Design practice always happens under a particular set of forces, commonly known as constraints. These constraints may be straightforward and indisputable, such as a physical or material quality: the force of gravity, the tensile strength of a structural beam, or a financial budget, and provide tangible limits to be adhered to or challenged. Constraints, however, also exist in more abstract, systemic or hidden forms.
These can have a significant impact on the potential of design, resulting in a paucity of original thinking and a chronic neglect of responsibility. For example, national systems of infrastructure, such as energy grids or roads, have become so normalised that they constrain designers to simply designing for or within the dominant paradigm. The constraint of positivity or progress dogma, blinds those influencing the future (scientists, technologists, politicians, designers, etc.) from the potential negative implications of their proposals. This presentation will firstly explore some of the more dominant oblique constraints and the ways in which they negatively influence the role and purpose of design. And secondly describe how design, practiced outside of these constraints, can facilitate more inclusive, holistic, and environmentally responsible futures.