Snapchat: Critical design?

Although Snapchat has gained a reputation for silly uses, I would like to argue that it could actually be a piece of critical design:

Critical Design uses speculative design proposals to challenge narrow assumptions, preconceptions and givens about the role products play in everyday life. It is more of an attitude than anything else, a position rather than a method (Dunne & Raby).

Assuming Snapchat works as advertised, and ignoring the NSA, I think the impermanence and stated privacy features of Snapchat could make people reflect on the permanence of other content posted online. Another website, Justdeleteme, serves a similar purpose of raising awareness about how difficult it is to delete various online accounts (sometimes, it is impossible!).

Products that get people to reflect on something, raise awareness about issues, or suggest new possibilities, would fall, by definition, in the category of critical design – even if their creators did not have that intention.

On a broader level, this post is about taking a second look – not dismissing something immediately because you think it’s silly or people think it’s silly. As a designer (as a creator), I invite you to imagine possibilities that others have not. – Have you encountered any situations where you see possibilities that maybe others do not? Where a second look reveals a completely new picture? When, once you go beyond the taken for granted and really see, the world is much more interesting than it seems? (btw, this is what makes a photographer or painter good)


A design review of Snapchat’s interface will come in a later post.


Please remember to interact with this post somehow (comment, rate, like) to let me know you saw it.

    • Karthik Sukumar
    • September 15th, 2013

    Dr. V, I loved your analogy of a photographer or painter. Thank you for the post!

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