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James Auger: Reconstrained Design
Design practice always happens under a particular set of forces or conditions, commonly known as constraints. These constraints may be straightforward and indisputable, such as a physical or material quality—the force of gravity or the tensile strength of a structural beam. They can be the subject of discussion and compromise, such as a financial cost or a timeline. They can relate to aesthetic or cultural considerations, such as a fashion trend or social movement. Constraints of this basic type influence the design process by providing tangible limits that can be adhered to or challenged.

But constraints can also be more abstract, hidden, or complex, meaning that they are easily overlooked by designers. The pervasive nature of these grander constraints results in a narrower range of options than we might otherwise experience. For example, national systems of infrastructure, such as energy grids or roads, have become so normalised that they constrain designers to simply designing for or within the dominant paradigm.

This presentation will explore some of the more dominant oblique constraints and the ways in which they negatively influence the role and purpose of design. And then describe how design, practiced outside of these constraints, can facilitate more inclusive, holistic, and environmentally responsible futures.

James Auger is director of the design department at the École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay (ENS) and co-director of the Centre de Recherche en Design (ENS / ENSCI Les Ateliers). His work explores ways through which practice-based design research can lead to more considered and democratic technological futures.

Jun 9, 2022 03:00 PM in Vienna

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