Form + Fiction:
The role of design and
designers in defining, framing
and shaping reality.

“Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it.  But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way, which consists in inventing persons, places, and events which never did and never will exist or occur, and telling about these fiction in detail and at length and with a great deal of emotion, and then when they are done writing down this pack of lies, they say, There! That’s the truth!” — Ursula LeGuin, Science Fiction Writer

“The idea of probable, preferable, plausible and possible futures – the space between reality and the impossible – allows designers to challenge design orthodoxy and prevailing technological visions so that fresh perspectives can begin to emerge. “
—Dunne & Raby

In Volume 36 of The Student Publication, we look to engage a discussion on the role of design and designers in shaping, framing, and reflecting reality. While the notion of the designer as a constructor or visionary of a future reality is not a new one, the increasing complexity and connectivity of our world begs for renewed vigor in its evaluation. As more people and entities are engaged with design, the traditional role of the designer as a creator of a single reality is shifting. Yet one area that distinguishes the designer is our capacity and propensity to envision new futures through fiction. The dialogue between these two ideas is at the core of Form + Fiction.

We must ask ourselves how our role as designers situates us in the ebb and flow of the mundane. How do designers shape those realities that affect our built world, our tools, and the media? This question influences how we look at the future and make current decisions to guide us to it. But at the same time, it also affects how we understand our past—the people and turning points that have subtly, suddenly, and completely altered our world(s) via design. These individuals and collectives utilized a fiction of reality to glean a deeper truth or insight of what the future could be. In reflecting on these speculations, what have these visionaries taught us? How have we responded? What truths have emerged?

By questioning the role of design and designers in the shaping of reality, sorting through past moments of import, and speculating on how design might shape the future, The Student Publication endeavors to provoke a conversation that includes submissions focused on the ethical, historical and practical aspects of design and fiction. The 36th issue will look at how design and designers in history have contributed to shaping our current reality, and will speculate on how current generations are shaping their future. How can we seek better ways for design to serve a diversity of people and the many realities that might exist for them? How do the modes of reality that we operate within—physical, technological, virtual, individual, collective, connected—affect the role of design and the designer? Will tomorrow look more like yesterday as we move towards the future?

We invite a wide range of speculations and ideas on this topic, from the theoretical to the pragmatic.

Submission Criteria

This journal will have a print and an online component. The online component will be open-source, so as to be accessible to as many design students, educators and practitioners as possible. The print version will be sold at a nominal cost to libraries, design schools and whomever might want to get their hands on it. Our goal is to generate a publication that presents contemporary and emerging perspectives on the way that we design, think, and learn. To that end, we invite a variety of types of submissions, including:

— Personal reflections as essays, interviews, letters, or poetry / prose
— Interviews: Via Skype, Phone or Text (email, text or Google Doc) will be printed verbatim
— Case Studies
— Critical essays that question / expand our current thinking

We also invite a variety of media, including:
Textual Essays
Visual Essays
Videos (with clear transference to print-based medium)

We welcome both new and republished work. If republished, we ask you, the contributor, to write a nominal section to introduce and situate the contribution specifically within the current theme of The Student Publication.

Word Counts

Maximum of 2000 words for texts
We want to encourage a wide range of contribution lengths
Photo essays and annotations accepted

Format for submission:

Written essay can be submitted in Microsoft Word. All images, captions and attributes (copyright, etc.) should be submitted with the final draft as high resolution tif or jpeg files. Please indicate within the text document where the images should align.


This is a publication aimed at design students, practitioners and educators across disciplines. We imagine (and hope) that the topics and writings will also be compelling to anyone interested in the role of creative practice and process.

The Review Process:

We ask for abstracts (maximum of 500 words) + 2 or 3 project and process-based images by October 25. Our editorial team will have feedback and any edits to the submissions for your approval by October 30. Final submissions will be due by November 20. Final production and distribution will be Spring 2013.

While we do not follow a traditional peer review process, journals are sent to a jury of our peers for evaluation, comments and thinking to move forward.

About the Student Publication

The Student Publication is published by design students at the College of Design at North Carolina State University. It is for design students, practitioners, and academics alike. Its aim is to critically evaluate emerging themes and topics in design education and practice that influence that way that we learn, think and talk about design process, practice and theory. We look to emerging and historical voices in the field of design (Industrial, Architecture, Landscape, Graphic and Art+ Design) to address these themes and contribute to a growing legacy of design dialogue. Previous Publications have addresses themes such as collaboration and co-creation, relevance, new futurism, and emergent ideas in architecture. The theme of Volume 36, Form + Fiction, seeks to look critically and deeply at the role of design and the designer in defining, framing and shaping reality.

History of the Publication

The Student Publication is the oldest student-run design publication in the country. Established in 1950 to honor the memory of Matthew Nowicki, the first head of the architecture program at NC State University, the publication quickly grew to encompass all of the disciplines of the School. Between 1951 and 1985, issues of the Student Publication numbered 58, each with a student editor, a group of student writers and workers, and a faculty advisor. In 2012, the publication will be produced as a formal class, with an advisory board, and a team of dedicated students.

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