Tag Archives: social design

Cape Town appointed World Design Capital 2014

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) founded in 1957 is “an international non-governmental organisation that aims to protect and promote the profession of industrial design.” Every four years (since 2008) Icsid designates, or will designate, a world city under the status of World Design Capital (WDC). The WDC initiative aims:

“… to promote and encourage the use of design to further the social, economic and cultural development of the world’s cities… The designation provides a distinctive opportunity for cities to showcase their accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design, as well as highlight successes in urban revitalisation strategies.”

This year was a bidding year for 2014 WDC status. The three cities of Cape Town, Bilbao and Dublin were shortlisted and as part of the selection process they submitted short films that give fascinating insight into each city, their challenges, strengths, and how design will help them. Each of the films are very different from the other, as Core 77 discuss on their post A Look at the World Design Capital Bid Videos. Below I’ve also posted the three city films so you can stay on this page to view them. Otherwise the films feature on Core 77 and the World Design Capital websites.

‘Live Design. Transform Life’ by Cape Town largely discusses a whole range of challenges faced by the city and how Cape Town designers understand design and its relevance to their local context.

‘The design of cities’ by Bilbao celebrates the numerous design aspects of their city and what it has brought to the city eg. tourism, technology etc.

‘Pivot’ by Dublin follows the conversations between a number of citizens for how Dublin can prosper through design.

Hearing of the WDC and watching the films makes me wonder if Sydney would ever consider running for the designation. How fantastic would it be to be involved in this global design platform which, as Icsid state:

“… would provide governments with a platform not only to raise the global awareness of design, but more importantly, to showcase the importance of design as an actor to enhance social, cultural, economic and environmental quality of life.”

Where would Sydney focus its attention for uses of design? What are our challenges that design can help improve (I blogged a few here in my ‘Signs of Sydney post but these are subjective and I am sure there are more)? How would we used design to benefit and improve our quality of life and well-being? A WDC bid process throws up many questions and I wonder if the process of a WDC bid would in itself be beneficial for some reflection on where we live, where we’ve come from, who we are and how we understand and use design to improve Sydney.


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Filed under Social and community, Sydney and Australia

‘Design for social innovation’ in Object’s iPad magazine issue 61

Last week Object: Australian Centre for Design launched Object Magazine issue 61 focusing its interactive content on ‘Design thinking/Design action.’

Object Magazine, issue 61

Here’s a summary of the issue: With a focus on Design Thinking, Issue 61 is a combination of articles, videos, audio narrations and image galleries, exploring the somewhat intangible world of design thinking. Roy Green, dean of the UTS Business School, talks about the power design can have for the business community, while Lauren Tan delves into the power of design for education and social innovation.

We also have a look at the Massive Change Network Global Design Seminar that took place in February, we go to Cockatoo Island with students of the UTS Design School for a three day design thinking camp, as well as recap Now And When and Benja Harney’s The Paper Attic, preview touring exhibition Women With Clever Hands, and much more.

In the issue I have written two articles. One profiling ‘Design for social innovation’ and the other profiling ‘Design Thinking for education’. The articles are short introductions to the use of design in these contexts. A number of projects provide exemplars of how design has been used in each area.

Currently the magazine only exists in iPad format (the issue will be available on Android and on the Object website shortly) so those of you who don’t have an iPad, here’s a peek at my first article ‘Design for social innovation.’

Design for social innovation

In this article I start with Victor Papanek’s (1971) call for designers to take more moral and social responsibility in their work. Written over four decades ago, it has only been since the turn of the century that a movement around design for social good has taken hold (I wrote a bit about this ‘movement’ in my paper Perspectives on the changing role of the designer: Now and to the future).

The term ‘social innovation’ is a frequently evolving definition. For the article I use a definition from Murray et al (2010) who say that social innovation is “new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words, they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.”

