Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Fiona Raby

Imagination and speculation

By Steve Kroeter April 7, 2014
Fiona Raby, Product Designer: Dunne & Raby (London)
View Fiona Raby’s Book List

“My book list is like album tracks that take me back to a moment in time,” says Fiona Raby, a partner (with Anthony Dunne, whose book list we published last week) in the industrial design research studio Dunne & Raby. The partners’ work encompasses “speculative everything,” to use the title of Dunne and Raby’s latest book, which sees design as a tool for speculating on how things might be and to imagine possible futures. To do this they draw on architecture, film, and photography as well as art and design, but also political theory and fiction. 

Raby’s book list is all fiction. The titles frequently prompt recollections of moments in the development of Dunne & Raby. One of these moments is offered by J. G. Ballard’s Super-Cannes, a novel built around the imagined high-tech community of Eden-Olympia. Raby comments,  “As young researchers working in Computer Related Design during the early days, our European sensibilities were regularly exposed to Silicon Valley techno-utopianism, much like Super-Cannes’s fictional ‘Eden-Olympia.’ Among the beautiful gardens of Palo Alto’s research labs, and the super-bright minds focused on logic, processes, and systems, Antonio’s Nut House on California Avenue provided the only slightly grimy sanctuary.”

Cover of Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, 2013 (The MIT Press)

Another such moment comes with Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, about which Raby says, “Tony (Dunne) and I spent three years living in Tokyo straight after graduating from the Royal College of Art in London. Tokyo still continues to make an impression on us. The quirkiness of Murakami’s characters and the ease at which his idiosyncratic, imaginative world seamlessly intertwines with the everydayness of a playfully technological Tokyo is just pure pleasure and delight.”

Two satirical futuristic novels by Margaret Atwood appear on Raby’s book list: the serialized e-book Positron, and Oryx and Crake, which Atwood has called “speculative fiction.” Raby comments on Positron, “The use of satire and the careful handling of the absurd is something Tony (Dunne) and I continue to pursue in our own work. How to make something sharp and knowing, layered and complex, and also, what to leave out. How to deliver a “lightness of touch.” About Oryx and Crake she says, “When Computer Related Design became Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art and our world broadened from digital technologies to more ethically troublesome bio-technologies, Tony and I struggled to convince designers that this might be something significant to think about. Oryx and Crake gave us the encouragement we needed.”

View Fiona Raby’s Book List.

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