“I’ve seen the future and I’ve left it behind”
Supernaut, Black Sabbath

Intervention design is a new skool design approach that is influenced by accelerationism, speculative realism, speculative design, system thinking, and design thinking. It is an approach beyond speculative design aiming at designing the now.

The world is accelerating. The only way to avoid the deadlock of designing for the current status quo is to embrace an unconditional accelerationist worldview. The world not only can be different than it is now, it should be. By using opportunities and possibilities instead of difficulties and impossibilities intervention design is a positive approach to the now. It leaves conventions, established ways of thinking, existing structures and current values behind. Both scary and terrifyingly exciting.

Some technologies have advanced beyond our ability to conceptualize their implications. In response, a new discipline in design, architecture, and art emerges called speculative design. It takes the uncertainties and ambiguity of new technologies as a starting point and imagines probable outcomes. It includes non-human agents and anticipates a world in which humans might play a less central role. Speculative design poses ‘what if’ questions to open discussions about the kind of future we want and anticipates at the future to make it more shape-able.

It deals with the new materialism of our world. Industrial material allowed inexpensive mass production and distribution of standardized design. Now we are confronted with new materialism that will be as transformative. Also, speculative design introduces a new (post-anthropocentric) way of thinking about the user (or the other): who may or may not be human.

To create a full understanding of the future probabilities design fiction is used to create probable future worlds as environments for new designs. Future worlds are created by introducing just one or two fictional but probable elements leading to an environment that is both familiar and new.

Intervention design doesn’t end there. It goes beyond speculative design. Posing questions and open discussions aren’t enough. Probable futures, closely tied to the current practice, are used to come with ideas, experiments, and designs that are able to challenge the current status quo and, eventually, blend into the now.

The goal of intervention design is to lead to a new practice that is useful now, not in the future.

Intervention Design workshop at Medialab Amsterdam/DSS from Theo Ploeg