Social Design

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Cindy van den Bremen

Social design as a discipline

By 21-08-2016

One Week About Social Design by Cindy van den Bremen

Social design is on the rise. At What Design Can Do 2016, social designer Nynke Tromp spoke about social design as a separate discipline. I’m all in favor of this concept, even if it were only to get more recognition for our work. But there are also still a lot of questions about what social design actually is: what methods are used, what are the effects and results? If the process is more important than the results, what then do those results look like and what happens during those processes? How do you work on complex social issues in a multi-stakeholder context and how do you justify the often time-consuming processes and trajectories?

In the coming period, I hope to contribute to the answers to the above questions. After 16 years with my feet in the clay, I need depth of insight and reflection on my work. I have noticed that over the past few years my role has changed. I’m not just working practically, but by now I’m also joining administrators and decision makers around the table: with the province, municipality and housing corporations. That’s why I also have to speak a different language; besides, it is also far more frequently a matter of making things transparent in advance and justifying what you do. I aim to do that by describing my projects and processes and in that way provide insight into my role as a social designer.

In my opinion, there is also an important role for the design critic. Social design is no longer just about products, but also about services or systems. It is certainly not just about the result, the form and aesthetics, but it is above all about the process, the context around it and the impact of the process, the product, the service or the system. If you want to be able to describe and review these aspects, you have to delve deeply into these processes and not overestimate short-term results and effects.