Within the last couple of years there has been an increased interest in Design Fiction as a new practice or approach within design research (Bleecker, 2009; DiSalvo, 2012; Grand and Wiedmer, 2010). Ever since the advent of modern design, designers have used fiction as a technique for experimenting with alternative models for society or for criticising existing ones.
The imaginary urban projects of the Futurists proposed a city where machines enabled radically new forms of architecture and infrastructure, and in the 1920s Norman Bel Geddes envisioned what at that time must have looked like an utopian idea: gargantuan irliners transporting people across the Atlantic. The ability to use design fictions for speculating about alternative presences or possible futures is at the core of design practice.
What is new is that it is now claimed also to be a viable road for producing valid knowledge in design research (Grand & Wiedmer, 2010). In this paper, we argue that in order to establish design fiction as a promising new approach to design research, there is a need to develop a more detailed understanding of the role of fiction in design experiments.Order now
Some attempts have already been made. DiSalvo (2012) thus accounts for two forms of design fiction in terms of what he calls ‘spectacle’ and ‘trope’. While DiSalvo makes a valuable contribution, his treatment is too limited for understanding other forms of design fiction. Grand & Wiedmer (2010) propose a method toolbox for practicing design fiction in design research, but in fact they say very little about the particularities of this approach.
Only that it may take the form of ‘criticising existing technologies’ as in critical design, ‘asking unanswerable questions’ or ‘reinterpreting the past’ by transforming what is into what could be. We offer a typology, which allows us to explain design fictions according to 5 criteria. The typology is premised on the idea that fiction may integrate with reality in many different ways in design experiments. Since design fictions can take many forms and variations, it is simply impossible to cover them all in the stroke of one paper.
Our typology is built up from 6 case projects, all of which use fiction in design experiments offering alternative models for designing the urban environment. This typology should be thought of as an initial first step towards building a more exhaustive framework. We start out by defining design fiction and discussing the role of fiction in relation to experiments in design research. Next, we account for how design fiction is manifested in the 6 case projects. On the basis of our case analyses we present a table offering an overview. Finally, we critically discuss our typology in relation to related work.