graduate media design program

Making, making things, and making things up each describe what designers do. The last of these – often the domain of crackpots and visionaries – has found new relevance for a generation of designers reacting to a rapidly changing world.

Speculative practices invite the use of fiction to produce as much as to provoke. New and renewed interest in framing research with narrative models, writing “design fiction,” creating critical or philosophical objects, and designing for future scenarios or technological capabilities acknowledge the increasingly uncanny correspondence of the real and the imaginary.


made up is as if.
Speculative work can begin by conjuring a previously non-existent history, context, use, user, technology, or material. Adopt an absurd proposition, play it straight.

made up is may be.
As various forms of media, communication, and global travel continue to accelerate change, designers and artists are compelled to respond to conditions for a near future that may be very different from the present. Like the archer aiming ahead of the flying goose, it is becoming imperative to assess conditions for action with a forward-seeing eye.

made up is the future now.
Arguably, fiction is necessary for the creation of any (intentional) future reality.

made up is faking it.
Lately, we need to make the best of what is available, to make it up as we go along. Perhaps to fake it until we make it.

made up is real.
Erich Auerbach famously wrote that literature is made of two primary modes: the rhetorical tradition (as found in Homer) of unambiguous description of the foreground and the present, and the tradition of “realism” (in the sense of emotional realism) that communicates with multiplicities of meaning, implications of the unexpressed, and with a “preoccupation with the problematic.” In The Odyssey, a goat on the battlefield is just a goat. In the “realist” tradition however, significance – and a form of emotional familiarity – is implied by the very deliberateness of the goat’s presence: it is made up. Similarly, some recent design and architecture balances the matter-of-fact with the matter of not-necessarily-fact, resulting in work that is – to the user or the occupant – more real.

made up makes believe.
Narratives create the comforting illusion of structure in a chaotic world. They help us explain the complex or abhorrent. In turn, these myths become surrogate fields for addressing the conditions from which they were inspired.

made up makes aware.
Speculation can reveal the effects actions in the present may have on possible futures.

made up allows perfection / allows disaster.
Aspirational, utopian social narratives – and cautionary, dystopian worlds – are equally possible in fiction, and permit both constructive indulgence and reflection.

made up is fantastic.
Fictions can entertain through the sheer delight of witnessing ingenuity.

made up for a made-up world.
How else to imagine the virtual world, still in its infancy? With the aid of software, we can bring a dream to life. We can make the preposterous, or the sublime, or the spectacular appear real. Lately, we find ourselves working backwards to simulate in the physical world what the computer made ‘real,’ in the virtual.

made up is more fun.
Worthwhile work requires occasional liberation from the strictly rational. Many of the most valued contributions to both high and popular culture originated from fevered, non-rational processes.

made up, now we get along.
Finally, we suggest a reconciliation, a make-up: practical modes with playful ones, wants with needs, deliberateness with chance, the desired with the abject, the loved with the lost.

—Tim Durfee, MADE UP curator

image: Syd Mead