Critical design brings together various disciplines, creators, and forms of expression, enabling designers to move away from strict notions of the “form follows function” model, and instead to examine new questions and new problems that equally reflect society’s current moment and provoke movement beyond that status quo. It’s worth noting that this process does not always immediately lead to functional objects, but rather, its use value is tied to the production of long-term thinking, empathy, and ultimately, more questions.
To spotlight just such an example of critical design, Dunne & Raby’s United Micro Kingdoms
(2013), an “alternative England” where the country is divided into four regions based on different ideologies, examines the influences of these ideologies on a society. The pair chose to visualize this imaginary world, and more specifically the ways in which alternative ideological systems construct different societies, through transport. The vehicles of the region Digiland, a right-wing authoritarian society, resemble kitchen appliances—simple, charming, and utilitarian. The Digicar represents the ideal transportation solution for a society obsessed with freedom of choice at any cost, even if it’s an illusion. Though these cars resemble nothing of modern day transportation, their form reflects a real attitude that is much more familiar.