The Experience of Making Friday, June 8th, 2018

Frictional Design Practice

Anja Groten, Designer and PhD Researcher, Hackers & Designers

This talk argues for friction as a space for producing and assessing design as a complicated matter of steadily changing combinations of entangled processes.


Introduction: Critical Design practice – an intentional practice: from result oriented analysis to looking at encounters of struggles during design processes.

Detecting friction: Looking at exemplary works to carve out moments of friction: before, during and after the design, all the while drawing parallels and distinctions to existing concepts and theories.

Conclusion: The possibilities of frictional design: an attempt to counteract consensual practice and innovation-driven modes of critique

Since the notion of critical design was first introduced by Dunne Raby the domain of design developed autonomous qualities. Instead of looking for approaches to problem solving, design became a practice capable of questioning, investigating and creating problems. Critical Making, as coined by Matt Ratto and Garnet Hertz (See also the position paper of the Dutch Critical Making consortium:, enabled means to develop understanding and criticality through processes of breaking open and appropriating technologies and further emancipated the design discourse. The proposed talk aims at building upon ideas of critical design practice and critical making, more specifically discussing possibilities and limitations of friction within design and design processes. Taking into consideration already established methods and inquiries such as co-creation, open design, participatory design, as well as concepts and theories of agonism, dissident, disobedient, and adversarial design the talk aims to establish a space for analysis and assessment of critical design by looking at the process of making.

While introducing the notion of friction to the design context, means and methods for detecting friction will be proposed. By comparing similar concepts and methods discussed by other designer and theorists, such as agonistic practice and designing (with) conflict the talk intends to draw parallels as well as important distinctions of frictional design, aiming at a nuanced discussion of the subject matter. Concrete examples of work and working processes will exemplify friction implemented in unintended as well as tactical ways. The examples include works created in the intersection of the fields of art and design, soft and hardware development, some incorporating critical approaches to making and methods of hacking others representing an entrepreneurial orientation in designing digital technologies. The criticality that is being explored, produced and tested hereby aims to move away from innovation economies into in the realm of processes of everyday resistance, such as “silent non-compliance, (…) and negotiation” (J. C. Scott, 1985 cited in: Accessed 17 December 2017).

Concluding the talk aims to argue for frictional practice as a possible space for production and assessment of design as a complicated matter and steadily changing combination of entangled processes rather than putting central finished objects, their functionality, impact and (economic) value.