Critical Design with Dr. Austin Houldsworth

Austin a critical design product designer, spoke about his education and the projects he was doing; he was sponsored by Barclay’s after going to them with an idea about money about an alternative method of use as part of his research to pursue a Ph.D. at the Royal College of Arts, London. We were shown videos of concepts he had designed and built in his workshop (or his studio); which demonstrated the product he made as a method of payment for things. Before making the product, he talked about his perspectives on critical design. Through his research into money, and a future cashless society he looked at the history of money right back to the beginning and the association with Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher, and Polymath, and the development of money which dates to 350 BC. On to the more recent ‘Bretton Woods system’ which ceased in the 1970s when Nixon changed the rules. The system was agreed by various countries that the US dollar would be convertible into gold bullion. Austin is the founder of ‘Future of Money Design Awards’.

Through his practice, speculative design and critical design are his method approach before designing and making products. Whilst at the RCA, Austin was taught by Anthony Dunne who specialises in critical design and wrote a book on the subject. Austin describes critical design as looking for a gap in possibilities and questioning the system, then proceeding to come up with ideas and concepts for the future. Austin also mentioned an e-quaintance that studied critical design at LCA and went to work for ARUP a global leading engineering firm.

Speculative design is an approach that is described by the use of the future cone example, a brainstorming tool for exploring the future here is a link for further insight,time%2C%20likelihood%2C%20and%20desirability. Around this point Austin mentioned Professor Stuart Candy, I looked on the internet and found he’s published ‘Design and Futures’ see more here

We also looked at popular cultural references and were shown a David Bowie interview about his vision of the future of music and the internet seen here Austin said ‘he was cleverly thinking ahead when he sold Bowie bonds,’ through his knowledge of the music industry and foresight on how things would go through the internet in the future. We went on to David Baddiel and his documentary on ‘Social media, anger and us’, this can be found here it critically questions future use of social media. There are 4.5 billion users of social media.

Austin spoke about some research projects he is doing, he is designing a new form of mobile phone based on the social theory of identity, a place-based theory of identity product, change, and identifier. Austin has researched sim cards’ IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) and how some forms of communication we had, have now been lost. How can we get that back? How can we unplug from certain areas of communication on a mobile phone? and so on. We were shown some examples of prototypes he had been working on and the ideas behind them. Critical design is an interesting subject I will research and learn more about.

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