Social design and good commissioning
One Week About Social Design by Cindy van den Bremen
There was a time that the designer only took part in discussions when there was a design brief containing the program of demands and requirements and in particular the specifics of the design. The role of the designer in the traditional sense has gradually moved up to the start of the decision-making process. As a designer, you would like to join the discussion before the decisions are made: discuss the brief together with the client, define frameworks and thus define the context and the commission.
This is what may make our work a bit complicated for clients: not only do they want to know the return of their investment in advance, they also need to be able to justify it internally. Therefore, you need people within an organization who understand the added value of (social) design and have knowledge of/experience with design thinking. The outcomes cannot be predicted in advance but they are definitely interesting.
I myself have run a project within the framework of PROUD, in which co-design was the starting point. We were instructed to focus on Station Beukenlaan in Eindhoven together with the stakeholders involved. It was an interesting assignment during which we together with other designers and stakeholders have created beautiful things. However … the path we had to go had been defined so clearly that it felt like a limitation. In a case like this, co-design with the users seems to be subordinate, with many things that are still determined top-down. There should be space for developing a broader perspective and freedom in the process. Design – and certainly co-design – is not a fill-in-the-blanks exercise!