Critical Design & Designed Activism Seminar

I’m currently putting together a series of short workshops based around my Masters’ thesis in Critical, Adversarial and Political Design. These are approaches for designing artifacts and experiences which raise questions rather than solve perceived problems. Adversarial Design, in particular, is concerned with creating spaces where antagonistic viewpoints can coexist and be redesigned for mutual benefit. I believe that these approaches can provide a way of producing more specific commentaries on our current world and will develop a participatory process for responding to our concerns.

My initial plan would be to present a casual seminar and discussion about these design approaches and how they overlap with forms of considered art and activism.

In the seminar I intend to cover:

  •   Critical & Adversarial Design: History & examples of work
  •   Exploration of why these approaches are interesting
  •   My own work in these areas
  •   Participatory Design
  •   Discussion


In the workshops I would like to explore:

  •   Generating ideas
  •   Prototyping concepts
  •   Co-Design
  •   Design thinking
  •   Future directions
  •   …and more


Agenda & Outcomes:

  •   To develop a process for generating critical responses and reactions. A means for artists and creators to quantify and focus their message
  •   To develop an environment for participatory design within A4’s exceptional knowledge base
  •   Create potential for a responsive art/design collective
  •   Share knowledge on creating ideas and concepts, and how to quickly prototype them


Anyone and everyone is suited to these approaches; all you need is an open mind and a sense of adventure. The seminar will hopefully draw some of you into the idea of exploring these processes further and will help me get an idea of how to move forward with the workshops. All are welcome and the broader the skill-base/crazy-base, the better.

All who are interested, at least in the seminar, send me an email here:


I can then send on some examples of the work that will feature in the talk and get the process moving. The talk will most likely be on a mid-week evening for about an hour. Let me know if you have any preferences and I will create an event page.

Camera Restricta: More disobedient technology

Camera Restricta by Phillipp Schmitt is a 3D printed augmented smartphone which stops the user from taking photographs of an area that has had too many pictures taken of it already.

Having seen the huge clusters of geotagged photographs surrounding tourist hotspots, it’s refreshing to think of a visual recording device which forces the user to seek out the road less travelled to find places which haven’t been digitally ‘appreciated’ so much. Perhaps it would also make the user reflect on why they have such a need to record and share all of their experiences and to, maybe, just be in the space and not feel obliged to record.

The next iteration could be a camera app which uses facial recognition to force the user to stop taking pictures of the same faces; restricting selfies and making the photographer seek out new subjects (and/or friends). Knowing that the camera could reject a face, would make pictures more thoughtful and meaningful.


Antenna: Personalising Police Violence

Here’s another interesting prototype. Antenna by Dmitry Morozov.

A police truncheon that texts the officer’s mother every time it is used.

Simple: arduino, piezo and GSM shield.


Hey QT: Music For An Imaginary Product

DrinkQTI often write music for imaginary futures. Mind you, my current imaginary future seems to be some dystopian rockabilly desert-scape…

Here’s an artist/product that I’ve recently stumbled across, thanks to the Cool Freaks Wikipedia Club. It holds an interest for me in that the project has similarities and parallels to Speculative Design and video prototyping.

QT seems to be an alias for multiple people (performance artist, musician, vocalist) and lands in a crossover between wide-eyed sparkle-pop, futurism and product placement.

I appreciate that it is the sound of last Summer, but some of this whole project’s values and characteristics have stuck in my head. After a little digging, it seems that the energy drink which is being pushed (both directly and quite abstractly) does exist, but in a limited form.

Fronted by artist Hayden Dunham, produced by SOPHIE and pulled together under the interesting PC Music record label. Each facet is a kind of a misdirection for the greater good.

On first investigation, I saw that Ms. Dunham’s wikipedia page listed her as a performance artist. This fact had me wondering what the connection with an energy drink might be, and if there was some interesting and critical angle.

After listening to the song, my first question was as to why this Texan artist was singing in a pitched-up London accent? The whole thing started to separate into layers and jarred with me in the same way that new methods often do before they become normalised. I’m learning to appreciate this uncanny valley sensation as a pointer towards interesting things.

We have a performance artist miming to a song, produced by a member of a new collective label, which has an M.O. of presenting new artists as if they are already famous, and promoting an EDM-friendly energy drink which may, or may not, exist. What’s not to like? Well, the music isn’t my cup of tea, but the concept is certainly interesting. It all reminds me a little of the KLF’s The Manual or their fake Kalevala label in Finland. Not quite the Yes Men’s level of disruption and appropriation, but something to consider in a cultural context, nevertheless.

Although details about this collaboration are obviously blurred, I’m intrigued to find out how it all came together and where it will go in the future…

Vice article on PC Music

Dazed Article

Prototyping in SolidWorks

Rendering of my first User Centred Design product: FocusLAMP.

Rendering of my first User Centred Design product: FocusLAMP.

One of the modules I took for the second semester of my MA is a product design course based on SolidWorks software.

It’s been a beast of a learning curve and I’m still far from being fully proficient, but I am starting to reap the rewards. SolidWorks allows me to render photo-quality images, models and animations for my upcoming prototypes. This means that I can be as speculative as I want with my designs and still produce amazing renderings of what the final product will look like.

I see this process as helping greatly with my upcoming workshops. My video and paper prototypes can get their concepts across much more directly and participants will have an easier time imagining their interactions.