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Counterfactual design


Honesty is a time-honoured principle in professional design, an axiomatic element of conventional design wisdom expressed in catchphrases like ?form follows function? and ?truth to materials.? However, not all design follows the honesty principle. This paper discusses counterfactual design; a class of design that intentionally appears to be something it is not. Counterfactual design bends the truth to varying degrees. This paper distinguishes between counterfactual design in which the truth is edited, on standby, and suspended. It discusses the intentions behind counterfactual design, which range from beautification and amusement, to ersatz and deception. These classes of counterfactual design deal with the improvement of something existing, a quest for otherness, a quest for likeness, and outright cheating respectively. The paper continues by discussing how the truth is bent: by overstatement, by fabrication, and by understatement, sometimes practiced overtly and at other times, covertly. It concludes with the suggestion that, contrary to popular belief, several types of counterfactual design are honourable design practices.


counterfactual design, beautification, amusement, ersatz, deception