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Paul A. Rodgers
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In 2017 the rst Does Design Care...? workshop at Imagination Lancaster
asked a series of question that were eventually addressed in both the
publication of the Lancaster Care Charter (Design Issues 35:1 2019) and
the DDC…? Book.
Similarly, in 2019 the second Does Design Care…? workshop in Chiba,
Japan, asked more questions but this time the questions came from the
participants. To participate in the Does Design Care …? workshop
applicants had to send a 1000 word position paper from which a number of
questions emerged; questions we thought needed debate not just discussion
(a bit of a beating rather than a mere shakeup). The questions are listed
at the end of this introduction. It is important to make clear the questions
arose from what the participants were saying. In order to familiarise
themselves with the questions they were sent to all participants in advance
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of the workshop. On the rst morning of the workshop participants were
randomly paired for what we called Head-to-Head debates. Each pair
was randomly assigned one of the 25 questions to explore and contend
in greater detail. They were required to record (audio, notes, images,
examples) their debate and at later stage in the workshop each pair
presented what they had been debating to the rest of the participants. After
the workshop each pair had to transcribe, edit, and enrich with visuals, their
debate, all of which has been collected into this publication.
Like the rst workshop in Lancaster the Chiba workshop was a thinking,
making and doing workshop that explored different ways to explore,
conceptualise, provoke, contest and disrupt care, and the various outputs
serve to synthesise future visions of care. Unlike the Lancaster workshop,
a strong conviction coming from the participants was that design can and
does empathise and therefore design can and does care. What-design-can-
do is embedded in its historic belief in the design of what-might-become.
But as we have written elsewhere (?remember where?), in reality design’s
future has to confront what-might-not-become. And what-might-not-
become has to confront the uncomfortable reality that design might not be
able to do what it believes it can do. Care, being invisible, is a good test
for what in reality design can do. Rebecca Solnit questions empathy when
she writes “There’s a currently popular argument that books help us feel
empathy, but if they do so they do it by helping us imagine that we are
people we are not”. For design to care through empathy it might just be that
design, continuing to advocate what-might-become, is producing designers
who imagine they are people they are not.
We have asked before whether design’s attraction to care is just
opportunistic. And we wonder whether the allure of empathy for design to
want to transact with care because, care is becoming elitist as Yuval Harari
“because it rejects the idea of a universal standard applicable to all, and
seeks to give some individuals an edge over others. People want superior
memories, above-average intelligence and rst-class sexual abilities.”
(Harari, Homo Deus, p6)
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Foucault pointed out that diagnosing what is ill is always equally about
enforcing what is healthy. These workshops have been diagnosing whether
design cares and in this sense they have also been enforcing what-might-
become of design.
Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Lolita To Me, Literary Hub, December 17, 2015
Yuval Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Harvill Secker
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For this edition of Does Design Care...?!, we had a few questions we
wanted the participants to reect and discuss upon. The participants were
divided into pairs, each pair was handed a question to use as a conversation
starter. The list of questions included the followings:
What was Design doing before it latched on to Care?
Should Design Care?
What was Design doing before it latched on to empathy?
Where will all of this caring get us?
How might we best Design Care?
How might we best Bespoke Care?
What should we (Design) care about?
What should we (Design) not waste our time caring about?
Are there Care priorities for Design? If so, what are they and why?
What kind of trade would a “Care Trade” look like?
If Designer and User continue to have some form of relationship what
future might Design and user Care for?
Is it possible for Design to operate in a context where we choose not to
How might Design avoid the overdevelopment of Care?
Is it possible that Design & Care might sometimes produce a negative
result (which means being uncaring or careless)?
Can Design Care for people’s frustrations and doubts?
Is the invasion of Care by Design just another colonising fantasy?
Can Design empathize? If so, where does all this empathizing get us?
Despite the optimistic predictions for the Design of Care what does the
doing of Care really do?
To look at the future of Care which is best - Design ction or Science
What role does Design play in the gesture of Care?
Will Designing Care eventually medicalise Design?
If one were to explore the relationship between social value and the value
of Care what might you get?
Is Design as a practice completely outside the language of Care?
Can Design’s idealistic claims of true inclusion ever be achieved?
Can Design contribute to the gap between the ideal of Care and real Care?
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What kind of trade would a Care trade
Luka Kille & Halima Lone
Unpacking care trade
The expression of care trade evokes two distinct questions on rst glance:
(1) Is it a standard or a certication like ‘Fair Trade’- where it needs
to tick a certain number of boxes to classify as a ‘Caretrade’ Product or
(2) Is care a commodity which can be traded? Which may be realised
through [trading] professional carers, healthcare medicines, care devices,
approaches/ processes (knowledge) and/ or cultural attitudes to care?
I think it would also depend on how you dene ‘trade’: that is the
transactional exchange of goods or services (or anything of value). If care
is a commodity, at what point do you need to stop trading things before it
crosses the line to inhumane? That is, if care is industrialised, could this
take the humanity out of it and in fact defeat the entire purpose of care in
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the rst place- which is the expression of empathy? An example of this can
be seen in how the industrialization of the meat industry has detached the
consumer from the livestock through the creation of elaborate supply chains
resulting in inhumane treatment and rearing of livestock? Industrialisation
of care makes care less human-centred and more metric-centred, which
aligns to the transactional nature of trade previously mentioned.
Then you have something more like ‘trustmark’, [which we dene as]
the standardised level of quality and that is more aligned to fairtrade for
example [labels like] organic, vegan or halal; indicate these different levels
of quality and establish a level of trust in both the product and the chain of
events which created it.
To summarise so far, we have split care trade into the ‘care’ and the ‘trade’
elements: where trade can be considered the transactional exchange of
goods and services and/or more of a standardised trustmark or trademark
similar to ‘Fair Trade’. ‘Care’ can be interpreted as a commodity (however
this would accelerate moving towards the industrialization of care which
may be less human-centred and more prot-centred) or more about the
empathic act of providing care through a human-centred approach.
Expanding on care-trade as a trustmark, comes with the limitations
observed through other metric-driven trustmarks such as some diversity
quotas. In practice it can be seen that these quotas have created a tick-box
system which should standardise approaches, but instead have introduced
laziness and reduced empathy; empathy being a fundamental for achieving
diversity. In practice it reduces people to a tick box: “is this person a female
or does this person have a disability?”... and it should not be about the
diversity but more about the representation of different mindsets, different
life experiences, different upbringings and bringing equal opportunity to
all, rather than stigmatising people into different boxes and selecting them
based on whatever box they were categorised in. The idea of Caretrade is
not to make it a tick box exercise, but a framework to provide equal access
to care through inclusion. This is the idea of true inclusion, which aims to
care for everyone is an ideal and perhaps an unachievable ideal .
Care trade must also discourage members to get-by doing the bare
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minimum. Could Caretrade make people who were doing something
more than what is required by the quota, actually be encouraged to reduce
their good practice after the release of care-trade (devaluing best practice
through standardisation)? To overcome this ‘spiral of decline’, Caretrade
must be continuously evolving i.e. once the criteria/ goal is set for 10
years time, it can be redened after 10 years so that it is ever-evolving and
continuously improving. This makes people who may just be motivated
by doing the bare minimum, inadvertently working towards true inclusion
because we’re forcing them to.
A Vision of the Future
This can be conveyed through a dystopian or utopian future of the care
system. There’s an idealist worldview - Utopia and then the manifestation
of all the negatives of the care systems - Dystopia. These projections of the
future might be used to introduce some practical enablers or what might
need to happen to achieve utopia and what might need to be prevented to
avoid dystopia. We are at a point of dening where we are now and can
explore how through different mindsets, products and services; a version of
the future might come to be.
Dystopian Caretrade consists of:
• Developing an oversimplied and mis-measured framework to
providing ‘good’ care
• Dehumanisation/ tokenization of care
• Non-human centred and more metric-driven care; loss of empathy
• Industrialisation of care
• Beneting one through the means of taking from another- inherently
Utopian Caretrade consists of:
• Aspirational caretrade model
• Breaks down care into simple framework, understandable for all
• Route to true inclusion- providing access to care for all
• Creates awareness and greater acceptance through standardisation/
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The action of buying
and selling goods
The provision of what is
necessary for the health,
and protection of
A value chain of care
products, service and
= Care Industry = Audited Care-
Standard of Care
= Care Value Chain
Trustmark based on
to achieve certain
The model depicts variations of care-trade which currently exist to what
may exist in the future if we put the appropriate regulations, products and
infrastructures in place.
Trade assumes care as a commodity, where the commodities could be
people, products, services and/ or care philosophies (such as acceptance of
chinese medicine in the western society). With the trade as a transaction,
there is the assumption that care might be lost somewhere and gained
Which proposes the questions:
• If trade is an exchange of goods, and the goods are ‘care’, then 1)
where is the care being supplied from and who to and 2) how is the
value of these goods measured so that no stakeholders are being
• What is the metric measure of care?
• The number of people positively/ negatively impacted by caretrade?
• Number of lives saved?
• Average Life expectancy gained/ lost?
• Monetary gain?
• Environmental impact?
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Management of some unintended negative consequences of fairtrade may
be done through:
• Creating fully transparent and traceable care value chains
• Auditing the care value chain
What’s left is how exactly we dene care within our scope and to
communicate our understanding of what we actually mean by care,
because we have been discussing this beyond the scope of healthcare and in
the broader sense so far. I looked up the denition of ‘care’ in the Oxford
dictionary (with an appreciation that the denition/ interpretation of care
might be different globally):
“1. the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance,
and protection of someone or something.
2. Serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly
or to avoid damage or risk.
3. Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.
4. Look after and provide for the needs of”
The last denition is probably the one most people think of when they
dene ‘care’ but actually [for our purpose] it is a lot broader and goes
beyond the traditional person-to-person caring but more towards inclusive
design in general. Some people question when ‘care’ became part of
Design, but we believe ‘care’ has always been part of design because
you’re solving a problem which requires the identication-of and care-of a
set of needs. The focus in traditional design might have been on individuals
needs (and not the broader spectrum of people) but even so, since the act
of thinking means to give attention to; the act of caring has been and will
always be an aspect of design. But if care was to become caretrade, i.e a
trustmark, does that then mean inclusion is now the focus over individual
care? Which results in individual design evolving into a design solution for
the equal inclusion/ true inclusion of people.
This suggests different levels of care result in different levels of design
where true inclusion is the aspirational and highest of levels. This is
depicted in the following model.
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Problem + Purpose + Equality
E.g. Caretrade = True Inclusion
Problem + Purpose
E.g. Social Design or Environmental Design
This model integrates elements of the ‘Kano Model of Customer
satisfaction’ to demonstrate that at a basic level, designers typically follow
the (or some variation of) design-thinking methodologies, which works to
resolve a single problem-case. This hygiene-level meets basic needs of the
customer. However, as the designer includes a purpose which is aligned to
the customer values, a performance-level of improved customer satisfaction
pilots of solu-
tion in more con-
texts and assess
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This model exemplies that with time and maturity of a solution, the
understanding of the problem must grow simultaneously. Initially the
priority might be to x the problem quickly through any means. However
as this urgency reduces and understanding deepens, a more sustainable
solution is required for longevity. Subsequently more strategic questions
of why the problem exists in the rst place begin to seek out preventative
solutions. Once these solutions are implemented successfully under one
set of constraints, the act of scaling this solution to work for different
constraints for more users then initiates the feedback loops optimising for
‘true inclusion’ practice and theory.
A Model of Process Improvement (adapted from Lean Manufacturing):
As the care industry transitions towards a ‘care value chain’, methodologies
existing in the supply chain optimisation can be explored for transferability.
In manufacturing, DMAIC is a well established 5-step approach to process
improvement. It is made up of:
1. Dene the problem, constraints and identify what ‘good’ looks like to
gain an understanding of the situation and purpose of the work to be
2. Measure the extent of the problem. The units of measure, the frequency
of the incidents, the severity of the incidents across a sample of time
that is representative.
3. Analyse why these incidents are existing through both a big picture
approach through to a granular data analysis for indicative trends. The
aim is to get to the root-cause of the problem.
4. Improve the situation through implementing a solution that addresses
the root cause of the problem.
5. Control the situation through developing a support system that
maintains the solution, this may be physical infrastructure, establishing
procedures for people to follow, training individuals etc.
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Care Value Chain
Design Theory: Theory behind problem-solving design with an element of
Practical Realisation: This is then practically applied into realizing their
solutions i.e. by creating solutions, services, medicines (providing a
solution to a practical problem) etc.
Physical UX: Users or customers who are applying that solution have a
physical response. They either get better (from the care provided or they
don’t) and they feedback which leads to practical solutions.
Emotional UX: Beyond this, the psycho-social experience of applying the
solution can affect the emotional user experience.This kind of feedback
requires a mindset shift in the problem solving approach and therefore the
‘design theory’ step; because the theory feeds back into a practical solution.
The importance of the nal stage is to create a long-lasting and widely
accepted product or service because if the emotional experience is ignored
(whilst the other steps are executed) then there will be many users who feel
physically better but emotionally drained. With the nal feedback loop,
the process of product design has become more sophisticated and more
Cultural Sensitivity vs Standardisation of Care as a Commodity
Any trade works on the basis of industry standards, however how can
standardization of care be maintained within different contexts? The
concept of care-trade should identify geographical and cultural differences
of care that exist due to the environmental challenges faced globally.
Design Theory Practical
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Caretrade would need to adjust to different global needs, whilst remaining
conscious of care segregation/ inequality i.e. to provide different care
packages to suit different needs to the same quality (equal but different).
Maybe a “care package” should nd optimum levels of medical, physical,
emotional, social, psychological and accessible, appreciating different
attributes need to be dialled up/down for individuals.
Overall this is an end to end care value chain which requires thinking about
problem solving, practical application of the solution which generates
physical and emotional feedback. Incorporating this feedback incrementally
builds a more inclusive care package (inclusive of physical and emotional
As our ‘model of care-trade’ depicted earlier; care-trade can be presented in
many different ways from the existing phenomenon of the ‘care industry’
through to a more sophisticated future portfolio of ‘reputable standards
of care commodities’. What is consistent throughout all of these versions
of care-trade is that there is an assumed level of standardisation, because
standardisation builds metrics, metrics bring predictability and this in turn
builds trust. Trust being one of the most critical ingredients for any form of
‘care’ and lasting forms of ‘trade’.
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Can Design Care for people’s frustrations
Alison Gault & Sally Sutherland
Below is the conversation from the DDC(2) workshop. This is comprised
of 4 parts
• Denitions. Identication of frustration and doubts. What this might
mean in the context of design and care.
• Where do frustrations and doubts manifest? Public and private.
Within design and care (research, practice, education).
• Trust and distrust
• Designing with and for frustrations and doubts
SS: Okay, so… Dictionary denition
AG: Well, something that should be considered is the whole idea
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of feminism and patriarchy. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my
hero’s. A champion for feminism and she has been explaining how this
is something we should all consider through her book ‘we should all be
feminists’ and how feminism can and should be embraced by everybody
with the whole idea of rights for all- I think all Designers should be
feminists. It would appear in this case that frustration can be a catalyst
for change and can be a way of moving from a place of discontentment or
liminality to a better place. Therefore, in some ways this can be a ‘positive’
experience and therefore frustration is not all bad. I think we agree that
dictionary denitions can really focus the mind but there can be additional
elements that that might come into the mix as well.
SS: Yes .. It can also be helpful to create our own denitions.
AG: Well absolutely
SS: So we might want to do that as part of this…
AG: Yes, the denitions are only a starting point and often there is an
enlargement and we might need to pare it back or add additional insights
with context, So …
(QUOTING) “Frustration.. the feeling of being upset or annoyed as a
result of being unable to change or achieve something. Tears of frustration
rolled down her cheeks. Synonyms are also described as exasperation,
annoyance, anger, vexation, irritation, bitterness, resentment.” (Lexico
Dictionaries | English, 2019)
That is exactly how… If I am angry I cry because I am frustrated.
AG: Also the…
(QUOTING) “professional progress the prevention of the progress,
success, or fullment of something… thwarting, defeat, foiling, blocking,
stopping, countering, spoiling, checking, balking, circumvention,
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forestalling, dashing, scotching, quashing, crushing” (Lexico Dictionaries |
… So I think that is interesting…
SS: Yes.. it is helpful to consider the denitions…
AG: The use of some of the selected words have impact such as
thwarting... crushing. Often as designers we can feel so crushed in some
environments. I know when I rst moved into a more commercial industrial
environment, which was still a creative environment… I felt very crushed.
