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Design often favors probability.

But rather than just problem solving, design should exploit curiosity, creativity, and criticality. A venture into the what if is arguably more relevant and promising than an investigation of what should be.

Possibilistic Design is a project-based design seminar that concentrates on how critical design theory and powerful storytelling might pave the way for a more responsible, equitable, and exciting future. By investigating what speculative designers such as Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby call “the possibilities of things,” we will consider design as a tool to unearth how the world could be, or even how it could’ve been.

Students will research multimedia sensing to conceptualize alternative ways of observing, measuring, and quantifying the spaces around us. We will question why certain experiences make us feel a certain way, what role our senses play in perception, and how we can implement speculative design, conceptualism, and counterfactualism to powerfully reframe an experience. Several short projects will ask students to push the capacities of sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste, and other interstitial senses. The final term project will be to design, render, and prototype a large scale multisensory tool, wearable, or site-specific installation that augments the ambience of a space or experience.

Key Terms, Themes, and Focus Areas

Critical Design

Speculative Design





Analog & Digital Sensing


Digital Fabrication

Lo-Fi & Hi-Fi Prototyping


Key Software





InVision Studio

Adobe CC

Arduino IDE




We will use digital technology, conceptualism, and narrative tools to create smart, responsive, and sensitive experiences. Students will operate somewhere at the intersection of new media technologies, critical design, and storytelling.

Students can expect to:

  1. Dive deep into the tenets of critical and speculative design;

  2. Develop preliminary hard skills in visual programming workflows, visual design, electronics prototyping, and basic programming;

  3. Understand how to network between physical and virtual media (i.e, interfacing with prototyped electronics through Grasshopper in real-time);

  4. Design, prototype, and document fully-functional, interactive, and data-driven objects and installations;

  5. Gain exposure to multidisciplinary, seminal texts relating to media technology and design;

  6. Think critically about how we sense objects, spaces, and environments

No particular mode of production will be prioritized or expected. While students are encouraged to engage with digital and physical fabrication, electronics design, animation, and basic programming, technical skills are not a prerequisite. With the exception of a few workshops throughout the semester that will touch on such hard skills, class time will be primarily reserved for design critique, precedent study, and reading discussion. Ultimately, students are expected to leverage their interdisciplinary skillsets and tailor the course to their individual interests.


Course 48-734 • Possibilistic Design • Fall 2024
9.0 Credits
Quick Links Syllabus ↗
Schedule ↗
Project Groups ↗
Reading Groups ↗
Schedule Tuesdays, Thursdays
7:00p-8:20p EST
Location Physical Computing Lab (HL A10) ↗
Carnegie Mellon University
Instructor Sinan Goral
(763) 656-8124

Office Hours

We will meet for office hours in HL A10 on an as-needed basis. If you’d like to chat about work for this course, research, or a separate topic altogether, please email me and I would be happy to set up a time.

48-734 • Possibilistic Design • Fall 2024

Sinan Goral ↗
Carnegie Mellon University
Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology (IDeATe ↗)

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