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Speculative Design (VA30)

The Speculative Design major teaches open-ended creative thinking, debating values, possibilities and outcomes, understanding human contexts and mobilizing interests, and exploring ambiguous problems in an unexpected way. Speculative Design is a 21st century mix of art, science, and emerging technology focused on aesthetic, entrepreneurial and activist intervention. Bringing together laboratory and field research in a creative studio setting, Speculative Design works from nano to urban scales to stimulate new ideas and solutions.


Printer friendly curriculum sheet:

For Students Declared Fall 2016 and later

Students with the major declared prior to Fall 2016 need to contact an academic advisor for the appropriate curriculum sheet.


What skills will this program teach students?

  • Design research, concept, and production skills including 2D and 3D computer rendering and modeling, prototype and object construction oriented to current social and environmental concerns
  • Conceptual and rhetorical strategies for creative and critical thinking about design, design values, and design possibilities and outcomes
  • Understanding and responding to human and nonhuman contexts
  • Mobilizing public interests through design strategies

What is this program preparing students to do after graduation?

  • Work in design professions such as architecture, graphic design, web design, environmental design
  • arts-based design and/or media practice
  • design teaching
  • preparation for higher education in any of the above fields with the goal of professional development and/or teaching in a college or university

What equipment, software and tools are utilized in this program?

  • Computers
  • 3D printers
  • photo and video equipment
  • milling and manufacture equipment
  • laser engravers and cutters
  • A variety of 2D and 3D design programs and software

What distinguishes this program from those that are similar?

  • Distinguished from Cognitive Science by emphases on (1) arts-based design training; (2) critical and speculative approaches to design aesthetics and principles; (3) design’s social, historical, and philosophical frameworks; and (4) creating ideas as well as things.
  • Distinguished from ICAM by emphases on (1) design and the design fields; and (2) a range of media and object-making options in addition to computing

Additional information you should know about this program!

Speculative design is an approach devoted to understanding that design may be used to ask “what if” questions—to open debate and discussion about what the planet needs and what we want for our future worlds. Design may be used to activate change and to mobilize possible futures rather than to respond to trends and satisfy consumer demands or dominant tastes.

See sample student projects!

Learn about the final projects from the senior class of 2019:

MEX-USA & Catoptromancy



Speculative Design Career Workshop #1 from UCSD Visual Arts on Vimeo.

May 23rd, 2020, with designers Erika Barbosa & Gabi Schaffzin.

Speculative Design Career Workshop #2 from UCSD Visual Arts on Vimeo.

May 30th, 2020, with alumni Kelsey Shoenberg and Tommy Sharkey.