Because my design had to t such a tight brief and I do think that designs
and designers can feel crushed or thwarted, and that they are often
overlooked, undervalued and not listened to…frustrating.
SS: Design can be frustrating and can make you doubt…. but at the
same time, and back to the question I feel that design can care and with and
for people’s frustrations and doubts... I guess this is through mediation and
AG: Absolutely…and designers should care, I use to think designers
should be neutral now I think they should be more political and care about
technology that discriminates, skewed algorithms and prejudiced historical
SS: So… it works both ways doesn’t it.
AG: I agree…
(QUOTING)”doubt and doubtful… maybe followed by a subordinate
clause beginning with that, whether, or if: I doubt that (or whether or if
) the story is true. It is doubtful that (or whether or if ) the story is true.
There is some doubt that (or whether or if ) the story is true.” (Lexico
Dictionaries | English, 2019)
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SS: Maybe we need to make a sentence about doubt of and doubt in
(QUOTING) ”to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely;
hesitate to believe. to distrust.” (Lexico Dictionaries | English, 2019)
There are obviously certain levels that you can begin to doubt and it moves
into distrusting. The dictionary denition is
(QUOTING) “to be uncertain about something; be undecided in opinion or
belief.” (Lexico Dictionaries | English, 2019)
And then the noun that attaches itself.
(QUOTING) “a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature
of something. distrust. a state of affairs such as to occasion uncertainty.”
(Lexico Dictionaries | English, 2019)
I think if I can relate that to a relatively recent example. I was working with
survivors of abuse and it was a collaborative project with students from
Cinematic arts and also students from Textile Art, Design and Fashion and
also Art therapy students.
They were ne when working with their hands and making things and
learning new skills such as knitting and crochet. There was a clear desire
to learn new skills or enhance their skills. However, they did ask us about
the lming the project, is – “Is this to make the university look good?”
We were surprised that they felt this way and this was clear evidence that
they had doubts about our motivations and rationale for the project, with
good reason. This was really interesting because while we had asked
them for their opinions and ideas at the outset, and we had asked what
they would like to learn, and the types of workshops that they would like
to be involved in, when it came to documenting the progress mid-way
through the project they were actually wondering what’s this all about. So
sometimes actually explaining or just being truthful and communicating
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clearly and transparently is important because it was about creating a sense
of belonging and a sense of mindfulness through making and having the
satisfaction of producing a textile artwork at the end. The nal outcome was
that the work produced would be showcased at an International conference.
They wanted to visually articulate and have their voices heard collectively.
I realised that while it was important to have a voice and raise awareness
through the nal artwork, it was the process of gently talking and building
condence that they were most interested in.
SS: It is positive that they felt they could ask you that. Actually, one
thing that keeps entering my thoughts
when considering these questions is how important trust and consent are in
terms of design and care. And if we are talking about people’s frustrations
and doubts, like you say there is that sliding scale of trusting and doubting
and then real mistrusting and I think that would be a really useful thing to
map out as a diagram maybe as part of this to try and make sense of it. So,
we could draw it as a visual… it feels like a visual to me.
AG: Always good to visualise.
SS: Let’s grab some of that paper here. And some pens.
(WE GET PENS AND PAPER)
Okay so Alison is mapping out a visual of frustration…
AG: This is a denition of frustration. We were talking about sliding
scales. We might have a number of these pages but they are the emotional
response to opposition… relating to anger or annoyance…
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A Visual Denition of Frustration
IMAGE 1 – ALISON – OBSTACLES CREATE FRUSTRATIONS
Where do frustrations and doubts manifest?
IMAGE 2 – SALLY - WHERE DO FRUSTRATIONS MANIFEST?
SS: This is what I mean. I can have issues with the reductive nature of
diagrams, so this is illustrative, but it is trying to locate where frustrations
and doubts may manifest. I think they might exist within these axes. I
see levels of uncertainty in frustrations and doubts that relate to trust,
and mistrust. In relation to care, and design in the context of care, trust is
crucial. Frustrations and doubts can be public and private so I will make
that the other axis.
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AG: I think a good point of reference for describing frustration could
be Artist Christine Sun Kim, who channels her Frustration and Anger
into Pie Charts. Christine Sun Kim in her series of large-format charcoal
drawings explores the difculties of navigating the hearing world as a deaf
person. The six works pair depictions of varying mathematical angles with
correlative, rage-inducing encounters that are both broadly applicable —
“being given a Braille menu at a restaurant” or “offered a wheelchair at an
airport” — and painfully specic to her experience — “curators who think
it’s fair to split my fee with interpreters.” (Nytimes.com, 2019). I think that
the charcoal artworks are insightful into the frustrations and anger that can
be keenly felt. If design is going to care and put effective systems in place
it needs to fully understand all aspects and be totally inclusive.
SS: Frustrations and doubts are not static either.
AG: There are multiple entry and exit points. Frustrations and doubts
ensure that design can be constantly in a state of ux.
SS: Yes, they are constantly in ux, coming and going. If you attend
to some, you can also let in others. Like closing and opening doors. As we
address complex and challenging issues of radical changes they will be
there. I would be concerned if they were not there, as that would mean that
we are not pushing hard enough. We need to stay with the trouble as Donna
Haraway says (Haraway, 2016). Engage with, understand and stay with
frustrations and doubts in order to make any meaningful change.
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IMAGE 3 – ALISON - MESSY MOVING FRUSTRATIONS AND
Trust and Distrust
SS: Shall we talk about the word ‘people’ in the question. Whose
frustrations and doubts, trust and distrust are we thinking of here? For me,
this also relates to consent.
This could be people’s experiences interacting with designs (systems,
spaces, objects, products etc), the discipline of design, or designers, design
researchers, or those working within the design industry - which can be
an immensely frustrating and doubtful industry to work in. From my
personal and professional experience, a lack of respect and understanding
of design decisions, value engineering, is a problem for trust within design
professions. What is designed is so often not delivered. Compromise can
lead to serious frustrations and doubts for practitioners.
In my doctoral research, which is about design and public breastfeeding,
I encounter distrust from those who may think I am using design to
commodify, sell or exploit something for prot. Design, and its long-
standing relationship with capitalism is ultimately responsible for this
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distrust. It takes a while to break down these barriers and many people still
don’t get it. This adds challenges to interdisciplinary, or multidisciplinary
projects as I feel that I need to explain what design is and isn’t, in order to
generate trust and have any kind of meaningful conversations outside the
discipline. I met a midwife who originally trained as an Architect, she got it
Design as a discipline is also a long way from being inclusive which can
lead to, I think quite rightly a lack of trust in the discipline. Work needs
to be done, to decolonise design, education, practice and research. Going
back to the feminist beginnings of this conversation, intersectionality is
fundamental. The inequalities within design in particular gender, racial
and class inequities in the UK are such a problem. We need to continue
making the case of the importance of perspectives in design. There remain
so many barriers within design education and practice meaning multiple
perspectives are still simply missing. This has to not be about ‘co-
designing’ perspectives in, but getting a balance of perspectives into the
whole discipline. This is also about being critical of all modes and models
Issues of trust and distrust, frustration and doubts, also throws up issues of
consent. What is being consented to in matters of design and care.
AG: Yes, the balance of perspectives is most important. Designers and
design can be powerful change agents. Design can be political and the
design choices we make can be political and therefore open to exclude and
perhaps even potentially oppress or damage people and the planet. If we
think about the opposite of frustrations and doubt we have fullment and
empowerment, when pursuing and achieving our goals.
If you think about the stats on PPE with the design generally relating
mainly to men, the risk to women on the roads as a result of most cars
and safety interventions being based on the average man, we could go on,
mobile phones, toolkits, bricks, height of luggage racks etc. All designers
should be feminists!
The designer is often full of frustration and self-doubt and as we have
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previously discussed and this can be a motivator to problem solving and
bringing solutions to a range of identied problems – designers can often
be the sign-post to good and successful practice. Designers are often tasked
with bringing ‘low cost’ solutions to big Global problems, design can
remove the major costs to suppliers and or customers and identify what
is already available. The digital economy can be used to create a more
frugal economy, we can think of how the smart phone has revolutionized
education in many African and emerging economies. Design can bring
together existing assets and share them across sectors in efcient, inclusive
and sustainable ways. Often emerging economies are already operating
in a way that have brought solutions and innovations to underdeveloped
regions. (Harvard Business Review, 2019)
Thinking about care recipients, they are often full of frustration, self-doubt
and distrust of care-givers and designers/solution seekers – asking what
are the motivations? And how have we been considered, included in the
discourse around the correct design approach and outcome, there should be
user-centered design solutions.
The care-givers/caretakers – are often full of frustration, disappointment,
guilt, resentment and distrust and are in survival mode. Systems and
procedural design can create high levels of frustration and distrust.
Designing with and for frustrations and doubts
SS: How can we move this forward? I think there are three things here.
Firstly, what is specic to design that can enable or ‘go with’, or engage
with frustrations and doubts?
Secondly, it is important to recognise that we are in a situation of political
and planetary crisis. Design has a unique role to play within change making
agendas. If real changes are to be made to deal with urgent issues of
sustainable development, I don’t think we can avoid potentially offending
people which inevitably can lead to conict, tensions and frustrations.
And lastly – design is frustrating for many, for many reasons.
Fundamentally I do not feel that it is well understood or respected as a
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 30 10/12/2019 12:21
discipline by others.
AG: Yes, other disciplines are more respected, science for example is
able to highlight the problems but not always able to x them, that is often
in the domain of design or at least in collaborative design. Time is running
out, there is a real sense of urgency this is the key issue and when you think
about the level of fake news, green washing, pretence and an overwhelming
sense of is it even possible to return from the precipice of disaster,
extinction. We need to bring the masses with us and design can do this. So,
we need to explore how design can help to build
• Mutual respect and understanding.
How can design address the doubts around various Agenda’s and
Questioning motivations by promoting greater understanding and teams
that will bring both Dogma and Compromise. We need to identify the
obstacles and impediments to progress and come to a point where it can
successfully eradicate division and isolation. Creating a community of
practice through collaboration and understanding how to scale this up.
SS: I think for me, most importantly in relation to this question is
how design can get better at embracing uncertainty while recognising,
identifying and attending to these frustrations and doubts. At being
confused and going with this confusion… acknowledging the messy
uncertainty in all design work, recognising the value of that. We can
bring design anthropology theory from Yoko Akama, Sarah Pink and
Shanti Sumartojo in here. In their 2018 book ‘Uncertainty and Possibility’
they talk about uncertainty as technology for disruption, acknowledging
the uneasy experiences that come with this. Embracing uncertainty and
avoiding afrmative design in order to avoid reproducing the status quo.
Okay so I have revised the diagram.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 31 10/12/2019 12:21
IMAGE 4 – SALLY - SCALES OF TRUST AND UNCERTAINTY
IMAGE 5 – SALLY - CARING AND DESIGNING WITHIN
SS: I think it is worth considering what it means for design and care if
we work here where I have used red?
From our examples and conversation, it is possible that the discipline of
design, which includes broadly practice, research and education needs
to better articulate itself and its boundaries in order to build trust of the
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 32 10/12/2019 12:21
discipline. There is no one way that we work, everyone in this workshop
has such different design approaches. Plurality is important. We can respect
this plurality, negotiate and make sense of this is important for trust to
So back to the question - Can Design Care for people’s frustrations and
Design must care with frustrations and doubts. Embracing uncertainty,
and actively acknowledging that this will exist, using it and going with it.
However, we must in addition work to build trust. Trust of design, within
design and in our designing. This might go some way to care for design and
for care. Caring for people’s frustrations and doubts in and of design. Not
necessarily trying to x them, but recognizing them and going with them.
Akama, Y., Pink, S. & Sumartojo, S. 2018, Uncertainty and possibility: new approaches to
future making in design anthropology, Bloomsbury Academic, London.
Haraway, D.J. 2016, Staying with the trouble: making kin in the Chthulucene, Duke
University Press, Durham.
Harvard Business Review. (2019). Tackling Big Global Challenges with Low-Cost
Innovation. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/02/tackling-big-global-challenges-
with-low-cost-innovation?autocomplete=true [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].
Lexico Dictionaries | English. (2019). English Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar Help |
Lexico.com. [online] Available at: https://www.lexico.com/en [Accessed 25 Nov. 2019].
Nytimes.com. (2019). An Artist Who Channels Her Anger Into Pie Charts. [online] Available
at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/21/t-magazine/christine-sun-kim-artist.html [Accessed
25 Nov. 2019].
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ddc2 h2h book2.indd 34 10/12/2019 12:21
Can Design contribute to the gap
between the ideal of Care and real Care?
Cara O’Sullivan & Silke Hofmann
CO: Can Design Contribute To The Gap Between The Ideal Of Care
And Real Care?
SH: How do you perceive care in the Japanese culture?
CO: The visibility of care in Japanese culture seems more prominent
than at home (UK) - it’s the little things that happen everywhere you visit
like providing hand wipes before a meal, and baskets under the tables to put
your bag in so it doesn’t touch the oor, or even the many options provided
by toilets here, it somehow feels more caring to be given choice sometimes.
In Japan the whole society seems more caring in some way, there appears
to be so little crime and there is a calmness about society.
SH: In Japanese culture I feel that the individual’s caring-ness is best
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seen in the way they care for the little things around them, like plants. For
example in old Kyoto houses there are cracks in the pavement between
the houses where weeds grow and the locals will tend to them and care for
these little crack gardens - they’re so sweet - it’s a very caring view to look
after all the living things, not just because it was put there by a human, like
who is to decide whether this is a weed.
CO: If we dissect this as a research question we could ask ‘What is the
gap, what is ideal, what is real, what is the gap between the two, what is
care, what’s missing, what could care be, what do we want care to be?
SH: Also whose perspective are we looking at this from because I feel
in general, I feel there’s a huge gap between my view as a patient on the
‘ideal care’ and the view of ideal care from the perspective of the caregiver.
CO: Ideal is quite an individual concept because everyone has a
different ideal to some extent. Depending on your needs, abilities, wants
can affect your perspective on what the ideal would be to you.
SH: Can we care not just about someone or something but about certain
processes or certain choices - is there a gap between the most caring
processes and choices and the reality of our processes and choices - How
do we decide what should be given importance or be cared about most,
How can there be universal instances of care? The ideal implies an abstract
term that lies above all the actions to follow… is the way that we do
something attaching importance to things and saying we care about these
things, if so maybe it’s not so much about the outcome but the way you do
something that shows caring.
CO: If we assume there is a gap between the individual’s ideal of care
and the caregiver’s ideal of care I wonder if we could create some sort of
chart or framework which can translate or communicate each stakeholders
ideals to the other so they can quickly understand each other’s goal. On this
note care needs to be analyses in terms of hierarchy as well; who knows
the best care. Who’s ideal of care is most important in different scenarios…
Let’s discuss the faces of care in our own work, do you have an example of
care in your work?
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 36 10/12/2019 12:21
SH: I have been doing sessions with breast cancer survivors in Bosnia
and there is a doctor there who was leading the oncology department there
during the Siege of Sarajevo in the 90s and I asked him what he could
do for cancer patients at that time; when their country is at war, their city
is under attack, there are snipers all around the city killing people in the
streets and then they are diagnosed with breast cancer. And there are limited
supplies of medicine available. The doctor replied by saying the biggest
thing he could give his patients was empathy - for me that was really
moving because at that time that’s what they fell back on yet in peaceful
times this notion of empathy sometimes goes out the window - you have
all these treatments but your soul is not cared for… have you another
CO: For the past week I’ve been in Kenya doing research with
wheelchair users in remote rural areas where there is a strong belief in
witchcraft and many believe their disability is the result of a curse. The
way communities deal with this belief varies between tribes; we have met
some who believe they must care for the disabled person so that the curse
is not ‘released’, and we have met others who believe they must shut away
and essentially neglect the cursed person so that their community is not
associated with such witchcraft. The underlying belief is the same but the
reaction to the situation and the way in which care is applied is so different
even within cultures.
