delft.

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* Illustrations based on the work of Marteen van den Heuvel, Jude Beck and Daniel Arsham respectively

[1] Auger, J. (2012). Why Robot? Speculative Design, the Domestication of Technology and the Considered Future Dunne,
A., & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative everything: Design, fiction, and social dreaming. The MIT Press.
Haylock, B. (2018). What is critical design? In G. Coombs, A. McNamara, & G. Sade (Eds.), Undesign (1st ed., pp. 9–23). Routledge.

[2] Bowen, S., (2010). Critical Theory and Participatory Design. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. CHI ’10. ACM, 10-15.
Prado O. Martins, L. (2014). Privilege and Oppression: Towards a Feminist Speculative Design. DRS 2014: Design’s Big Debates.
Ward, M. (2019). Critical about Critical and Speculative Design. Speculative Edu.

[3] DiSalvo, C. (2009). Design and the Construction of Publics. Design Issues, 25(1), 48–63.
Malpass, M. (2012). Contextualising Critical Design: Towards a Taxonomy of Critical Practice in Product Design

[4] An example of this can be seen in the the work of the Extrapolation Factory.

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