In the first part of this post I talked about graphic design that spends it’s time asking questions. Questions are extremely inviting, but there is another kind of design out there that is not only concerned with inviting response but also with inviting audiences into the design process itself. “What on earth for?” I hear you ask. Well let us suppose we have a bus service. It’s rubbish and it’s time for the local council to bring someone in to redesign it, give it a complete overhaul. This is where a design consultancy can step in. But how are they to know exactly what this small town needs in a bus service? Well, in some situations, it’s the end users who have the valuable insight into the problems and the solutions. This is the crux of what some people call social design (A term that many, rightfully hate).
Companies like Think Public and organisations like Dott Cornwall spend their time guiding and managing end users through the design process with them. Not only is it a chance to ensure quality research for socially minded projects but it has the crucial benefit of creating that rare thing they call ownership. Something that, if marketed properly, is gold dust for big brands who are desperate to reach out to alienated audiences and make them feel a part of their big idea.
This Design Week article explains a Think Public project tackling health inequalities on the Cambridge Road estate in Kingston, Surrey. Look at that for an inviting question!
“Over 80 people took part in YouCanKingston. The ideas were extraordinary in their range and ambition and included an estate farm, seed-swapping, a graffiti wall and a skills exchange for residents in areas such as gardening, dance and computing.”
They were commissioned by the Kingston Primary Care Trust to engage the local people and delve into areas of their lives that otherwise would not have been unveiled. Do not be fooled, it takes skilled communicators to draw valuable information from communities like this. Dott Cornwall who are also “Co-designing ways to improve how we live, work and play” are currently involved in projects in the South West and have their own methodology, as well as an array of past projects to look at:
“While the client puts the goals and resources on the table and the designer brings creative expertise, it is the insight of the end-user that leads to the creation of sustainable answers that become embedded in the community.”
Consider even the giant modern-art galleries with a lack of connection to their everyday public. The art critic and writer Nicholas Bourriaud, in his work Relational Aesthetics, talks about an art movement concerned with creating “formal arrangement[s] that generate relationships between people”. There are many wild examples of artists working in this way and our previous post about Fred Deakin touches on similar themes: The general gist being – come and create WITH us!
This kind of creativity that involves and interacts helps us to feel a part of what we are seeing and can be absolutely vital to the right client. It reminds me of an old Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”
Are you excited about seeing more interactive art in our galleries or does the idea of designers prying into our public lives sound terrible? Let us know.