SH: I’ve read that women with breast cancer in Rwanda are in a similar
position after they’ve had a mastectomy because the standard prosthesis
aren’t suitable to wear in such hot weather and so their operation is visible
and they are often being shunned
CO: I believe to some degree design is able to bridge the gap between
what care someone is being given and what care someone actually needs,
for example, in the case where someone was being neglected we did not
question or discuss the communities belief or faith we simply designed a
wheelchair which would give the neglected individual independence and
then let them have it. On the day of handing over the wheelchair the whole
community gathered around and seemed interested and excited by what
was happening. For the rst time in some cases, the wheelchair user was
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 37 10/12/2019 12:21
now the centre of attention, and the community seemed to have parked their
beliefs or concerns about the individual’s condition and enjoy the fact that
they are mobile - in both contexts they were now experiencing various new
social interactions with members of the community from children running
around them and playing, to being able to attend the church service for the
rst time, they were more included, and as a result they felt more cared
SH: In this case it sounds like you are visiting the person’s home
and caring in their place and entering their narrative. Care in many other
narratives alludes to people stepping away from their homes and entering
a facility or service and being cared for in a more standardised way. In
the context of breast cancer there is a very generalised system for after-
surgery care where you might be given a bra with a prosthesis to replace
the removed breast. But if you choose to be one-breasted there is currently
no bra that gives you the choice to not wear a prosthesis and so you would
not be able to get the correct support from a bra and end up being lopsided.
The design and engineering knowledge exists to create such a bra but it is
not considered commercially viable enough to develop. What more could
design do here?”
CO: If a product isn’t considered commercially viable or sustainable
most companies tend to rule it out as a worthy investment, even if it is the
ideal solution to someone’s needs. But if there was a way we could bridge
this gap between someone’s need and commercial viability by nding new
manufacturing techniques, design processes, methods, systems, services
to make these ideas more feasible, maybe that is one way design could
contribute to the gap between reality and the ideals. Design can also
act as a facilitator, sense maker and agent of transdisciplinary, bringing
various voices and expertise together in an inclusive and equitable manner
to establish a holistic understanding of exclusion issues. It can help us
identify currently overlooked groups and give them a voice. Design can
utilise frameworks, principles and processes to assist in the development of
more inclusive care products, care services and care systems. Design can
ultimately bring about cultural change informing social behaviors towards
diversity and equality.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 38 10/12/2019 12:21
SH: On one level the ideal care is catering to the individual needs
whereas real care introduces commercial considerations to this, there might
be something in idealistic design which puts aside commercial viability
during the design process and then becomes more imaginative about the
business model in order to make it work.
CO: Different stakeholders need to work together to achieve ‘the
ideal’, it couldn’t be just one person because we need the voices of many
to build a product, a service, a system, or anything else which will work
for anyone.” As designers, the way in which we tend to care more about
problems with large commercial value or impact makes me question if we
could reassess how we place value on a problem (other than commercial
viability) so that there is value and incentive to be more caring about niche
or bespoke problems.
SH: It feels like the more you understand someone or something, the
more empathy you can grow for it and the better you are able to care about
it. Maybe this conceptual framework could provide structure to care so that
the caretaker can understand where you are in terms of the care you want
and need and how they could best provide this in a way that won’t cause
any emotional harm.
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Despite the optimistic predictions for the
Design of Care, what does the doing of
Care really do?
Carolina Ramirez-Figueroa & Trudy Watt
This question contains an implicit critique of our usual ways of viewing
care as inherently good, with only a bright future ahead. If current
discourse whispers, “Care is ideal. Care is good. Care is protable. Care
can only be good.” then we respond with a call for designers to apply the
strongest evaluative and regulatory method we have in our discipline:
critique. The extent to which care is idealized makes it resistant to criticism.
We must develop a criticality of care so that we can begin to anticipate the
inequities that arise when some entities are determined to be deserving of
care and other entities are excluded.
TW: As we talk about the ways that care becomes a matter of concern,
especially in design, we must discuss the ways that the whole notion of
care is inextricably linked to issues of race, gender, class and wealth. In
the United States, matters of care that resonate in design are consistently
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 41 10/12/2019 12:21
rooted in unequal ways of caring on the basis of race. The way that people
of color are treated for example is regularly inhumane – that is, with a level
of care we would nd unacceptable for other human beings. Think of the
maternal mortality rate among black women– where a black mother is three
times more likely to die than a white mother from pregnancy-related
complications. This would appear to be strictly a health care example, but
how is design also complicit in this egregious difference in the likelihood
of survival of women by race?
CRF: Yes, and this point reminds me of the way Tove Pettersen
highlights the relationship between care and women in particular in her
paper, The Ethics of Care. She reminds us that, in years past, the entire
idea of care was deeply related to women – the personal dilemmas we
face, the care of children – these are all matters of concern for women and
mothers alone. Care, however, is not only about gender and relationships
between individuals. If we want to examine how design gets involved, it
would be useful to take a more philosophical approach to look for other
models in the broader area of ethics.
TW: I wonder if there’s a distinction we could make that starts to erode
the usual dichotomies and categories we usually think about in care.
What does care in design look like when we look at it through the lens of
privileged and non-privileged entities, regardless of gender, race, species,
and etc? Might that help us take into account ways that care is actually
uncaring, both among human beings experiencing a lack of care and non-
human entities, without falling into the traps of categorization that we are
CRF: These things do seem to be interconnected somehow. Consider
the intersection between the non-human and the human: as human beings
we are limited to a human way of perceiving things. We can’t perceive the
world any differently than a human being does, except when we begin to
think about our connections with other organisms, such as in the case of
the gut microbiome. There is also the way that human beings view non-
human entities in a very utilitarian way – modifying, for instance, bacteria
to produce a specic kind of protein that will act as an adhesive leading to a
beautiful new sustainable application, etc. But in this process, is there ever
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 42 10/12/2019 12:21
a moment of pause to consider caring for microscopic beings? In contrast,
would we develop these new materials and functions similarly if the
process involved entities we value more highly? A dog for instance? One of
the ways we could potentially temper the optimism care seems to produce
in design is by considering the ways that closeness to humans (such as in
the case of a dog) impacts our tendency to care about an entity involved in
the process of design.
TW: This question of value points to a new inequality in caring as
contemporary practices of care-design grow, which would simultaneously
reiterate traditional forms of inequality (as in the example of racial
disparities in maternal mortality rates in the U.S.) while expanding new
inequalities that are even less legible (such as ethical questions about
bacteria’s exposure to potential abuse during the development of new
design technologies). Another matter for consideration must be the ways
that the appearance of care could exempt contemporary design practices
from criticism — our typical means of regulation and evaluation in the
design elds. What comes to mind are the highly designed and curated
products of the elite wellness industry. A recent New York Times article
proled Jennifer Batchelor, the owner of a Los Angeles nutropics bar
which serves not alcohol but brain-enhancing supplement laced cocktails,
proposing a “new sobriety” which is, we must assume, not only better than
the old sobriety but better than the old drunkenness as well. The way
that this bar is imaged,  both in terms of its proprietor herself and the
environment of the bar itself (think rare velvet jumpsuits, luscious plant
walls, and luminous rays of sunshine carefully tuned for the pages of a
glossy magazine) amount to a substantial design effort around this form of
self-care, which feels associated with other high-end wellness trends that
are becoming powerful signs of a life well lived and of accomplishment.
I suspect that design in the service of economically inaccessible forms
of self-care, amplied by social media, is more difcult to critique than
earlier forms of public narcissism performed by elites. I say this because
I am, myself, intensely attracted to this lifestyle that promises not only
a better me but a clear route to a protable alliance between design and
wellness – and I take the intensity of my interest as a signal that there is
something to pay close attention to here. As Andrew Atwood points out
in his recent book Not Interesting, we have let designers’ interest lead us
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 43 10/12/2019 12:21
for most of history and this leaves little room for those ideas, entities and
projects we do not nd of interest. The problem is that our interests arise
from training in a white, male, Euro-centric design tradition that lters out
CRF: Yeah, I agree completely. This is a notion of care that has become
a contemporary lifestyle, a symbol of status very visible in the media,
especially social media. The more posts one makes of gym lessons, pilates
classes, advice on consuming probiotics and so on, the more followers one
attracts and the better life one leads. Facebook philanthropy, in which a
person posts a request for donations to a given organization, seems to be
another example of this supercial form of caring that conceals uncaring.
TW: Yes, it’s very transactional. A performance of care as in virtue
CRF: Yes, virtue signaling. Although the act of asking for donations to a
charitable organization might look caring, it could be very detached from
the problematic that the transaction itself raises.
TW: Right, and even if one does care for the organization on the
receiving end of the donations, the value of the transaction to one’s own
appearance of caring or reputation for generosity seems to weigh more.
My displays of caring, which may actually bring me some happiness,
also signal my status and underline my separateness from lesser “others.”
Although these forms of public care performance we have been discussing
will be resistant to it, we should insist critique is applied, especially when
we see instances where one’s ability to perform care begins to supplant
traditional measures of happiness and contentment.
CRF: There seems to be a tension between the ‘canonical’ understanding
of care and the way it is morphing into a contemporary practice. Care
is something that is understood to happen at the intimate scale — it is
associated with women and imagined within the boundaries of the home. A
mother cares for their children, looks after the family. But the practices of
care that we see now perhaps requires a different denition. A provisional
understanding of care might involve empathy towards others, one that
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 44 10/12/2019 12:21
operates and depends on an intuitive understanding of their orientation and
needs. And as we have been discussing, care is often exclusively human.
Perhaps we could sketch a category here of human-centric types of care,
which are inuenced heavily by imaginaries of gender and race. Care as
an intimate practice is pastoral: it harks back to 19th century archetypes
of ‘barefoot and pregnant’. And I think that similar tropes are at play in
the practices of self-care that you described: virtue signaling, Facebook-
ways of caring; the wellness industry, organic products. These are practices
which wouldn’t exist without that heavy racial component: they are ‘white’
practices that operate in a patriarchy. They are about shaping your body, a
form of bio-politics that often have a white, European body-type canon.
TW: I hear what you’re saying. I sense that we’re coming from a similar
angle around the way that privileged forms of care, whether they are for
humans in general (as you’re saying) or (as I was saying) specic humans
who can access the Los Angeles nutropics bar, exclude other forms of
care and are currently designed and packaged such that we don’t question
whether or not it’s the right thing to continue to pursue that privileged form
CRF: That is one thing that new denitions of care need to challenge I
believe. Who gets to be ‘cared for’? To paraphrase Timothy Morton, how
can we expand a human practice to forms of solidarity with ‘nonhuman
TW: If, as it seems we are discussing, the design of care is a future
practice that we are just seeing unfold at this moment, I wonder if it is
useful to pause and take apart the ways that this evolution is occurring.
Could we identify and take a close look at one current care practice and
then begin to speculate the way that this actual practice might become a
bridge to a future ‘design of care’ practice?
CRF: That’s an intriguing idea. I’ve been, for example, questioning the
ethics of working with bacteria in my own research. I’ve been working for
a while on this project on AMR (Anti-Microbial Resistance) – the notion
that at some point antibiotics won’t be sufcient because pathogens will
evolve antibiotic resistance quickly enough to deplete our current reserve
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 45 10/12/2019 12:21
of drugs. If we use this case to, as you suggest, analyze how practices
of care unravel and evolve, we can interrogate the way that experiments
are designed and run. We give little thought at using worms and mice
for example to inoculate pathogens and understand its mechanisms of
operation. There is an ethical calculation where microscopic beings as well
as certain animals are ‘expendable’ when weighted against the potential
knowledge to be acquired. But the calculation changes if you consider a
dog or a cat. I think that is a sketch of the current practice of care. One
project which I think enables us to speculate about non-humans ways of
caring is Hideo Iwasaki’s aPrayer. The context here is that biologists in
Japan hold Shinto memorials to commemorate microorganisms that have
died in the course of their research, and Hideo went a step forward and
created his memorial for articial cells and lives. What I nd fascinating
is the way that the memorial questions what it means to be alive — Hideo
himself talks about inter-subjectivity as the pre-condition for liveness
instead of animation. I think that the future form of care that can emerge
here is based on a practice of ‘alien phenomenology, to coopt the phrase of
Ian Bogost.  Understanding the world through the perceptive capacities
of other beings. Asking how do they communicate with each other? What
are their ‘motivations’?
TW: Very interesting – I’m reminded that Timothy Morton also
identies inter-subjectivity as one of the dening characteristics of a
CRF: What I also think that the memorial does is hint that perhaps the
way forward to create a new form of care is to blur category boundaries.
There is something incredibly powerful when we realize how much of what
we imagine to be ‘our body’ is ‘non-human’ — around 90% of the cells
inside us are not human, but bacteria and other microorganisms. We know
for example that the bacteria in our gut inuence our moods and behavior,
what the scientists call the ‘gut-brain axis’. I nd fascinating how thinking
of the extent we depend of nonhumans destabilizes our sense of being and
our hierarchies of who gets to be cared for.
TW: That’s very exciting – and I’m reminded of a theory that I have just
learned about in the area of cognitive science and consciousness studies
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 46 10/12/2019 12:21
called panpsychism. On a recent episode of Sam Harris’ podcast, Making
Sense, he interviews his wife Annaka Harris about her new book about
consciousness – she somewhat sheepishly admits panpsychism, in which
consciousness is posited as a fundamental property of all matter, could have
some things right. Many authors have asked the question, “What is it
like to be a thing?” – perhaps rst explicitly with Thomas Nagel and What
Is It Like to Be a Bat? in 1974. If it is like something to be a thing, in
other words that non-human entities experience being non-human entities
in non-human ways, is that consciousness valuable in the same way that
we view human consciousness as valuable? As we said before, everyone
agrees that a dog has consciousness, and this would seem to be one of the
reasons scientists refrain from using their pets as test subjects. An apparent
lack of recognizably human-like consciousness does seem to be one of
the characteristics that allows people to engage in dominating, colonizing,
testing and manipulative behavior towards other entities. If we discover
that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter, it can no longer be
used as a means to divide those entities deserving of care from those that
do not deserve care. In addition to consciousness, what further conditions
of otherness allow human beings to glide past critical questions about how
their caring is impacting others?
CRF: You’re absolutely right and I think we share some of the same
references here. We need to be careful not to slide into a pantheistic
position of saying: everything and everyone care. And I think it comes
back to Jane Bennett’s argument that consciousness, as you’ve eloquently
put it, has often been the precondition used to judge whether something
is worthy of being awarded certain privileges — of not being considered
an instrument for something else for example. But following Hideo
in shifting that condition to inter-subjectivity gives us more solid ground
to proceed here. Perhaps it is not so much a blurring of a boundary
but an expansion of the membrane that denes care. Jane Bennett has
talked about the ‘vibrancy’ of matter as a way of overcoming the divide
between animate and ‘inert’ matter. One of the examples I love is from
a talk she gave ‘Power of the Hoard’, where she gives an alternative
description of hoarding. Instead of a pathology, she proposes that it can
be understood as a heightened capacity to hear the ‘call of things’: an
acute sense of the way in which humans and nonhumans depend on each
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 47 10/12/2019 12:21
other. This different perception of reality allows the hoarder to dissolve
the boundaries delineating their person and body and expand it to include
the things they hoard. Their accumulations are not just junk, but an organ.
An extension of their own body. It is not that everything cares, but more
permeable boundaries between categories and entities might enable us to
develop a form of care spectrum. Questions around the ways that emerging
design practices such as the Design of Care must embody critique are
simultaneously elusive and urgent. Critique has historically been practiced
after the fact or better yet, after the act of design - more often than not,
it is a reaction rather than a constructive, constituent part of practice.
We are in a moment of history where the consequences of our collective
actions are excruciatingly clear. The time for long form call-and-response
between practice and critique is over. The time for an exclusively human-
centric view is over. Learning to practice embodied critique in those areas
of design fascination that are the most resistant to criticism, like care,
is essential to building timely and concrete design practices under the
historical pressures we now face together.
 Tucker, 2007. A study that shows black mothers and white mothers experience
pregnancy-related complications at about the same rates, but that black mothers are 2 – 3
times more likely to die as a result.
 Pettersen, 2011.
 Williams, “The New Sobriety.” 2019.
 Vogue, “Meet the Poster Girl for L.A.’s Zero-Proof Party Scene.” 2019.
 Atwood, 2019.
 Morton, 2017.
 Bogost, 2012.
 Iwasaki, 2016.
 Morton, 2013.
 Harris, 2019.
 Nagel, 1974.
 Bennett, 2010.
 Bennett, 2011.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 48 10/12/2019 12:21
Atwood, Andrew. Not Interesting. Applied Research and Design Publishing, 2019.
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things / Jane Bennett. Duke
University Press, 2010.
Bennet, Jane. Jane Bennett. Powers of the Hoard: Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant
Matter. 2011. Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/29535247.
Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s like to Be a Thing / Ian Bogost. University
of Minnesota Press, 2012.
Harris, Sam, and Annaka Harris. “Making Sense with Sam Harris: #159 —
Conscious.” Apple Podcasts, https://podcasts.apple.com/lt/podcast/159-conscious/
id733163012?i=1000440719200. Accessed 29 Sept. 2019.
