What is the temporality of the design process? There is a moment of production, a blank period of distribution and installation as the object goes out into the world and that’s it? There is however at least a dual temporality in production: the actual processes of design, consultation, marketing, etc., and the anticipated, virtual time of the realization of this process in the anticipated use of the designed object or system. The possible futures that spring to mind could be a simple yes / no: does the object, image or service configure its users in sufficient numbers to make the investment and production worthwhile? The behaviours and activities that have been coded and built into that device will be realized or they won’t – or they’ll be negotiated, adapted and fitted in..
Design always has this forward facing temporal dimension, anticipating an object whether that’s a printed page or a piece of furniture or a complex technological system – it’s something that doesn’t exist yet but that hopefully will. We can talk about ‘speculative design’ as a distinct approach, a self-reflexive attempt to imagine the bringing into being or setting into train processes towards a radically new object system or experience. But really that’s only one point on a spectrum. What isn’t design? If we’re making objects that are exactly the same then as existing ones that isn’t design, merely copying or ongoing manufacturing (unless of course these existing objects are going to be repurposed in a different environment). By designing innovation is taking place at some level and in some aspect.
Design is not only ‘predicting’ the future but a process of an ongoing and unfolding shaping of it. The ‘instrumental fantasies’ of marketing and advertising prepare expectations, frame research, and develop and open up markets. But also, every step in the process of designing and making is an opening up of historical possibilities, and the shutting off of others. This is a less punctual and more durational temporality, a time in which moments of design and testing / iteration are continuous. So on the one hand design is rarely ever a simple projection of an individual designer’s imagination, genius or creativity into a chosen medium and then realized in a market place or environment in which it is used. It’s always a technical process and a mediated process.