From Experiment to Social Action: The shift in critical design



Design Education Strategy


  • critical design, collaboration, engagement, social awareness, design education

Critical design has been philosophically positioned as that which opposes the affirmative role of design as the status quo, offering itself as social critique located in the formalised spaces of museums and galleries. This paper contests that reasoning by firstly showing that in the contemporary sphere, criticality in design now resides in a more socially aware and humanistically engaged space. Design propositions can be expressed from the perspective of modes of enquiry that ask both What if? and How else? questions in the vein of Malpass and Slotnick. These then propose alternative ways of considering design not as a way of seeking answers but as a way of asking questions. Furthermore, participatory engagement and an understanding of the importance of community involvement in generating solutions have become normalised. This paper addresses this shift in thinking around the role of critical design, questioning how this may be addressed in design education such that it challenges affirmative design and foregrounds social awareness.

Keywords: critical design, collaboration, participatory engagement, social awareness, design education


DEFSA conferences

DEFSA promotes relevant research with the focus on design + education through its biennial conferences, to promote professionalism, accountability and ethics in the education of young designers

Design Educators of South Africa...

With your support & active membership, the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa can positively influence the young designer's formative training and promote all facets of design across Africa