Critical Fabulations

From Design Thinking, Design Theory

Critical Fabulations

Reworking the Methods and Margins of Design

By Daniela K Rosner

A proposal to redefine design in a way that not only challenges the field's dominant paradigms but also changes the practice of design itself.





A proposal to redefine design in a way that not only challenges the field's dominant paradigms but also changes the practice of design itself.

In Critical Fabulations, Daniela Rosner proposes redefining design as investigative and activist, personal and culturally situated, responsive and responsible. Challenging the field's dominant paradigms and reinterpreting its history, Rosner wants to change the way we historicize the practice, reworking it from the inside. Focusing on the development of computational systems, she takes on powerful narratives of innovation and technology shaped by the professional expertise that has become integral to the field's mounting status within the new industrial economy. To do so, she intervenes in legacies of design, expanding what is considered “design” to include long-silenced narratives of practice, and enhancing existing design methodologies based on these rediscovered inheritances. Drawing on discourses of feminist technoscience, she examines craftwork's contributions to computing innovation—how craftwork becomes hardware manufacturing, and how hardware manufacturing becomes craftwork. She reclaims, for example, NASA's “Little Old Ladies,” the women who built information storage for the Apollo missions by weaving wires through magnetized metal rings. Mixing history, theory, personal experience, and case studies, Rosner reweaves fibers of technoscience by slowly reworking the methods and margins of design. She suggests critical fabulations as ways of telling stories that awaken alternative histories, and offers a set of techniques and orientations for fabulating its future. Critical Fabulations shows how design's hidden inheritances open different possibilities for practice.


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262037891 216 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 37 b&w photos


  • Rosner's Critical Fabulations is a welcome and necessary alternative to the individualistic and solutionist accounts that remain present even in many of the most socially and critically focused of design activities. This book rewards the reader with evocative examples and an expansive methodological frame that can help us all deepen our engagement with design.

    Matt Ratto

    Associate Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto; coeditor of DIY Citizenship

  • Critical Fabulations is both daring and generous; it is a book that leads us to reconsider what the histories, practices, and futures of design are and might be. Through her careful inquiry, Rosner brings feminist theory to bear on design in ways that open both the practice of design and design scholarship to compelling and inspiring possibilities.

    Carl DiSalvo

    Associate Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology; editor of Design Issues