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Morton, Timothy. “Poisoned Ground: Art and Philosophy in the Time of Hyperobjects.”
Symploke, vol. 21, no. 1, Dec. 2013, pp. 37–50.
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Can Design’s idealistic claim of true
inclusion ever be achieved?
Csilla Narai & Emilene Zitkus
EK: When I see the inclusion in this question, I automatically think
of inclusive design, which is my eld. For me, this is about including the
elderly and the disabled into the design project, whatever you are creating,
whether it’s a service, a system or a product - to include the most people
possible. In a way, it is related to architecture too, if you think about the
building itself, what it means for a blind person or a wheelchair user... so
for everybody to be accessible, to be universal. However, if it is achievable
or not, is a difcult question and it varies a lot. For a building, you can
clearly track (requirements of) accessibility, but in product design, it is
more difcult to assess. It is also a vast area: think about all the capabilities
you need to match when designing a service or a product… It is very hard
to combine what the market demands in relation to that service and the
wide range of people’s capabilities - that even decrease with age. Yeah, it is
quite difcult to think about a full achievement in this perspective. But you
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Can Design’s idealistic claim of true
inclusion ever be achieved?
Csilla Narai & Emilene Zitkus
EK: When I see the inclusion in this question, I automatically think
of inclusive design, which is my eld. For me, this is about including the
elderly and the disabled into the design project, whatever you are creating,
whether it’s a service, a system or a product - to include the most people
possible. In a way, it is related to architecture too, if you think about the
building itself, what it means for a blind person or a wheelchair user... so
for everybody to be accessible, to be universal. However, if it is achievable
or not, is a difcult question and it varies a lot. For a building, you can
clearly track (requirements of) accessibility, but in product design, it is
more difcult to assess. It is also a vast area: think about all the capabilities
you need to match when designing a service or a product… It is very hard
to combine what the market demands in relation to that service and the
wide range of people’s capabilities - that even decrease with age. Yeah, it is
quite difcult to think about a full achievement in this perspective. But you
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probably have a better insight about the business or social side of this kind
of inclusion, don’t you?
CN: This question is also quite interesting because, and I would like
to pass this one back to you later, so it says “design’s idealistic claims”…
Does design really claim that there is true inclusion? I don’t think so. But
let’s suppose it is true and there is really such a claim, then it implies we are
actually already addressing inclusive design. This slight sarcasm aside, yes,
I would say and traditional design has nothing to do with inclusion...
EK: Yes. If we talk about traditional design, what do you mean exactly?
CN: I think of that whole canon of state of the art (contemporary)
product design, all those designers that inuence product culture, our use of
objects… sort of these established, high-class, aesthetic, but also functional
attributes. The objects (it creates) might happen to be inclusive, but I guess
it was not the goal. Of course, you can also understand design as designing
services or spaces, as you said. Then again, it is an interesting question if
there is any claim about inclusion whatsoever. For services, maybe yes, but
actually, talking from the agency side, this might be called into question
as well. I have a lasting memory from this large consultancy I worked for,
I recall my boss very clearly, saying we are not designing for everybody,
but we are designing for 70% of the cases. It was a team meeting about an
industrial application, not a public service, but this is really what is often
happening in an agency, that you are not designing for the ‘edge cases’, for
the special needs, but you are designing for the most important use cases
and you are sort of hoping that the rest gets through anyways.
EK: Yes, it seems to be the general way of thinking, I think.
CN: It is the practice of design what I see, it’s the agency world – then
of course, I am not talking about the thought-leading or market leading
agencies, it is not IDEO that I work for. Maybe at IDEO they talk more
about it, but to be honest I don’t think so.
EK: Yes, they may have projects where they can apply these principles,
but these are not for everybody. I was in a talk delivered by Tim Brown
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and he was talking about these client-design team relationships and how
these block what you want to do. My PhD was actually about making
inclusive design decisions in these client relationships and it was really
interesting to see how the design agencies claim to be very inclusive, but it
all depends on the client, too. I was once in a commercial meeting, actually
several ones, where I could see these discussions about the project and it
was hilarious. It was an open project, where the design agency could have
applied inclusive perspective or inclusive principles, but they didn’t, at all.
It was the client who invited me to this meeting… so then there is always
this question if the agency is just trying to show off how inclusive they
are…. So, at some point they (the agency) took out this inclusive design kit
they had, but you know, you could see the dust on it. They explained how
they are able to use it, but as soon as you looked at the daily practice, you
could see that they didn’t really apply it for that specic project and that
market. In this specic case however, the client was of the opinion they
should use these inclusive tool. Then you could see the power of the client:
when they told the agency that they should use it. Then they said, ‘oh,
okay, but you should have specied it in the brief’. It is so interesting what
goes on in this industry! Then of course, maybe it’s also thanks to the fact
that I (as a researcher into inclusive design practices) was present in this
meeting (the elephant in the room), that they started to think more about
CN: Oh this is very interesting, I like your research!
EK: Going back to our topic, we could explore maybe… further to
aging related inclusivity, for example, what could be some social aspects?
CN: Yes, I wonder if there are any other aspects of inclusivity. As I have
this background in social entrepreneurship, and coming from a socially
conscious environment, to pick apart everything critically, I might see other
meanings that are not there for everybody. There is for example cultural
inclusion, intercultural design - even in a business school, where I went and
that prepares you for global companies, there are classes on intercultural
business practices, how do you translate your business if you go into
another market, another culture. Of course, it remains pretty supercial.
Now we are in Japan, an ideal place to observe this phenomenon, because
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everything is different: the visuals, the non-verbal communication - the
gesture of “come here” is really different for example in Asia than in
Europe. You can feel on your own experience: seeing all this information
that you don’t understand, you can only make sense of the pictures, so it
becomes really interesting if those visual images are universal or not. In
digital product design as well, this is an important question: if you have
a service, a digital platform that is available across the world, then how
do you make it intercultural, how do you make sure it ts everywhere?
For example, for 5 markets, do you design 5 different versions? No, you
probably just translate the text, because that is cheaper. You don’t want
your designers to work on 5 versions, because they are already working on
3 different screens. So how do you design a product concept that is global
and universal? I am aware of some companies that have some research into
this topic, like Microsoft published their universal design toolkit. I think
even some publication of research is there.
EK: But then of course: are they truly universal?
CN: Well, at least it is interesting that they try and they did research on
the subject. Then there is also Google’s Material Design and other toolkits,
which are, I think the other way around. They enforce their visual language
on others and that’s how they create inclusion: everyone learns their
EK: Yes, I think we have two interesting points here, two ways of
creating inclusion, taking care of culture. In both cases there are very few
examples of truly including people. When a design company creates a new
persona or proling for a new target market, they never include a blind
CN: No, never, that’s the point.
EK: Travelling to another culture, spending a week there, like we are
here in Japan now, we have no chance to really understand the culture. You
gain some understanding, but probably more like misunderstanding… then
you go back to your country and claim that okay, you did this in a culturally
inclusive way. So, it is indeed an interesting point that it claims to be, but
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we are far from being truly inclusive, whether it is cultural or social.
CN: Yes, all right, but now the next question: what is your opinion
of the original topic, can it be ever achieved? I don’t know, I am sort of
EK: I think it is a kind of utopia: you aim for that and work into that
direction, but I don’t think it will be fully achieved. Inclusive, universal or
cross-cultural design, all are very similar, we can walk into that direction, in
terms of educating designers. Indeed, it is a very important role for design
research or teachers, to make sure we are educating future professionals
to take care of this important topic. Then by doing this, by educating
towards inclusiveness, not only new designers by the way, but also current
professionals, to get them involved in this discussion. It is very important.
But if it can be ever achieved - I think it is very utopian.
CN: I think the questions “can it” be or “will it be” are two very
different things. If it can be, I cannot really answer, because I don’t have
the knowledge, I did not do any research. I tend to think that there is no
universal language for 8 billion people, so I would not be surprised if
the answer was no. But if it will be… I think the answer is certainly no,
because, designers are paid by businesses and businesses have no interest.
They might have interest in showing off that they care, but I think that in
the past 150 years they could prove pretty well that they don’t really do.
There are of course other players that might be able to balance, regulations
and so, but you cannot regulate design.
EK: Well, you can regulate built environment… also service design, to a
CN: Before coming here, I looked into a few books and one of them was
“Design for Care - Innovating Healthcare Experience” by Peter H Johnson.
He says the problem with designing for Care purposes is that Care is
essentially different from the usual practice of design and business. Design
tends to be more operational, more utilitarian and more individualistic
and so on. There was, of course, some shift in this paradigm, but design
in general is much less focused on these ne layers of interpersonal
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interactions that art would for example care about. You cannot grasp that
with business logic, the logic of capitalism, which is inherently different:
it likes to express things in numbers, achieve objectives, purpose… even
purpose-driven is a term that is used in this specic context (of capitalism).
In Care, you are also driven to reach a goal, but it is not really about that,
it is much more about the other things that you are just doing, being
with them, etc. Then, from the point of view of inclusion, what is also
interesting, is that you will never be able to fully understand the people that
you are designing for, because it’s not you, but it’s them, they are different
– that’s the point.
EK: Exactly, it is very important in design to be an empathiser, not
sure if it is the right word, but I mean to be a facilitator in this process, to
help the client as well to understand how to think. I don’t know… we, as
designers, we should consider empathy and be a facilitator. Maybe if we
could change that in terms of the new professionals and say that you need
to consider the people and bring in very different points of views into a
client meeting. For example through user theatre, when we explore an
experience through the point of view of different users, lm it and bring
it into a discussion with our client. Then of course, you get more out of it
when you meet them face to face… so there is a way to explore this better:
the designer being a facilitator and getting the user themselves prepare
some kind of representation of their approach. I don’t know how realistic
this is for commercial projects, how to bring these into business. What do
CN: Yeah, the problem is… just a few words about empathy, my
favourite word. I am also a Buddhist actually, and in Buddhism, there
is a lot of focus on what is there called compassion, which is a form of
empathy. It is a very important thing to do for a Buddhist person, to be
with the community and, just in general, acting for others, instead of for
yourself. And it is very interesting, how you can learn this, how you can
become more empathetic, little by little by just being with people, listening
and start acting for them, instead of just sitting and thinking what they
might need. So I think there is this important learning-by-doing aspect of
empathy and I am aware there is a lot written about it and certainly much
research done, but this is not really happening in the eld (of commercial
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EK: And you also have to be with the people.
CN: Yes, and you need to start doing it and you need to discover what
it actually means, how much it is about the other people, what it means to
think ahead (for them) and provide them with what they need. Empathy is
not just observation, it is also doing, so this is why some newer forms of
design research are very great. This eld called generative research, when
you do stuff together with participants is a very interesting one.
EK: I think you are completely right. I recently had a project where
we were working with students and they had to consider visually impaired
people. We said it should be a product that people could use in the kitchen,
but they should consider the visually impaired user in the kitchen, and the
product should enable these people to use it comfortably. So we did an
empathy activity using blind folds, also using different glasses – as it was
not necessarily for blind people, they could choose the degree of visual
impairment. The other step was that a blind person came to the lecture
and talked about how it was like to move around in a kitchen with this
disability. It was very interesting, there were a lot of questions from the
students. So these were the two activities we did for them to empathise –
but it wasn’t enough. You could think that the results at least considered it,
but to get things really working, you have to do what you just described,
you have to be there with the person, on the eld, and see what they see,
feel what they feel. Can you think about anything else that could help to
empathise in a design project?
CN: Well, it is also true that the topic we are just talking about is not
new, there are books about how immersive design research is good for you.
As I often explain when I need to talk about service design, it is actually
a set of tools to solve complex problems, and to work with people who
are substantially different from us. This is what we usually do, and it is
for the same reason that anthropologically inspired research methods are
so popular, because they are well suited to explore complex challenges.
So we have these pretty nice methods, but we never actually do them
paradoxically, because there is not enough time, because the client does not
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think it is important, so then let’s just do some interviews and focus groups,
etc... We actually had a project that failed for the same reason, because
we skipped co-design sessions with our target users, as well as the fashion
designer working with us on this garment project. The designer did not
understand the users and she created something that everyone hated – in
retrospect, it is fairly obvious that we should have insisted on co-design. So
each time you clearly see that it is an “other” you are designing for, then
you really should use these methods, without compromise. It could be, that
it is easier with social inclusion than cultural inclusion, because it is just
easier to recognise. A further obstacle is that global companies quite often
don’t really have an interest in doing cultural immersion sessions, because
their branches will just need to accept the new standards – or shape it to
their own. If you have a branch in India for example, they will probably
do it in the Indian way anyways - they might still deliver the results, but
certain practices might never be adapted and just do it like they do in India,
why do it differently. So after all, I think that empathy, the right level of
empathy and also inclusion are all about being able to think and feel the
same way our subjects do.
EK: Yeah, or maybe feeling to think about inclusion, to be able to
produce the result we aimed for.
CN: Exactly, feeling to think, but also do it, instead of just saying it.
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ddc2 h2h book2.indd 62 10/12/2019 12:21
What should Design not waste our time
Sébastien Proulx & Barbara Trippeer
SP: Is it a question of time? Time is certainly a value, but there are
other things than time…that might help us discriminate between what we
don’t need to focus on.
BT: It’s not the same thing as funds, either.
SP: Yes. So, maybe that’s also a way to say time can be: “Not worth my
time, not worth my effort.” Oh, it’s a valuable thing, but that’s an economic
perspective on care, which can be problematic.
BT: Right. In essence, when we talk about care, we think of: “What are
we caring about?”: Empathy?
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SP: Alright, so, to avoid getting lost…let’s just try to pitch out of
our head what things we should not care about, then we can probably
conceptualize it, otherwise we’ll get lost in theory…
After initial introductions, the two of us began to break down the central
issues pertaining to the question of “what should design not waste time
caring about?”. Our shared concerns quickly made us realize that no
denitive answer to what we as designers could ignore could ever be
denitive and consensual. This matter of fact made us turn our attention
to how matters of concern, and of care, evolve with consideration to the
context, or ranges within the timeline of the design process.
SP: So, I think a good point to make, is that, the things we should not
care about, may EVOLVE throughout the design process.
SP: At rst, we should not care about norms. Later on, they actually
become relevant. We’ll need to account for that.
BT: So, there is a start, or the Concept Phase… There is the Ideation
SP: There is probably a timeline that brings in, or that we can use to
split the design process, and at each time there will be different things that
we should care about.
As our discussions turned to the subject of how our focus is bound
to a continuously evolving context, we had to acknowledge that what
should be considered as matters of concern should also be considered as
continuously evolving. For instance, saying that we should not care about
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 64 10/12/2019 12:21
nancial constraints and economic viability would be irresponsible and
unprofessional, but we can certainly argue that this matter can wait a little
when the project has not even been problematized.
BT: I also think the ‘Money’ concept too, can be a barrier…particularly
at the front end…
SP: Yeah, and this, so, this should not be, we should not care about that
really early on, that’s not important.
BT: Because it won’t achieve greatness.
SP: No, you don’t know…and, let’s be honest, there’s never enough
money, and there’s also always money. There’s money when you can
actually support and show that it’s relevant. You can always nd money.
But, in the end, even when you have money, you could say, ‘Oh yeah,
it’d be nice if we have more money.’ So, there’s never enough money, but
there’s always money.
BT: Not getting it in, there is the challenge.
The same could be said for matter around the aesthetic style of the design
outcome. Saying we should not spend time caring for aesthetic matters
would be diminishing what design has to offer and overlooking the benet
beauty has on the habitability of our world. Yet again, no one needs to
dene a color palette, typography kerning, wood jointry or specic type of
stitching before validating the social tness of the design concept.
SP: Yes, I think ‘Aesthetics” is important, really early on, not
‘Aesthetics’ in a pure “does it look pretty’ sense, but in the aesthetics of
experience, as in making it a beautiful experience. So, caring about, is it
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 65 10/12/2019 12:21
going to be tted for me in that sense…
BT: I prefer the term: ‘Valuable’, or ‘Meaningful’, versus ‘Beautiful’,
because, some people like things that aren’t beautiful or pretty, but they
still nd them meaningful. You know what I’m saying? There are some
SP: I understand, I agree- but that’s my beef with a lot of people
complaining about ‘Aesthetics’ right now, the meaning of ‘aesthetics’ in
philosophy is different. So, I mean, in design we have a bad reading, or
we’ve developed a kind of distrust of this word: ‘Aesthetics”, because it’s
been associated with a thing, or that we nd too restrictive. But, I think it’s
the reading of ‘aesthetics” is inaccurate, I think we need to rethink it, and
genuinely take it back. What do we actually talk about when we talk about
‘Aesthetics?’ Because, aesthetics is the starting point.