Some of the earliest and most high profile demonstrations of design for social innovation occurred in 2004 in Canada and the UK. In Canada, Bruce Mau’s Massive Change exhibition showcased the work of designers who addressed challenges in our social, political and economic systems. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Design Council’s RED Unit led a series of projects using design to improve issues in health, ageing, democracy, energy and citizenship.

In practice, design for social innovation draws on the process, methods and materials of designers, to design for social good. These practices include a human-centred mindset, systemic thinking, ideation, visualisation and prototyping skills.

But design alone is not enough to tackle complex social issues. Designers need to collaborate with other disciplines to increase the impact and sustainability of positive change. Here in the article I reference The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) whose model is to use a multidisciplinary approach to tackle social challenges in South Australia.

Design for social innovation is an emerging context in which designers are working. The best way to demonstrate design in this context is to look at projects and initiatives that have already occurred. In the article I reference the following projects, led by designers and design companies who have used design to tackle a wide range of social issues from unemployment to social isolation to public health care.

Family by Family by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation
Used design to help create a model that connects families to support each other through their challenges rather than relying on government services.

Live Local by Digital Eskimo
Uses the power of digital and online to engage location communities in sustainable living.

An online platform that facilitates the collaboration of people sharing ides to improve social situations.

Make it Work by Live|work
Designed a service to help address issues in unemployment in a UK District called Sunderland.

Southwark Circle by Participle
Created a network of members and helpers in the Southwark community to support each other.

Experience based design by thinkpublic
A toolkit of design approaches that helps a the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) place patient and staff experiences at the heart of developing public health services.

Social Innovation Lab for Kent (SILK) by Engine Service Design
Building design capacity within a local council to design, develop and improve local council services.

For the full article, links and references please visit the iTunes App Store to download for the iPad Issue 61 of Object Magazine for free. Otherwise check into Object: Australian Centre for Design’s website for online publication of the issue.

I’ll post some notes on my article ‘Design Thinking for education’ shortly.

Additional references

To find out more about design for social innovation, the following references may be of interest. There’s also an earlier list on my older blog, Letters to Australia in my post ‘Design and the social sector.’

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Design‐led solutions to wicked problems (event)

Earlier I blogged about Sydney Design 2011 and can confirm I will be speaking at a session that will look at Design‐led solutions to wicked problems. I’ll be discussing what can be learnt from my research case study Dott 07 whose projects resulted in a range of outcomes from service design propositions to grassroots community action. Since the end of Dott 07 some of these projects have influenced key policy decisions in local councils to national government.

Here’s more detail on the session. It will be held at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

Governments around the world see design as critical to solving economic and social problems, as well seeking to develop a profile internationally for their designers. Australia is just beginning to sit up and take notice of the contribution its designers can to make across the policy spectrum. This event will look at design‐led solutions to some critical national issues.

The Australian Design Alliance (AdA) is representing the design sector in consultations with the Federal Government on a national design policy for Australia. The AdA wants to show how designers can help to change the world with economically‐sustainable solutions to policy issues. This event is for everyone with ideas about how design can make a difference to Australia’s future.

The session will be chaired by Brandon Gien, AdA member and CEO of Good Design Australia. Presenters include: Paul Pholeros, Lauren Tan and Marie O’Mahony.

Date: Tuesday 9 August
Time: Drinks at 5:30 pm. Event commences at 6:00 pm. (Tour of the Love Lace Exhibition starts at 5:00 pm)
Location: Powerhouse Museum 500 Harris Street, Ultimo
Cost: Free
Bookings: RSVP essential to info@australiandesignalliance.com by 3 August 2011. Please indicate in your RSVP whether you will be arriving for the exhibition tour at 5:00 pm
Phone: 02 9368 1900
Website: australiandesignalliance.com

Download the Press Release here.

Love this shot of the Powerhouse Museum with the Sydney skyline in the background. The photo is from the Powerhouse Museum Photostream on Flickr.

