The emergent role of design as a mediating force in socio-cultural transformation

Lesley McKee (Research group member), Mike Press

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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    This paper considers the role of the designer as a mediator in planning and policy delivery. It discusses the implications for a definition of design arising from a doctoral research project that examines design’s contribution to community development.
    Design continues to expand into new territories of practice, seeking to reframe its purpose as a catalyst for organisational innovation and systemic transformation. Fry (2009) describes the potential of design as a “pathfinding means to sustain action countering the unsustainable while also creating more viable futures.” Co-design, service design and transformation design are terms that describe new approaches within design that have been applied to complex social issues such as health, inequality, crime and social exclusion (Lee, Y., Cassim, J. 2009). However, support of action on such issues has largely been explored through the use of creative methods applied through the design process. If design is to effectively assist sustained and meaningful
    transformation, it must develop an understanding of practice suited to social
    organisation. This paper asserts that if design is to realise its potential as a catalyst for behavioural change, cultural re-orientation and social innovation then it is crucial to first re-design design.
    The paper discusses findings from a field case study conducted in Clackmannanshire, a region of Central Scotland. Local community planning objectives on issues related to health and wellbeing was used as an anchor from which to navigate beyond conventional boundaries and explore actions. In essence: the project was rooted in a real-world policy context, but unconstrained in its methods or scope. The objectives were two-fold: to understand issues relating to effective planning and delivery, and to recognise the transferable attributes of design practice in such a context. The paper
    argues that an effective design intervention must focus less on the objective of problem solving and more on mediation as a method for design in its new age. Conceptualising design practice with social mediation at its core has profound
    implications for the required skills of the design practitioner. It therefore seems
    reasonable that engagement with new challenges and contexts of practice will require fresh approaches to education and training. The paper concludes by identifying some policy implications for design education and practice.
    This work is copyright of EAD9, University of Porto, Portugal and is reproduced here with their kind permission.  

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International European Academy of Design Conference.
    Subtitle of host publicationUniversity of Porto, Portugal. May 4-7, 2011
    Place of PublicationPortugal
    PublisherThe European Academy of Design
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - May 2011
    EventThe Endless End, 9th European Academy of Design Conference - University of Porto, School of Fine Arts, Porto, Portugal
    Duration: 4 May 20117 May 2011


    ConferenceThe Endless End, 9th European Academy of Design Conference
    Abbreviated titleEAD09
    Internet address


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