BT: So, this is one of the most important things, then.
SP: I would say that it is THE most important point, but NOT in the
limited sense that we often understand it- to the form of the thing, or the
relevant materiality, or looking at the ‘prettiness’. We should not care about
that. But, the ‘Aesthetic’, meaning the ‘Quality’, that’s what aesthetics
entails, rather: ‘What’s the quality of something.’
BT: Yes, the ‘Meaning’.
SP: Well, ‘Meaning’ is about a quality, ‘Meaningful’ is a quality. A
‘Quality’ is an aesthetic, in its philosophical meaning, not the narrow scope
of ‘star designer’, or ‘shiny magazine’ perspective.
BT: Right. But, it becomes an issue down here (gesturing toward the
sketch), when you’re testing.
SP: Yes, I think, later on, in the development, when you are nalizing
the design, then yes, “Let’s make it pretty. I don’t want ugly stuff in my
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 66 10/12/2019 12:21
BT: Right, or, “I’m not going to wear it if it’s ugly. I’m not going to use
it if it’s ugly.” If I don’t like it…
SP: Right, so- it’s a myth, that we can actually get away from “the
pretty”. It’s just that it’s not always the center of our attention, or rather, it
should not be, does not have to be the center of our attention at all times,
like it used to be at a certain time, or for a certain period of time in the
history of design. I think that’s the trickiness, with aesthetic, is that it’s
a loaded concept. And, we have to be careful not to throw it away too
quick. Or, say that the ‘prettiness’ of the thing that we are creating is no
longer important. It drives me nuts anytime I hear that. Because it’s not
true. The craftsmanship is still a ‘Quality’ of the design, in the end, when
you’re nalizing your design. If the craftsmanship is bad, then it’s not a
good design. ‘Craftsmanship’ is important, and we have to care for it, the
question is ‘When’.
BT: But, isn’t that a ‘Technicality’?
SP: Yes, that should be a ‘Technicality’, but one that we should care for
LATER ON (looking over sketch), so, maybe we can nd, and we could,
or maybe that’s too complicated- so, maybe we have our columns (gestures
to sketch), and we have our timeline. And, here we have those words, so
we have our categories. We could do the trajectory of design for instance?
For example, ‘Craftsmanship’. We should not care about it, we put it in
red, early, in the early phase, but it would still come back in black, later on,
while in other categories it will become ‘essential’ But, ‘Technicalities’,
will become ‘Meaningful’.
BT: Right, they become ‘Meaningful’ down here (gesturing to chart
SP: Yes, that’s a particular one- I don’t know if they’re all going
to move in the same way, but if we could do the trajectory of how the
concerns evolve throughout the timeline of the process, it could be really,
really interesting, as an example of how things evolve and our way of
caring for a situation. So, I think ‘Technicalities’ is certainly an important
category, and we could put it at the center of the words in that, maybe we
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 67 10/12/2019 12:21
could go back.
To structure our conversations around the various categories through
which certain attributes could be codied, we drafted a time-based
model of the design process (see gure 1). A number of phases were
also identied, from Conceptualization and Problematization, through
Operationalized and Execution. Above the timeline we set ‘Care’ Space
and below the ‘Care Not’ Space. This provided a framework to discuss and
reect on how matters of care evolve and move from the ‘care’ to the ‘care
We used this model to map out where some of the topics would fall, such as
“Ethics”, “Practicality”, “Conceptual”, and “Rules” or “Restrictions”,
which we had been discussing and then some more specic and concrete
SP: I would be wary of using the term ‘Ethics’, as it’s a very loaded
term…maybe, for the sake of clarity, and to avoid unnecessary debates,
we can nd another word that would be more accurate, or representative
of what we actually intend. For instance, in the ‘Problematization’ phase,
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 68 10/12/2019 12:21
‘Social Fitness’, for me, is a big matter of concern. And it is again, in the
‘Testing’ phase. In the ‘Ideation’ phase, whatever, I can explore. I will test
it again. I’ll come back to it during the ‘Ideation’. And the ‘Exploration’
phase, I don’t necessarily care about ‘Social realities’, I don’t care. But I’ll
care again, later on, in the ‘Problematization’ phase, so that I know and
understand what is going on.
BT: Right, because at that point you are thinking about where the pain
SP: What are the pain points? What are the needs? Because that’s
what we need to know, and then you can explore around those issues, but
not be bound by those social realities, so that you can explore divergent
ideas, pushing boundaries. Then, you can reel them back in, later on, in
the ‘Prototyping’ and ‘Testing’ phase. So, I think it’s really interesting, we
seem to be onto something here- in the sense that, as the ‘Care’ evolves, it’s
a back and forth, and that the ‘Things we should not care about’ comes and
goes, at different moments in the process.
As illustrated by the previous verbatim of our dialogue, such binary
classication of matter of care is far from being straightforward. But most
importantly this model revealed how ‘things’ can move from one one space
to the other and back again. As highlighted by the trajectory lines in the
gure, the nancial aspect in almost constantly shifting from one space to
the as the project moves forward.
BT: So, I think there’s a question of the politics involved with executing
the care. Can we design care systems or care products outside of the politics
of their potential implementation, or fragmentation? For example, if we’re
designing care products or systems, are the politics which might impact
their implementation an issue that we (as designers) need to be concerned
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 69 10/12/2019 12:21
SP: So, there are the questions pertaining to institution. Should we be
ruled by our institution? Or, make designs that are appropriate?
BT: ‘Appropriate’ denitely would be more important down here
(gestures to area on sketch). But, we should not necessarily, at the ‘Concept
Phase’, get too hung up on that, perhaps.
SP: No, ‘Appropriate’ becomes, we can only answer for what is
appropriate only at the end. But, at rst, we should not bother with that,
we should be completely free- of anything (although it’s not possible to be
completely free, because we are all just social constructs.) We are people
of our time, and people live in context, and we have to allow for that.
While the model revealed itself to be helpful in regard to sorting ‘things’
out, it was not meant to provide denitive answer on specic topics. This
model has to be understood as a malleable tool to support reective
discussion about what and how design should care for. For instance, one
of the major approaches which guided our discussion was the need to
challenge societal norms which seek to dene the difference between a
socially constructed denition of “what is normal” and contrast that with
a realistic version of “the ordinary.” As a social construct “normality” is
often dened through an idealized set of standards and norms, within which
people’s behaviours and values are expected to follow. Yet such idealized
“normal” boundaries often lead to the disregard of important dimensions
that take place within the ordinary reality that qualies as a person’s daily
life, or personal routine. From the outside, this “ordinary reality” may look
messy, because it doesn’t necessarily follow set rules or expectations.
SP: I think that’s the essence of what good care is- and so, we should
not care about how small it is, it’s not always about going to do big things.
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SP: Actually, I’m starting to wonder, should we just not care about the
Really Big problems, such as a big generic problem, which really makes no
sense for us to address as designers.
BT: Are you referring to ‘wicked problems’?
SP: Well, yes, and no, I would not go there, because that would entail
different things. What I mean, and I just want to rephrase- you see the big
generic problem for which designers have not power to answer for…Let’s
not care about that.
BT: That’s somewhat what I was referring to, say, as the politics…for
there are some things are out of our hands as far as who is in charge…
SP: Yeah. So, I think that there’s probably others… which are kind of;
‘let’s x cancer’. We’re not going to FIX cancer, we are not going to solve
cancer, as designers. But, we can certainly care…
BT: We can contribute to the care of it (of that problem, those
SP: For the experience of someone who has cancer, somebody trying to
go through cancer. That’s a completely different thing.
BT: The day to day lived experience.
SP: The day to day lived experience, or dealing with chemo, that’s
really, really interesting- that we can have an impact on. This is why I say
that even the most mundane things are worthy of consideration, and so,
which should lead us to kind of reect on, maybe we should just leave the
big things out, because life is about the little things.
The different phases in which we divided the design process are themselves
debatable, as they may not successfully be capable of covering every
potential design scenario. The specic context of a project may call for a
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design process where phases would be shufed around and allow for other
moments to become essential. The same goes for the categories that we put
applied. While those categories encapsulate central issues many designers
have to consider, we certainly did not exhaust all of the possibilities of
which designers may need to be mindful of within the design timeline.
In essence our discussion emphasized the need for a uid understanding
of what are matters of ‘Care’. Failing to account for the situated nature
of care is bound to limit the capacity of caring for that which genuinely
matters. As such, we both agreed that Design’s focus should work to avoid
limiting “signicance” or value (worthiness) in light of what might be
typically viewed as the “mundane”, as it is often personal experiences
which are enhanced most through tiny enhancements or changes (in other
words, life is about the little things). Likewise, we felt that the context of
each stage of a design development directly impacted what might be viewed
as critical or important, for example- although the politics of an institution
should not guide or limit one’s conceptual development at the onset of a
project, (the problematization phase),they would however be more critical
during ‘implementation’, or ‘nalization’ (the execution stage).
BT: It’s like making a reversed (timeline), considering…
SP: But, I think it’s important to, because it would be easy to fall into
‘Big Generalities’, that would be pointless. I think: “Things we should
not care about” is a dangerous question. It’s a really, really tricky and
dangerous question, because everything is important. But, there are
BT: When they are less important.
SP: Yes, when they are less important.
SP: And when they should not lead us or be of concern, or matter of
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concern, to allow for good care for real people. I think that’s the point. If
you want to prioritize good care, then you have to understand where we are.
BT: Right. I like to start with the grounded theory approach when I take
on these kinds of problems, in the sense that we think we know what we’re
doing, but we really don’t know what we’re doing.
SP: We don’t know. Even in the end, we still don’t fully know. We have
an answer that is satisfying, but. It is, for the time being, and again, that
goes back to, we should not care about making it perfect.
Interestingly, although our initial query had challenged us to consider the
issue of time (as what we should not waste our time concentrating on), our
rst response was to throw the issue of time out, however, in our approach
to the answer we instead built a timeline.
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If Designer and User continue to have
some form of relationship, what future
might Design and User Care for?
Jessica Melville-Brown & Rachel Goldie
The question can be divided into three parts; the relationship between
design and user, what that relationship might look like in the future and also
what they might care for.
To answer this, we have to understand the nature of this relationship in
the past, where it is now and what the purpose of the relationship between
Designer and User could be.
What is the nature of the relationship between Designer and User?
We must start from the very beginning, examining, what has the
relationship between the Designer and User been in the past, what has this
relationship represented and what does it mean for the future? Design
was an intuitive process, a shared activity, long before there was a word to
describe it. A 1593 reference in the Oxford English Dictionary described
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design as: ‘a plan or scheme conceived in the mind of something to be
done’. (Little et al, 1987, 528)Nigel Cross’ ‘Design Thinking’ explores
‘Design Ability’ of human beings; discussing that ‘(we) have a long history
of design thinking, as evidenced in the artefacts of previous civilisations
and in the continuing traditions of vernacular design and traditional
craftwork.’(Cross, 2011, p3) ‘Design’ was a communicative activity, aimed
at problem solving, working out how to make life easier, resulting in the
design and development of artefacts and tools. Together the process was
shared. It is only in fairly recent times that the ability to design has become
regarded as a kind of ‘exceptional talent.’ (Cross, 2011, p3) We cannot
deny it takes talent to design, and Cross reects that ‘design thinking is
something inherent within human cognition; it is a key part of what makes
us human.’ (Cross, 2011, p3) When we question what the relationship
between the user and designer is, and how it has got to where it is, has the
hierarchy in the design process created this pedestal for the designer; the
‘exceptional talent’, the ‘god-like’ gure, creating a distance between the
designer and user.
Forty indicated, that designing gave the architect the ‘status of intellectual,
rather than manual Labor.’ (Forty, g 30) Through drawing and design,
the architect removed themselves from this lowly occupation; a labourer,
a builder, which was considered less than that of the designer. In
architecture, Modernism represented the architect’s control and subsequent
denial of the user. The ‘hierarchy of architect and user’; is an idea common
in the history of architecture and particularly prevalent in Modernism,
resulting in what Jonathan Hill claims is a ‘denial of the user.’ The user
is left ‘passive,’ unable to engage with the designs around him beyond
the parameters predened by the architect or designer. He can neither
Figure 1: Illustrating the hierarchical power structure in the design process, with the
designer, ‘the exceptional talent’ controlling the design decisions over the users. Jessica
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physically nor emotionally engage with his surroundings. (Hill, 2003)
What is the impact of the removal of the user from the decision-making
process, from this shared process of what essentially makes us all human.
To design, is to problem solve.
What steps can be taken to develop a more equal relationship between
the designer and user? A more democratic process? Could we learn from
Deliberative Democracy, a tool for decision making which has its roots
in the Athenian-style democracy? Originating in ancient Greece, where
decision-making was carried out by large gatherings of citizens, largely
without the aid of representatives. It is based on the idea that authentic
discussion between free and equal citizens can enable consensual decision-
making which has legitimacy and is much less vulnerable to the distortions
that come with party politics. Here everyone is part of the conversation.
Deliberative Democracy requires skills to listen across deep differences
of life experience and value, and the ability to challenge illegitimate
power through discussion. (Hayward, 2012) In a complex and diverse
world, Amartya Sen reminds us we no longer have the luxury of ‘lazy’ or
‘disengaged tolerance’, it is no longer sufcient to say ‘you are right in
your community and I am right in mine’; somehow we have to nd ways to
develop democratic solutions for a common future. (Sen, 2009, px)
This common future, this common goal, is this represented in our design
practice today? If we look again at Nigel Cross’ ‘Design Thinking’, in his
rst chapter, exploring Design history, an element which raises alarm bells
is that the designers and case studies Cross has referenced, are mostly male,
and white. Three females were included; Eva Jiricna, a Czech architect,
(a 1-line introduction); (Cross, 2011, p20) Jane Darke, a Film Director,
interviewed a number of successful architects (ibid) and Dianne Murray,
recorded the social nature of design practices in an ethnographic study
of graphic designers. ( Cross, 2011, p20) These 3 females were featured
out of 24 males; 12.5%. A similar gure represents the gender disparity
in the design industry; Just one in ve designers in the UK are women,
22%, according to new research by The Ofce of National Statistics. The
percentage of women working in design has risen just four per cent since
2004 and women are under-represented in all design disciplines, including
architecture, civil engineering, town planning, software design, fashion and
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product design. What is the result of men mainly designing for us? Does
it create inclusivity? If the people designing for us are 78% male, will their
designs be beneting everyone?
This is not a new observation, Simone de Beauvoir made it most famously
when in 1949 she wrote, ‘humanity is male and man denes woman not
as herself, but as a relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous
being. (….) He is the subject, he is the Absolute- she is the ‘Other’.
(Criado Perez, 2019, XII) In describing women has ‘the other’, 49.5% of
the world is female (World Bank, 2018).
If we are removing ‘the other’ from the design process, what is the result
of this removal? Is deign, this shared activity, only to be reserved for
the ‘exceptional talent’? For design ability to be a collective and shared
process, there needs to be the removal of the designer’s ego ie. that
‘exceptional talent’. That exceptional talent doesn’t just have to be a ‘he’,
it can be a ‘she’ and a ‘we’. ‘We’ can rebalance the hierarchy in design
process, to create common ground, where we can create an equal platform
for every demographic to have opportunity to take part in the design
Can we ‘decolonise’ the design process? Ensuring inclusivity, transforming
our pronouns to ‘we’, ‘he’ and ‘she’? Fry writes, ‘Sustainment is not just
a matter of sustaining what we need but it also means overcoming what
(in our difference) we are.’ (Fry, 2011, p242) In coming together as a
collective ‘we’, as the creators and the destroyers, we have the opportunity
to evolve from being ‘un-sustainable users’, to ‘users of Sustainment’. If
we are designing a world that is meant to work for everyone, we need
women and men in the room, of every gender, colour and ability.
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Figure 2: A circular decision-making process, enabling everyone to be part of the
conversation. Jessica Melville-Brown
How can we share and divide this experience? It is important to step away
from seeing ourselves as a set of dichotomies: male or female, white or
black (McCall, 2005) Removing difference, removing ‘the other’, creating
an inclusive caring practise, this is what the user and designer should care
for in the future. Feminist tactics of care, commons and decolonisation
can be found to develop a more inclusive collaborative design practice,
motivated by questions around the inclusion/ exclusion of race, gender
and class. A key component of the engagement state of the relationship
between the designer and user, is to provide a democratic experience
and a voice to the everyday human who lacks engagement. Why do we
need to re-think how we design? As emphasized in the Preface to Design
Participation, Cross (1972) wrote, we ‘need new approaches to design
if we are to arrest the escalating problems of the man-made world and
citizen participation in decision making could possibly provide a necessary
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What could the relationship between designer and user look like in the
Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the
world we are a part of. (Kat Holmes 2018) Therefore, it is only right
that design itself should be an inclusive and participative process which
empowers people to take part. The future relationship of designer and user
lies in the democratisation of design, returning to those values of intuition
and shared activity that we shared in early civilisations.