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Critical voices and research into design for social good

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time revising the Introduction to my PhD thesis. To set the context of my thesis I’ve been re-reading papers on design for social good. Otherwise know as social design, design for social innovation, design for social impact, design for sustainability, transformation design, design for public service etc. etc. the use of these phrases are dependent on which country, which design thinker, which academic researcher, which design company you are looking into. I stated in my thesis that I’ll use the phrase ‘design for social good’ as an umbrella term to bring together all these different phrases and concepts where designers direct their design work first and foremost toward social causes.

In the last few years I have noticed many papers and writing that has surfaced on design for social good. And actually less advocating it and more critical voices that outline the weaknesses of design in this context (See Mulgan, 2009), its limitations (See Drenttel in Harrison, 2010; Emilson et al, 2011), the essential need for designers to work with other disciplines to better address social issues (See Schulman, 2010) and its politics, or lack thereof (Fast Company, 2010; Tonkinwise, 2010).

A photo I took of a poster from New Designers, London in 2009 asking exhibition guests ‘Is design political?’ I think the response is pretty interesting. My blog post of the New Designers 2009 exhibition here.

While I have no problem with critical thinking (in fact in a meeting I was in today creatives and designers from industry mentioned there was very little design criticism in Australia) what I have come to realise throughout my research is that we don’t fully understand, and are not clear yet, on what designers actually do contribute in the space of design for social good. One of the most authoritative voices in the area is design and innovation firm IDEO. They identify user research, synthesis and prototyping in design thinking for social innovation (See Brown and Wyatt, 2009). But I have actually found that the most insightful understanding of design for social good actually comes from people outside the design discipline (in literature such as previously referenced Mulgan, 2009 and Schulman, 2010 and also at roundtables and meetings I have attended). Geoff Mulgan who is not a designer, but Chief Executive of NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) provides his perspective on the strengths of design for social good. From his observations of working with designers he outlines the strengths as visualisation, novel insight, providing a user perspective and prototyping (Mulgan, 2009). The weaknesses, he says, are lack of economical and organisational skills, inability to drive implementation, the cost of design consultants, a lack of knowledge of evidence and field experiences.

I think Mulgan’s insight are great, but is this the best position for the design discipline to be in- to have others inform us of what we do well (and not so well)? Shouldn’t designers put their own voice to this? Shouldn’t we be confident in communicating the value we bring? Maybe it’s the case that objective voices are more credible because they balance the positive with the critical. But I think it’s because we, as designers, don’t really understand the value we bring when we design for social good.

Furthermore, many academics have sought to frame research agendas for design for social good, such as Margolin and Margolin (2002) and Manzini (2008). This shows that this area of design is still very young and very emergent.

I am often asked to provide a more critical voice to my research. But before I provide a critical voice, I think it’s really important to better understand the concept of design for social good and understand ourselves as designers. This means understanding what we’re doing in these contexts and identifying what value we bring. These, I believe, are just as important as recognising the weaknesses and limitations of design.

As designers, we need to better articulate what we do and our value instead of waiting for others speak for us. We also need to look at other disciplines, recognise what they are doing and identify what we actually contribute when we work and collaborate with them. Social issues are complex. Designers are not subject matter, policy, economic or cultural experts. We need to work with others to understand social issues, different contexts, and other discipline approaches so that we can use design to enhance, not replace or take over, how we help address and respond to complex social issues. We will be better at outlining our roles as part of these teams, if we know and articulate better what we do and the value we bring to the table.

Update (14 July 2011)

I should mention that in a few months time Object (Australian centre for craft and design) will be publishing their digital magazine and in this edition I profile ‘Design thinking for social innovation.’ I’ll update you here when it is published so I can actually begin to answer some of the questions I ask above! In the mean time check out Object’s current iPad magazine here. Or their past print editions (via Issuu) here. All the latest news from Object on Twitter is here.


Filed under PhD research, Social and community