Speculative and Critical Design: approaches and influences in education

Guest editors


• Ingi Helgason, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom 

• Enrique Encinas, Aalborg University, Denmark

• Ivica Mitrovic, Arts Academy, University of Split, Croatia

• Michael Smyth, Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom 


Important dates


• Deadline: September 272021 (extended)

• Notification to the authors:  November 20, 2021 -> December 15, 2021

• Camera ready paper: to be defined

• Publication of the special issue: to be defined




Speculative and Critical Design approaches and related Design Fiction practices are increasingly finding their place within interaction design and technology design educational programmes. The guest editors of this special issue are partners in the SpeculativeEdu (http://speculativeedu.eu/) project (Speculative Design – Educational Resource Toolkit), funded by the European Union, to explore novel educational skills and practices for the 21st century, especially those focused on the critical relations between technology and people. The inherently discursive and provocative nature of the Speculative or Critical Design approach makes it potentially useful for both teaching practical design skills and for reflecting on theoretical positions and the implications of introducing designed objects and systems into the world. There are however tensions and unresolved issues, and there is much potential for further development that deserves examination, particularly in the context of education, such as practical questions around; how to develop and share sets of tools, techniques and methods for concept creation, address aspects such as worldbuilding and the communication of narratives, and how best to apply criteria for assessment in educational domains as diverse as product and service design, architecture and urban studies, fashion design, media and communication, human-computer interaction, socio-technical studies and other creative fields. Further fundamental and overarching themes also deserve deeper interrogation, for example around; inclusion, diversity and participation, the influence of global and local cultures, understandings of the past, the present and the future, and the role of primary research in creative, imaginative work. Not least is the question of how to nurture the development of constructive tactics and strategies amongst students who are facing a world where problems seem too complex, too inextricably interwoven and too intractable to begin to address. 

For this special issue we invite contributions that extend knowledge on this domain, for example, submissions addressing how educators are tackling, or aspiring to tackle, these challenges both in the classroom and in professional situations, or which discuss the collation and presentation of resources, methods and perspectives specifically in educational contexts. These can include stories and experiences along with critical reflections on the outcomes, impacts and implications. 

Discussing research carried out by the SpeculativeEDU project, Julian Hanna (2019) explains, “our survey suggests that the influence of Speculative Design is constantly expanding into new regions and disciplines as new waves of designers embrace and adopt its techniques in different aspects of their work – and the approach itself is also evolving and adapting to new realities and calls for change.” The family of speculative, critical, provocative and fictional design approaches offers techniques and entry points for interrogating relationships between people and technology. This broad set of methods and perspectives places emphasis on developing imaginative designed concepts and provocations that might or “could” exist, rather than those that “should” exist or are deemed preferable or profitable. The purpose of this process is to experiment with alternative ways of living and being, and to question current norms, assumptions and structures by speculating on the world through designed objects and systems. 

Overviews and discussion of the speculative design approach can be found in writings such as; Galloway (2013), Dunne and Raby (2013), Auger (2013) and Malpass (2017). Addressing education more specifically, Ward’s (2019) essay, “Critical about Critical and Speculative Design” discusses the challenge of cultivating a critical design education, of “sharing and building a set of processes, practices and questions that allow for both production and reflection, analysis and making, critique and creation”. This challenge has been emerging in response to the driving forces that Ward lists as; “a shift away from an aging modernist educational culture; a growing acknowledgment and frustration with the cultural impact of mass consumption; a rapidly shifting technological culture, through the invention of microprocessors, personal computation and networked communication; and a growing disciplinary awareness of the impacts and responsibilities of the designer.”



Auger, James. 2013. Speculative design: crafting the speculation, Digital Creativity, 24:1, 11-35, DOI: 10.1080/14626268.2013.767276 

Dunne, A. and Raby, F. 2013. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. The MIT Press.

Galloway, A. Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design. Ethnography Matters 2013

Hanna, J. 2019. An overview of contemporary speculative practice. SpeculativeEdu website. https://speculativeedu.eu/an-overview-of-contemporary-speculative-practice/

Helgason, I. Smyth, M. Encinas, E. and Mitrovic, 2020, I. Speculative and Critical Design in Education: Practice and Perspectives. In Companion Publication of the 2020 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS’ 20 Companion). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 385–388. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3393914.3395907

Malpass, M. (2017) Critical Design in Context; history, theory and practice. Bloomsberg

Ward, M. 2019. Critical about Critical and Speculative Design, SpeculativeEdu website.  http://speculativeedu.eu/critical-about-critical-and-speculative-design/








Topics of Interest


The indicative list of topics of interest for this special issue includes, but is not limited to:

• teaching and learning activities, methods and resources

• reflections and viewpoints on critique and theory

• assessment strategies, and program and course development

• disciplinary and interdisciplinary working

• skills development for post-education routes to employment and industry

• the use of speculative and critical design in industry, and professional training and skills development

• perspectives on globalization and the specifics of local contexts

• future directions for the field 


Submission procedure 


All submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publication.

The manuscripts should be submitted anonymized either in .doc or in .rtf format. 
All papers will be blindly peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers. Perspective participants are invited to submit a 8-20 pages paper (including authors' information, abstract, all tables, figures, references, etc.). 
The paper should be written according to the IxD&A authors' guidelines .

Submission page -> link
(when submitting the paper please choose the section: 'SI: Speculative and Critical Design: approaches and influences in education')

For scientific advices and for any query please contact:


• i [dot] helgason [at] napier [dot] ac [dot] uk


marking the subject as: 'IxD&A special issue on Speculative and Critical Design: approaches and influences in education'.