Our ancestors understood that by working together they could improve their
lives. People were motivated to co-create because they knew that everyone
would benet. Today, we nd ourselves in ever-volatile economies,
environments and systems which are failing to serve the people who need
them. It is becoming apparent that our ability to overcome the toughest,
most complex problems in our societies we must work together. By
removing the barriers between designer and user, we can employ ‘design-
thinking’ as part of a collaborative, shared experience.
Design, at its core is problem solving. So, anyone who’s ever solved a
problem is, in a certain sense, a designer (Kat Holmes 2018) and the only
real difference comes with how much ownership users and designers take
over these labels. Perhaps, in the future, designer and user won’t recognise
these denitions. Their relationship may become one that is about the
community that you are part of rather than an individualistic role. It could
be a way of working where, people serve themselves and one another;
working towards a common goal.
This relationship will develop in a future where people pull and share
resources to reach their vision. It will be a relationship of mutual learning.
Of course, people will always have biases and their own mental models of
the world but by, acknowledging them, these perspectives can be valuable
to the whole. Each individual is an expert of their own experiences.
It is necessary to consider the relationship between designer and user within
a broader setting of change. The RSA’s, ‘Unlocking the creative potential of
21st century industry: Creating the conditions for design to ourish in UK
business’ talks about the need for a shift from ‘designing things’ to ‘design
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 80 10/12/2019 12:21
thinking’ (RSA 2018) This report recommends that design practices be
implemented across organisations at all levels.
The Design Ladder was developed by the Danish Design Centre in 2001
as a communicative model for illustrating the variation in business’ use of
design. It’s based on the idea that there is a positive link between better
performance, placing a greater emphasis on design methods in the early
stages of development and giving design a more strategic position in the
company’s overall business strategy.
Although conceived within a business setting, these ideas are transferrable
to design for social innovation. The most effective relationship between
designer and user would be one in which there are meaningful exchanges
from the outset and the user has the opportunity to shape the processes
in which they participate. Designing with the user, not just for the user,
creates experiences that better reect people. Participative design not only
broadens the diverse ways users interact with a product or service, it also
expands the user base itself.
Figure 3: A version of the Design Ladder by the Danish Design Centre
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Human-centred design, by denition, encourages a focus on people. In the
future, people will take design thinking to our biggest challenges. By letting
go of the notion of the designer is a specialist talent, people can adopt and
appropriate design tools in the ways that are important to them. People will
self-organise, learn and create around the things they are passionate about.
What could the shared purpose or goal of this relationship be?
The rst step in design is to dene the problem. Identifying the challenge
is an essential part of design process but deciding the problem itself creates
a dilemma for the designer and the user. This is because, who denes
the problem owns it and this can be an exclusive process. The designer
is the actor doing, processing and creating their vision. They control the
opportunity to participate, and they decide how to act on their research.
The denition of the problem can elevate or hinder the resolution. Albert
Einstein famously said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I
would spend 59 minutes dening the problem and one minute resolving it,”
The problem is as important, if not more so, than the solution. Exclusion at
the point of denition limits who can see themselves within a design and in
turn, who cares about it.
In recent years there has been a shift in understanding of where design is
best placed to effect social change. Lucy Kimbell, a strategic designer,
states in her essay ‘Design Thinking and the Big Society: From solving
personal troubles to designing social problems’, ‘We argue for a refocus
away from coming up with solutions to designing problems: for Design to
actively, purposefully and reexively participate in the making and molding
of social problems.’ (Lucy Kimbell 2011)
The purpose of Designer and User’s relationship might be to work together
to dene today’s most challenging problems. They might actually serve
one another, and their communities because that’s what is needed to make
a change. Designing a way to design problems that designers and users can
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Figure 4: The Vortex of Social Change (Georges, Goldsmith 2010)
Within the Vortex of Social Change, design tools and methods have distinct
advantages to encourage open source innovation, synthesise results and
engage citizens. Having an equal and transparent relationship, Design and
user have the opportunity to engage with those skills. Design can create
opportunities for people to have the agency to solve their own problems.
What might design and user care for?
Removing difference, creating an inclusive, caring design practice, this
is what the user and design should care for in the future. Feminist tactics
of care, commons and decolonisation can be found to develop a more
inclusive collaborative design practice, motivated by questions around the
inclusion/ exclusion of race, gender and class. A key component of the
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engagement state of the relationship between design and user is to provide
a democratic experience and a voice to the everyday human and non-human
who currently lack engagement. It is important to step away from seeing
ourselves as a set of dichotomies: male or female, white or black (McCall,
2005). Moving forward as a ‘we’ to achieve Sustainment, and to design-out
the adverse effects of our man-made problems. Stepping away from the ‘us
and them attitude’, the dichotomy of the developed or developing.
Jeremy Rifkin, the social theorist, explores the evolution of empathy and
the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. He
describes a future in which by ‘rethinking human nature to bring out our
empathic sociability so that we can rethink the institutions of society and
prepare the groundwork for an empathic civilization’ (Rifkin 2018)
Design has a role in shaping these institutions and it presents an opportunity
to design a society where people have equal opportunities to participate,
engage with and shape the world they are a part of.
Inclusive design has the capacity to facilitate social change. By involving
people in the strategic processes that directly affect them it is possible to
make positive changes which have real social, economic and environmental
Design can come full circle. From the development of our rst tools which
enabled humans to utilise the materials around them for protection, growth
and exploration and return to the shared process of collective problem-
solving for the common good.
Criado-Perez, Caroline. Invisible women: exposing data bias in a world designed for men.
Hardback, Book. English. Published London: Chatto & Windus, 2019
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 84 10/12/2019 12:21
Cross, Nigel. Design thinking: understanding how designers think and work. Oxford: Berg,
Cross, N. (Ed.) (1972) Design Participation: Proceedings of the Design Research Society’s
Conference 1971, Academy Editions, London, UK.
Davis, Sevra and Warden, Josie. Unlocking the creative potential of 21st century industry:
Creating the conditions for design to ourish in UK business. RSA, 2018.
Forty, Adrian. Words and Buildings: A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture, London: Thames
and Hudson, 2000.
Fry, Tony. Design as politics. Oxford: Berg, 2011
Gigi Georges, Stephen Goldsmith. The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic
Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good. John Wiley & Sons, 2010
Hayward, Bronwyn. Children, citizenship and environment: nurturing a democratic
imagination in a changing world. Published London: Routledge, 2012
Hill, Jonathan. Actions of Architecture: Architects and Creative Users, London and New
York: Routledge, 2003.
Holmes, Kat. Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design. MIT Press, 2018
Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet, A Treatise on Man and the Development of His
Faculties (1895; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 99.
McCall, L. (2005) ‘The Complexity of intersectionality’ Signs: Journal of Women in Culture
and Society, 30 (3): 1771-1800
Meadows, D.H., 2008. Thinking in systems: A primer. chelsea green publishing.
Rifkin, Jeremy. RSA ANIMATE: The Empathic Civilisation. 2010 [Accessed 20/09/19:
Sen, A. (2009) The idea of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Simon Blyth & Lucy Kimbell, Design Thinking and the Big Society: From solving personal
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 85 10/12/2019 12:21
troubles to designing social problems 2011
Todd Rose, The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness (New
York: HarperOne, 2015)
William Little, H.W Fowler & Jessica Coulson, The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on
Historical Principles, vol.1, ed. C. T. Onions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987)
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Is the invasion of Care by Design just
another colonizing fantasy?
Julia Backhaus & Ida Telalbasic
IT: We are here in Chiba University, Julia Backhaus and myself Ida
Telalbasic. We are discussing Question 16: “Is the Invasion of Care by
Design just another Colonizing Fantasy?”
JB: Should we start with sharing our backgrounds and from which
perspective we will try to address this question. Ida do you want to start?
IT: Yes. I work as a lecturer at Loughborough University in London
at the Institute for Design Innovation and my area of expertise is Service
Design for Entrepreneurship. I am looking at systemic approaches to
innovation, looking at how service ecosystems can enhance early-stage
entrepreneurship, and more broadly, design and systemic approaches and
practices to innovation.
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JB: I’m a practicing architect and also work in education at the Bartlett
School of Architecture at UCL, where I direct the MArch Pt2 programme
and teach design. I’m interested in the relationship between Health and
Architecture and how through participatory and interdisciplinary design
methods architects and designers can create more impact. I’m currently
working on two projects that might be relevant to this workshop but maybe
also to the question that we’ve picked. One is a research project funded
by the Arts and Humanity Council and addresses the world of microbes
and antimicrobial resistance and how design can potentially interrupt the
spread of pathogens in hospitals. I also currently design and build a cardiac
hospital in Rwanda in Africa where we look at new ways of providing
health care, free of entry.
IT: So I’ve just made notes about our different areas of expertise in
order to map the skill set that we have at the table.
JB: I think something which potentially makes our pairing interesting
is, that you are working with much more intangible strategies, such as
service design whereas my eld of expertise is much more tangible, looking
at how design translates directly into spatial experiences.
IT: Maybe what would be good is to look at how we dene ‘care
by design’ and then look at it from the perspective of colonization and
invasion. I think the rst thing that comes to my mind with invasion is that
in design there is also this debate around the ‘parachuting role of design’.
That’s the rst thing that connects me to this concept of ‘parachuting’
because what happens in many cases is that design/designers often feel
entitled to imposing solutions to either different contexts or different
problems with different approaches. Of course, as a designer myself, I
am very much in favour of supporting the ways in which the role and the
power of design can change things for the better, especially from a social
innovation perspective, i.e. the social and economic impact. However, the
‘parachuting role’ can also be disputed as to whether we have the right to
always say that what we are proposing is the right way?
JB: Where does that right come from?
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IT: A very simple example but I think a relevant one is that a lot
of NGOs and/or Western organizations go to Africa or other emerging
contexts and they will set up projects in favour of improving the livelihood
there. This, of course, seems justiable because the intention is good.
However, the impact of this intervention and the question that arises is from
whose perspective, is it really good for the local people?
JB: Absolutely. Engaging with emerging economies can be a toxic
cocktail of feelings: sorrow, fascination, hope, and the nagging question
whether outside help can avoid being patronizing or what you call
parachuting in. In my work, I am very aware of this. To go back to your
point, I like the idea of dening the role of design and care by design.
When one looks at it in the context of design education, the idea of care is
often not very much embedded in the current curriculum. Instead, there is
still the idea of the ‘Master planer’ or the ‘Lead Designer’, implying the
designer is the sole creator of a design solution. To me, that implies the
questions whether we need to nd new methods and tools to include care in
design and what are those methods?
IT: I think that’s going back to the ‘care by design’ which we should
address from our perspectives. How do we dene this and what are the
semiotics? I think it’s always important to start with this. You are saying,
what would be the new methods?
JB: Yes, what are the new methods and tools that incorporate care into
the design process? One aspect could be how care can become embedded
in the entire design process, starting the way we educate designers. I think
in most scenarios, care is not very much embedded in our curriculum and
how we teach or indeed deliver design. The delivery process is primarily
nancially driven and procurement methods struggle to integrate ‘care’ as a
guiding component. Maybe this could be interesting to explore.
IT: I think that’s a good starting point because then your premise is
basically that ‘care’ is not embedded enough in design, hence the need for
new methods and tools to be incorporated in order to ensure that ‘care’ is
embedded in both the delivery and the procurement. Therefore, we can
then develop new methods and tools to enhance that and that could be our
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JB: Yes. Also, ‘care’ is such an open ended concept and in my view
we need to contextualise it to nd meaningful methods to create impact.
Perhaps we could dene a context that we both feel strong about. For
example, we could focus on the obvious: on wellbeing or care for health, or
IT: My question would be does it have to be healthcare since I agree
we do need to contextualise it? I think the question is: do we want to select
a specic area in which we then dive deeper which would probably be a
good thing to do.
JB: Yes, otherwise it stays in the abstract, which designers love. We
love abstraction. It makes us feel comfortable to think in the abstract.
IT: The way I see it is even though my application is in
entrepreneurship, what I am looking at is the embeddedness of design
within certain ecosystems. So healthcare, for example, is also an ecosystem.
What you basically hypothesised is that there is a lack of embeddedness
of design within healthcare. So what I am seeing as a connection or link
between our expertise is that we are basically looking at ‘care’ not being
embedded within design but also design not being embedded within larger
ecosystems. I guess we are looking at essentially are ecosystems. Actually,
it would be good to look at where design is needed and then ‘care’ within
JB: May I give you an example that is related to a current research
project? For one of my projects, we used a hospital ward as an ecosystem
and looked at all different agents working in this environment. With agents
I mean, caterers, nurses, clinicians, porters, everyone who makes that ward
work. What we found out is that in this particular ecosystem there are often
very conned and hard to break hierarchies and silos. In particularly if you
look at healthcare environments. Here, those dynamics can override the
fundamentals of care. As a designer then the question is: can your proposal
break those silos and how to engage with this ecosystem.
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IT: I think it is difcult not to contextualize, but on the other hand I
think maybe we could also try to elevate the discussion onto an ecosystem
level which can then be applied to many different elds. We could try and
understand how we can embed ‘care’ into the design and how design can
be embedded into the ecosystem. This is kind of like an initial thought
that comes to the foreground. From my research, what we are trying to
understand is that we have actors within the ecosystem and we can identify
their interactions. This might be the technology that enables the ecosystem
to work; the business model that makes the ecosystem sustainable;
interactions with the technology, etc. These different interaction points
include information ows, goods and monetary transactions and there are
some levels of interdependency between them. Maybe it does not have
to be one actor, it can also be a ward, as you have said, but interactions
with different actors within the larger ecosystem. That ward will have
technology that supports it and a business model that enables the operation.
Of course you can have primary and secondary stakeholders, providers, etc.
all of who enable the running of the system.
JB: Yes, that is interesting. Let’s remind ourselves of exactly the
question again: Is invasion of care by design just another colonizing
fantasy? The sub question might be: What is the role of care, what are the
methods of care in design and how do we enable it? Then it asks about
invasion and colonisation, both of those words have extremely negative
IT: It does not have a context. Here it is referring to the concept
of ‘care by design’. So the premise is that there is already an invasion
happening and the question is, is this invasion a colonizing fantasy? I guess
the question is, is it a positive thing or not? I think this is where it comes
back to the parachuting role where I think we are basically questioning is
the ‘care by design’ a parachuting role in a way? But it does not have to be
JB: It really depends in my view on the delivery of design. You can
totally parachute in and be ignorant. It comes back to the idea of how you
engage as a designer. For example, one could say I’m sympathetic to a
condition or problem and I relate to it in my own ways, but I’m also very
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keen in keeping my objective overview to solve a design problem. I’m sure
we do care and sympathize with the user group we serve but by default are
often not the end user of our own designs. I think sympathy is different to
empathy, it’s a different level of engagement. Sympathy is what you feel for
someone probably without sharing the same conditions. Maybe it might be
worth to think about empathy. I think empathetic design could be one way
of not parachuting in.
IT: I think it is good to think out loud and this is a tricky one because
we are onto empathy in our overarching thinking. In a way, the invasion of
‘care by design’ could also be addressing the issue of empathy, starting as a
good thing. Then here we are questioning the negative elements of that.
JB: Can empathy actually be negative? Can it then become colonizing?
When you become empathetic in your design approach – maybe emotions
can take over from clear objective design decisions? I guess every designer
would say of course we care for our end user, whether that’s a patient or
someone we designed a product for. But our care and engagement is often
very temporary. It’s not a long time care and there might be very little after
IT: So it’s temporal.
JB: Yes, I think it’s often temporary care. Because we’re interested in
the immediate impact of our design ideas but don’t necessarily follow up in
the long term. It’s outside our contractual engagement. So, in that respect
you probably can argue that parachuting still happens, even if one buys into
the concept of empathy.
IT: Yes, exactly. I think you are onto something interesting because we
were starting with the premise that empathy is the way to go. This is why
there is a lot of debate and discussion about co-design, which is preached
endlessly, same with design thinking that has been over exploited and
dried thin. I think there’s also a need to be more critical about co-design,
especially with the co-creation of value which is could be an invasion and
a colonizing approach in itself. So, who is to say that co-design is when
we get participants to be engaged? Of course, we can argue that from our
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perspective we’re creating loyalty with a brand, for example, if that’s the
case or we are making sure that their needs are considered and heard. We
are basically guaranteeing or ensuring the success of the product and the
JB: Or is it a way of whitewashing our design process - giving a moral
underpinning to a design process? By saying we have ‘co-designed’ and
disseminated our design ideas before presenting nal solutions - does it
make us feel better? It certainly makes us look that we’ve done our fair bit
to not parachute in. But then as a designer I think there is this strong wish
for an uncompromised outcome of our designs. Co-design by nature means
that we have to compromise to a certain degree. How willing are we to
dilute our own design visions or their aesthetic integrity?
IT: Exactly. Maybe the actual outcome that is needed is non-aesthetic.
JB: Yes maybe. That could be a brutal challenge for us designers.
IT: So, maybe we are blind to actually produce the outcome because of
the lenses that we as designers are taking.
JB: Surely, aesthetics have an important value in design and are
integral to the concept of care. If you have a product or designed a space
that through its beauty improves the experience of a human being, whether
a patient or non-patient, you provide a level of care.
IT: What is your denition of ‘care’ for a patient? How do you see
that? What does that mean for you?
JB: I guess there are several answers. When you answer as an
architect, you probably want to enhance a patient’s experience through
very considerate spatial congurations. But also through beauty. There’s
a lot of evidence based research how space impacts on our wellbeing. For
example, the fact that we’re sitting on a terrace, looking into a lush green
garden whilst having this conversation might enrich our debate because it
makes us feel good. We immediately both orientated ourselves towards the
green view. Then of course there is medical care delivered by people and
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equipment. This also denes spatial layout.
IT: I think it’s really interesting as well where we meet. I think there
are two approaches to this because one is you are approaching it from an
architectural point of view where you are basically looking at how can I
design this space and the other approach is about the user experience within
JB: Yes, how can one enhance the spatial experience.
IT: You basically mentioned the user experience and the aesthetics
of the space, which can enhance the experience, right? But all of this
is to support a certain system, such as healthcare, in your case. You’re
looking at, as we said, the tangible elements of enhancing or enabling the
experience and improving or enhancing it with aesthetics. For example, the
way I approach it is that I look at the product-service-system. What I try
to do is I start from the need. So we have the user and I try to identify how
can we develop blueprints where we can say this is the experience before
the service commences, during the service and the post service experience?
So, I don’t necessarily look at the space, I will look more at the interactions
between the people, within the ecosystem.
JB: This is interesting. It’s immediately much more human-centred. But
do you look at the person as a person or do you look at it as an abstraction
of a person?
IT: Yes, that’s a good question. I think because I look at it from a
systemic point of view because service design is actually about placing the
user in the middle of the process.
JB: So both of us have the tendency to stereotype the user.
IT: So, this is our persona. I’m just trying to see if there’s a difference,
or if there’s an overlap in the way we approach the same problem. Because
I think here it’s more about the infrastructure, the tangible elements, which
include the lighting, the materials, the textures and the ow of the space,
which enables this experience to happen. Whereas here it’s about the
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products within a system.
JB: Could you give an example?
IT: So, for example, bike sharing has the bike which is designed
and this product is designed to enable the system to work. We have the
technology, which is the app, website, card as a touchpoint with which you
unlock the bike, etc. So this is another product/technology that enables
the system to work. We have the rider/user, we have a business model
that determines how much things cost and how can we ensure that we
actually inuence the positive behaviour of users, so that they choose
the bike instead of driving to work. Then we have policies, which would
be intangible and which help the service to exist because they allow the
creation of dock stations in the public spaces, etc. So, a bike sharing would
be an example of a PSS (product-service system) which is both tangible
and intangible. In terms of urban planning, we need to identify where we’re
going to place them around the city. Therefore, the system will incorporate
both products, service interactions, and all of that will be part of a system.
JB: So, you need to dene an environment, a very specic
IT: Yes, an environment in which this exists enables these interactions
to happen in certain ways. We are looking at the same thing because at the
end of the day we are trying to improve, to enhance or embed ‘care’ into the
JB: The user’s experience. Whether that’s a health seeker or whether
that’s your biker. what we seem to both have in common is that we look at
the user in a very abstract way. We stereotype the user and we stereotype it
quite intensively because in a health environment I deal with different users
with different needs of care. In your environment you also have a plethora
of different people that you serve. It’s interesting, just now, we’re doodling
just on our notes ‘people’ as undened/unisex line people and both of us are
quite happy with that. We shouldn’t be happy with that.
IT: We shouldn’t be happy with that. I think that’s a good point
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because coming back to our question, maybe that’s how we are being
trained. Well, that’s how we’re being colonizing and that’s how we are
basing our approach to looking at the user.
JB: Yes, you are right. I think it goes back to our earlier point of how
we educate designers. We are guided by the idea of concept and abstraction
and it helps us to be strategic. Without that we can’t be strategic. This way,
stereotyping becomes intrinsic of how we think about design. Was your
education in design?
IT: As a designer, yes. It also moved from a tangible towards a more
intangible design. Because I started as an industrial designer and then I
went into product-service systems and now I work in service design and
strategy. I love service design innovation. It has become far more about
modelling and systemic use and approaches to innovations, disrupting
exciting systems with the intervention of design thinking. It is about a
product-service system that addresses the end user.
JB: I think what we have identied in the rst part of our discussion is
that there might be the need to think about the user in a much more holistic
way rather than stereotyping and in a more distinguished way in order to
deliver meaningful care.
IT: So, one conclusion is that our users tend to be stereotyped and in
connection to our question, do you think that that’s a colonizing trait, in a
JB: It certainly leads into that. I think something that we also looked at
is temporality and empathy. How often do we engage with our users after a
project has nished? Without a post- design engagement, it’s much easier to
stereotype users. We also questioned empathy and the value of co-creation.
The good and the bad. Co-creation could become colonizing because it
presents a way to wash our sins as (master) designer. If I may say, deep
inside I believe all designers have an ambition to deliver aesthetics that
we nd pleasing. How willing are we to compromise our ideas when the
outcome of a co-design workshop dilutes the concept or the aesthetics of
a design? It’s a balancing act. We could of course also explore the idea
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of ‘colonizing’ as a positive. We immediately think about it in negative
terms. Particularly if you’re looking at developing countries or emerging
economies. Is the word too stigmatized?
IT: I would like us to explore that.
JB: Yes, I’m thinking about it through my engagement with Rwanda.
Maybe I can give you a super condensed background and maybe that
leads us to something. In 1994, a genocide in Burundi & Rwanda killed an
estimated one million people and eradicated almost the entire healthcare
system. There is now a population of 11,5 million people living in Rwanda.
When it comes to cardiac care, 5 cardiologist cover the entire country’s
population with only one or two heart surgeons. When we try to provide
social change to pressing needs – can that shift our understanding of
colonisation? What is our engagement with Africa post colonisation and
how can we foster global relationships and at the same time acknowledge
local cultural identity? Is it too simplistic to dene colonizing with
enabling? …I’m thinking out loud. Also, technology is an interesting
example and this might relate more to your experience. Technology
almost always improves systems and services. In many African countries
phone lines did not exist. By bringing in mobile technologies, you enable
communication, you enable things. Again, maybe it’s most likely methods,
procurement and delivery that dene whether a design outcome there
becomes positive or negative.
IT: One could argue because for me as a service designer, technology
is really crucial in the digital economy. However, I still see technology as
an enabler and not at the centre of the innovation. Whilst, there is a huge
tendency for everything to be technology-focused, technology-centred and
technology-driven, etc. I really see it as user-centred. Then the technology
is built around that in a systemic perspective. So we are building systems
around people and technology enables that. Now coming back to your point
about new technology in contexts where it doesn’t exist is exactly where
we have the question of invasion and colonization because, yes, it enables a
system, especially with the innovations of SMS banking and there’s a lot of
these cases in Africa. One could argue this is a good thing because actually
before that people didn’t have any banking system or medium in place.
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JB: But is it total invasion?
IT: However, we could also question actually the following. There’s
a lot of research done in developing world countries within really remote
places in villages, tribes, etc. where the people were really happy before
any Westerner came and told them that they were undeveloped and that
they needed all this new technology, way of working, money, etc. So it
really poses a question as to do we have the right to interfere and show
them how undeveloped they are? Because until we came along maybe they
didn’t actually know or need to know that they were underdeveloped. Are
we actually making them unhappier by making them aware of what they
JB: This is an important question to ask. Because if it is about
happiness, yes we have to be extremely careful. Firstly, how is happiness
dened but also whether inequality poses different questions or indeed
requires action. ‘Invasion’ comes with the approach of probably not asking
many questions and immediately thinking of oneself as the superior. The
health care system somehow poses that question as well. If you are the
carer and I’m the receiver of care, one could argue that the carer is probably
superior to the receiver. There’s a hierarchy there. Isn’t there?
IT: Yeah, for example, one case that comes to mind is from Japan
because they have such a strong sensitivity to taking care of the elderly.
One system that was put in place was this currency which was not a
currency but it was like a voucher system where if I live in the city but
my parents are in the province and therefore I can’t take care of them.
But someone there will take care of my parents and they will write on this
voucher that they’ve taken care of my parents. So, they will be in debt
and this voucher goes to the people they’ve taken care of. Now once those
people take care of someone else, the voucher circulates and everyone
makes a note of who’s taking care of who. Once the circle closes, they tear
up the voucher and everyone’s had a go at being cared for and having taken
care of someone else. Isn’t that interesting? Provider-receiver relationship
that is a very systemic way of thinking. So, it’s not a superior-carer and
inferior-receiver relationship but it actually means that everyone has an
equal role because the system is “democratized” in that way. I think it’s
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 100 10/12/2019 12:21
another way of looking at the same thing.
JB: Fascinating. I think it underlines so much our point that the system
needs to be working in synthesis with the product. If the system is smart,
clever and carefully considered then your tangible outcome has much more
chances to be the same. It brings us back to tools, methods and design
methodologies. It becomes very evident that there should be always a
conversation early on between those who write the system and those who
provide the tangible output. It needs an inter- disciplinarily approach.
IT: So, do you think that the receiver should be engaged in co-design
of the manner in which the health care or the provision is provided to them?
We come back to the fundamental question of how do you execute or how
do you deliver care by design without it being colonizing or putting the
receiver in a vulnerable/inferior position? Maybe we don’t have the answer
JB: Ha, yes. Back were we started. I guess part of the solution is to
have awareness of it. I think also because healthcare is such a big beast,
such a complex system - can you really tailor care to that end? How do
services actually foster empathy and work ethics and how do our design
outputs enable that? Because you have many users, it’s not only the person
who receives care, it’s also the person that delivers care.
IT: I think our fundamental point is user stereotypes because I think
that’s probably what could make it invasive or colonizing is the fact that
we both agree that for ‘care by design’, either from an infrastructure or
architectural design point of view or from a systemic point of view, we are
integrating users into the co-creation and co-design of products service and
systems. I think we both agreed that this is a positive movement but maybe
there is an element of invasiveness in the fact that we are looking at it only
from one perspective or maybe we’re going from the premise that this is
the right way to go. This ensures an aesthetic; this ensures that there will be
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Is Design as a practice completely
outside the language of Care?
Justin Magee & Mah Rana
At the core of this title question, we face the challenges of inter-disciplinary
collaboration between design and care. Furthermore, these academic and
professional subjects each have multiple sub-disciplines, which are often
disconnected on many levels. A third element is the diversity of the people
involved to whom the care is intended. Design for Care is inherently
complex and may be viewed theoretically as a Wicked Problem (Rittel &
This article will navigate through the Head-to-Head discussion between
a dementia-carer, psychologist and designer with an experienced product
designer and researcher who has worked in care and health related
projects (M. Rana & J. Magee, 2019, personal communication, 1st July).
They consider both the harmonious and dichotomous relationship. Their
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 103 10/12/2019 12:21
independent viewpoints nd commonality and lead to adapted models for
proposed engagement across sectors and disciplines. In immediate response
they cite two points of reference.
“Design is people” (Jane Jacobs)
“Good care is about people” (WHO, 2008)
Are we speaking the same language?
In some parallel to the question posed, Rittell & Webber (1973) suggest that
the problem-solving approaches of Science and Engineering as inapplicable
to societal issues. Is Design and Care the same, does a gap exist? Farrell
and Hooker (2013) contextualise that through time, practices have evolved.
They quote Cross (2007), explaining that the distinction between design
and science problems were related to being contrastingly perceived as
ill-dened verses mere puzzles. Cross (2007) goes on to explain that it
was only in the 1980’s that Design Research “came of age” and that “there
are designerly ways of knowing” which continue to evolve. Farrell and
Hooker (2013) explain that science and engineering has also evolved and
that now, while different approaches may be used, they share similar and
accepted core problem solving principles. Shifting perception’s is important
in collaboration. From the outset our Head-to-Head debate began to
interrogate this potential issue.
MR: Because when I saw this [question] I was thinking what is the
language of design and care? And that it’s useful to unpack the question
rst and view it from different perspectives for example from a medical
perspective, government policy perspective or from the carer or the person
being cared for. And in this sense perhaps there are different languages?
JM: And I guess from a [design] perspective that’s your users?
Singularity within the language of care and the practice of design exists.
However, we propose there are many singular languages co-existing but
in a parallel way. This is where siloed responses to the clinical issue or
mis-direction of the design solution can result. We consider the overlapping
model of care and design (Fig. 1), with people at the intersection. We
propose that as design and care increasingly overlap a more holistic
view of the person for whom care is intended is achieved. Adversely as
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 104 10/12/2019 12:21
design and care laterally move away from each other, into their individual
disciplines or silos, then they move away from the needs of the person. This
quadrant model also considers that a range of positive and negative user
experiences exist that design and care must negotiate. This relationship
needs to consider both the positive and the negative experiences of people
(UX), aiming to remain close to the nexus of this quadrant graph.
As different professional disciplines evolve in design or healthcare they
are similar to rivers and tributaries relating to a singular parent discipline
(Fig. 2). These singular pathways can inuence the outcome. For instance,
within design, if a GUI designer is asked to solve a problem they are
likely to develop an app as the solution as articulated in case studies by
Krishna (2015, p5-21), even though some other intervention may be more
appropriate. He captures this issue well in the title of chapter 4 “UX≠UI, I
make interfaces because it’s my job, bro” (Krishna, 2016, p45). This idea
that a designer has an expectant delivery, can steer them away from the
actual issue as we discussed:
JM: Don’t chase the solution…That’s actually a challenge for many
designers, because designers are solution driven.
MR: And that, that could be, not disruptive, but that could actually be…
Fig. 1 Good Design for Care is about people inter-disciplinary ecosystem
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 105 10/12/2019 12:21
MR: Yeah, harmful, and also, health professionals, you know, they kind
of look to kind of prescribe something, but that that can also, be [harmful],
So solution driven strategies can be harmful…or can do more harm than
As discussed, the carer can also be driven by evidential science,
recommendations, anecdotal testimonies or external demands which are
applied with singularity. The discourse changes depending on the viewer
perspective, for instance the healthcare professional or department who
will have to engage in change (with targets?), the receiver of care (with
trauma?), the carer (emotively connected?), the designer (with a nancial
We contextualise the complexities of design for care using a model with
a specic scenario of care following an event of stroke, were the person
is central. This model is an extrapolation of Saffer’s (2010, p21) model
which demonstrates the professional disciplines associated with interaction
design (Fig. 3). Our example (Fig. 4) is derived from empathetic modelling
conducted with the Western Health & Social Care Trust, Children’s Stroke
support unit (2017).
Fig. 2 The singularity of design and healthcare professions.
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We propose that disciplines of design and care should be considered as
a combined model, which considers the harmonious interdisciplinary
relationships of professional disciplines surrounding design for care. In
each case the specic nature of the care event and the design expertise
required (or other discipline) should be connected (Fig. 5).
One of the issues that transpired from our discussion was that the language
of care has become over medicalised. As such, hierarchies of knowledge
Fig. 3 The Disciplines surrounding
Interaction design (Saffer, 2010)
Fig. 4 The complexity of care, following the event of a
stroke inspired by Saffer (2010).
Fig. 5 Design for Care Interconnected model, using selected interventions for stroke support
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 107 10/12/2019 12:22
exist rooted in their respective professional disciplines. These related, but
different languages provide extra barriers at different touch points. The
imbalance of medial phraseology verses lay understanding may impact
on the capacity for the individual to individual to self-care, as well as
advocating for another person’s care, through lack of comprehension.
Cultural variation can add another layer of complexity in communication.
These hierarchies of knowledge can manifest in hierarchy of esteem, where
egotistical traits may be observed. This characteristic is counter to empathy
building. Professional medical staff may be excessively factual and direct
in circumstances where softer communication skills and lay language are
required. Similarly, there is a responsibility for the person being cared for,
their carers, and designers, to become knowledgeable within the particular
system of care.
Habitual practice exists within medicalised care. While many of the
principles or methods are grounded in science based on evidence-based
research, or evidence-based practice, these habits should not assume
singular approaches, without understanding the individual. Similarly,
science is in constant change as new knowledge is shared. Habitual
behaviour may also affect the person being cared for. If they become
dependant on or believe they need a particular medicine, this may become
part of their identity. Does this lead to other psychological issues?
JM: It may lead to a reliance effect, and maybe an, ‘I am sick’ effect.
MR: Doing things like crafting, or physical movement or stuff like that,
those activities can increase serotonin levels … and can reduce the need for
pharmaceuticals or reduce the dosage.
These issues are both biological and psychological in their complexity.
There may be monetised issues within healthcare. These may link to big
Pharma inuence, funding and in worst case corruption. Or the oversupply
of less effective pharmaceuticals or not choosing the best medicine in case
a less expensive one works best. The healthcare systems nd themselves
within a monetised cage.
MR: Where care is prot and loss. It becomes a prot and loss… or the
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priority for care becomes prot and loss.
JM: Often if the NHS nds something that works, then on mass, they all
use it…that is ‘the’ supply chain and therefore it does not chance…from my
point of view as a product designer, if I can get a product into the NHS then
that will make money for the company I work for, because they [NHS] will
not chance…that’s a bad driver…but a realistic challenge in the world of
MR: It’s a neo-liberal model, where care is monetised…it is prot and
loss basically…the priority of the care can become prot and loss, rather
than the person.
The Francis (2013) Report has been pivotal in stimulating change in the
NHS. In its executive summary this monetised issue is highlighted:
“This failure was in part the consequence of allowing a focus on reaching
national access targets, achieving nancial balance and seeking foundation
trust status to be at the cost of delivering acceptable standards of care.”
The systems of care are also challenged, highlighted by the inefciencies
through lack of order in record keeping to gaps in connectivity between
different partners managing the care of individuals. There may be poor
communication between interdepartmental agents within a Healthcare
provider, or poor collaboration between different types of care
organisations. This is a web of siloed interactions, where individuals
receiving care may have variation in treatment partners. The silos that
exist can be divisive from the perspective of the person being cared for.
This issue is raised in item 1.114 of the Francis report as being one of the
reasons why certain issues were not discovered earlier. In a challenging
nancial and political climate there is an overarching layer of complexity
which is caused by a culture of fear within healthcare. This ranges from
concerns about job cuts to litigation around care that may deviate from the
Design practice has several challenges when it tries to care. Designers by
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their nature are empathic. They are passionate about the work they do and
through the creative process gain a strong sense of ownership and pride for
the work they produce. While a strength, this also has its downfalls which
include over optimistic promises or idealistic proposals which may not
become realised. It too can introduce egotistical behaviour. For instance,
when the designers create a proposal, they can subjective and experience a
sense of ownership. This may lead to a biased desire for that design to be
used, with risk of superseding the user’s need.
Design works within a monetary framework. The designer is a paid
consultant. This can lead to the withdrawal of service, activity or product
if the resources cease. Managing true co-creation is a real concern when
designing for care, to ensure the right design for the right problem. If
design operates within its specialised discipline, then singular solutions are
Farrell and Hooker (2013) distil three conditions for wicked problems in
Design and Science, which relates to Rittel & Webber’s ten component
model of wickedness-making features. They propose that these are
commonalities between design and science. These are: Finitude of our
cognitive capacity and resources that are limited as individuals, society
and humanity; Complexity of interactions associated with the nested
hierarchies, systems and cascading feedback/forward loops, within
contexts of being history-dependant, having unpredictability and perhaps
irreversibility; Normativity and human values can be intertwined within
the formation of a problem and the development of solutions where
compromise if a feature.
Reecting on language and practice of Care and Design, a clear dichotomy
can be seen between their respective eco-systems. However, commonality
MR: It’s a relationship?
MR: Yeah. You have to build relationships and trust.
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A Model for Open Source Care
One of the primary issues in the design of systems, services and products
for care is that these are within a monetised framework, relating to prot
and loss. A design consultant or agency is employed on a nancial contract
that has an associate time restraint. Clinical practitioners must meet a
range of targets associated with the business of care. Each of which is
limited to what Farrell and Webber refer to as Finitude. As such the scope
and extent of the solution is always limited. Furthermore, indicative to
design there is a deep relationship developed with any project/client and a
passionate engagement during the creative process, which leads to a sense
Similarly, there is a nancial burden on the carer, who may have reduced
capacity for income generation which has a related effect on their time and
freedom to care for themselves. They too have a personal commitment and
passion connecting them to the cared-for individual. Collectively these
nancially rooted issues lead to real barriers in care development and
emotional engagement to biases.
During the Does Design Care 2…? Workshops the idea of Care Trade was
suggested. In our view, while the ethos was well meaning, the emphasis of
the term “trade” we disliked as its connection with commercialisation and
retail are rmly rooted. A more shared model can be achieved.
JM: I actually do a number of projects where I’ve wavered the money.
We do work agreed as contract research at a set amount. The money comes
in, and back out to the project, but we share the IP…the IP is a currency,
a value to allow the university to allow me to do it. I don’t count the hours
[of work], I just try and make the best design I can for that particular need.
Maybe it’s a better model, it’s a more honest model? It becomes research
rather than consultancy.
This model takes longer, but typically leads to deeper thinking, more
investigative research leading to the right design following a clearer and
iterative enquiry of the right problem.
JM: We need models that have an infrastructure that allow designers to
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 111 10/12/2019 12:22
engage with care. Actually, a care need...it needs to be beyond designers…a
consortium…a community … designers can’t own this neither…”
MR: Yeah, A resource like ‘the commons’…? An open care version of
Within software development, the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)
has led to a disruptive change in the industry model, where Intellectual
Property is released in order to develop an environment of sharing. This
has resulted in signicant growth of the quality of code readily available
for those who engage within this principle. In turn more complex solutions
are developed at much greater speed and better chance of uptake. Wang et
al (2012) outline that while the industry has been transformed, many FOSS
initiatives may fail. They outline successful approaches, which require both
process-level and project-level measures and outcomes. In nature these
need to be adopted and retain activeness and provide denitive benets and
technical successes. Their foundation is one built on social capital where
“relational assets (e.g., trust, gift giving, obligation, and reciprocity)” are
among the main drivers. Researchers in FOSS initiatives are reported to
dedicate time and energy to the tasks required and promotion of the project,
generating larger acceptance rates. Direct correlations with the size of the
internal and external FOSS network and the success has been established.
User engagement and participation builds trust, loyalty and better-quality
outputs. In reection of the current problem and applying this human
agency model, a applied framework for ‘Open Source Care’ is proposed as
a creative commons model. It should not be owned by any one sector, as
this leads to territories and in turn silos. It should involve all stakeholders
and pivot around those who are cared for.
This model is based upon an extension of the designer-client relationship
to multiple designers, multiple clients and expert voices. We’ve based it
upon the Double Diamond model of the design process (Design Council,
2005), this adaptive model takes the metaphoric form of a jellysh, which
in nature effectively spreads its tentacles to efciency forage for food. In
our model, the body hosts the iterative process of hyper-cyclic design and
iteration, shaped by a range of stakeholder views. Each diamond phase
represents oscillations across the stages of the design process (discover,
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 112 10/12/2019 12:22
dene, develop and deliver) and cyclic evaluation. The contributions
from stakeholders has a exible chronology depending on the professional
need. The tentacles represent the gradual renement of multiple solutions
(Fig. 6). As each co-operative of professionals are ‘sprinting’ in tandem
providing an array of ideas, ‘hitchhiking’ on the work of others, the process
is accelerated. Another layer of the process is the iterative feedback loop
from carers and health and social care professionals providing guidance,
critical review and co-creative practice towards solving unmet needs.
Three possible nancial enablers are considered to make this proposal
viable. The rst enabler we propose is that in return for time dedicated to a
dened priority care issue companies consider the UK Government R&D
tax credit incentive.
The second enabler involves larger organisations and universities or
others with the capacity to ‘donate’ time as part of their remit. Their role
may help with a range of issues from embedding research knowledge or
emerging technologies into the development pipeline; supporting ethical
approval processes or large-scale work-based learning involving students or
Fig. 6 The Open Source Care process framework.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 113 10/12/2019 12:22
The third enabler involves those volunteering as carers, and those who are
cared for. These are the most critical voices who have deeply experiential
views of the issues. They provide precision within a complex process
towards the bespoke and perhaps ideal needs, yet with an achievable
resolve. Treating the carer and person cared for as expert users is key. We
propose that an initiative is needed so that the carer, voluntary worker or
cared for person could earn credit for a valued service in turn for their
knowledge exchange. This may be access to counselling, free sports
membership or cinema tickets.
Returning to the question Is Design as a practice completely outside the
language of Care? - it can be if mistreated. In reective review of Wicked
Problems theory, Coyne (2005) concludes his many views considering the
implications for design. One notable comment relates to the professional
operationalisation of such contemporary theory asking, “Are these concepts
waiting to be identied in language, or are they created through the
discourse?”; Coyne explains that talking is a form of action. In context of
Design for Care, communication and sharing of methodologies especially
through participatory inquiry, exploration or iterative practice forms part of
the conversation where the language of Design and Care will continue to
converge. Real progress can only be made when design disciplines refrain
from working in isolation, and health and care disciplines simultaneously
engage in interdisciplinary knowledge exchange. Such progression in
tandem with human agency can lead to sustainable ‘Open Source Care’.
Coyne R. (2005) Wicked Problems Revisited, Design Studies, Volume 26, Issue 1, January
2005, p5-17 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.destud.2004.06.005
Cross, N. (2007). Forty years of design research. Design Research Quarterly, 2(1), p2-5
Design Council (2019) What is the framework for innovation? Design Council’s evolved
Double Diamond, [Available at:] https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/what-
framework-innovation-design-councils-evolved-double-diamond, Accessed 22 September
Farrell R. & Hooker C. (2013) Design, science and wicked problems, Design Studies 34,
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 114 10/12/2019 12:22
Francis R. (2013) Report of the Mid Staordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.
London: e Stationery Oce.
Krishna G. (2015) e Best Interface is No Interface: e Simple Path to Brilliant Technology.
New Riders, USA
Jacobs J. (2019), Jane Jacobs Quotes, BrainyQuote.com, BrainyMedia Inc., https://www.
brainyquote.com/quotes/jane_jacobs_169648, accessed July 2nd, 2019.
Rittel, H., & Webber, M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. PolicySciences, 4,
Saer, D. (2010) Designing for Interaction: Creative Innovative Applications and Devices,
2nd Edition. New Riders, Berkeley, CA
Wang J., Hu M.Y., Shanker M. (2012) Human agency, social networks, and FOSS project
success, Journal of Business Research Volume 65, Issue 7, p 977-984 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.
WHO (2008) e World Health Report 2008 - primary Health Care (Now More an Ever),
World Health Organisation
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Should Design Care?
Tot Foster & Evonne Miller
Should Design Care? Yes, of course! There is no other possible answer;
shouldn’t every academic discipline care? Indeed, shouldn’t we all as
individuals care? So in some ways the only response to this question can be
the three letters; YES.
And yet the question provokes consideration of a) the kind of care that
Design has a moral obligation to attend to, but also b) the kind of care
Design is good at, and also where Design offers a unique perspective on
care – in other words, its power to care. These two ideas are not separate
but inextricably linked – Design needs to understand its power to care in
order to full its moral obligation.
The two ideas of obligation and power can be broadly mapped onto two
key outcomes of Design decisions; impact and inuence.
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It is important to understand the obligation and power of Design to care
because, unlike some other academic disciplines, Design has a profound
and everyday effect in all our lives, and can change our behaviour both
from the bottom up and the top down. Design is not niche – it is the
processes and products that we interact with in every moment. So the key
to understanding why Design should care relates also to the multi-level
nature of its impact and inuence – it is clear that it affects our lives on an
individual level - the person, but Design also has impact and inuence
through time and space, all the way up to the level of our planet. We
could call this ‘The Care Continuum’, and within that continuum, every
individual exists in multiple groups – both overlapping and nested. For
example, I am part of my family, my extended family, I am middle-aged,
I am part of the group who subscribes to a particular magazine, I am on
Facebook but not Instagram, I am a parent, someone who has high blood
pressure and is short sighted... So every individual consists in a unique
what it does should
be for good
Design can create
change for the better
if it is done well.
Design is visionary
– it can create new,
Power to Change
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constellation of user groups. What constitutes ‘caring’, and the experience
of care, means something different to each and every one of those groups.
But what they all have in common – is the impact and inuence of Design;
Design can be responsive to individual and/or group identities, but the
consequences of Design decisions can be felt universally. From people to
planet groups are inuenced by the choices that Designers make and, more
importantly, how designers care (or not) for those groups in the practices.
So, if we take one end of the continuum; people - designers need to
consider what individuals care about in order for Design to care. The
workshop that led to this mini-paper was held in Tokyo. With consideration
to the themes of the workshop that day before it began one of the co-
Visitors at Meiji shrine, Tokyo, 30th June 2019
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authors took photographs at a shrine in the city. The prayers that visitors
left, many of them tourists and not Buddhist, offer a window onto what the
visitors care about.
‘I wish that I make lots of new friends in College and keep in touch with
my friends back home, and that all the people in my life remain happy and
‘Thank you for my beautiful life and family. I want to continue to learn
health and happiness this year. Please offer safety for conceiving a child
‘Close Deal, increase uptake.’
‘I’m grateful for my family and life. I wish to be successful in life, nding
a good job, with good healthy happy family. Just be contented and happy
every day. I wish for a hardworking and good husband, safety everywhere
I go. I wish to not worry about money and travel the world with my loved
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These prayers offer insight into what ordinary people care about - family,
happiness, and security at the top of peoples’ desires and concerns,
as well as educational or nancial success. It is the minutiae of life
experienced. ‘Care’ is something expressed human to human, we care ‘for’
and ‘about’ one another, and the emotions of love, tenderness, kindness
are synonymous with ‘care’ on an individual level. Care is an emotional
connection. Sometimes Design can forget about individual’s emotions, and
academia can avoid the imprecise notions of warmth and love. But we must
remind ourselves that at one end of the care continuum is the individual and
their needs, concerns and emotions.
Moving away from moments of life experienced, pinpoints of time and
space, we move along the care continuum and head towards the impact and
inuence of Design on the planet. Design, at this end of the continuum,
works through time and space, and has the potential and responsibility, if
it can harness its power, to take the lead in radically shifting the trajectory
of our world, shaping our future. Inclusive and sustainable Design can
take on the monumental task of inuencing us all to have environmental
consciousness and conscience. And it is up to designers to show they care
by having net zero environmental impact. After all, how will Design care
for the future if there is no future? This is why Design should care.
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What should we (Design) care about?
Hui Tse Gan & Lilo Viehweg
Reections on and Interactions through Materialities and Localities of
What should we (Design) care about? A big question which can not be
answered from one perspective only. Design is a diverse and complex
eld which can address every interaction between humans and non-
humans. Positioning yourself within this discipline is crucial for reecting,
understanding, communicating, translating, and mediating any kind of
exchange. On the one hand, positioning is the basis of reective dialogues
in design research. On the other hand, reective dialogues help us to
understand each other and on that basis to develop collaborative processes.
Crucial for understanding is acknowledging as well as being able to
translate different perspectives, positions and situated experiences. This
can mean e.g. bringing global contexts to local situations, making a past
experience tangible for a present one or to develop (collaborative) future
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 123 10/12/2019 12:22
experiences. Materialities and localities play an important role in those
processes of mutual understanding. Therefore being present at a certain
place and/or interacting directly with materials generates a possible shared
experience through tacit knowledge (Mareis 2012) which would get lost in
translation by using one medium only describing it. Mixing media, places
and perspectives in and through communication in design research enables
exchange, inclusion and thus can create understanding and empathy.
Carefully acknowledging materialities and localities in design research
processes can be possible methodologies towards inclusion and empathy.
Knowledge on materialities and localities is created by complex entities
in which several senses are involved and memories are triggered as well
as generated. In those entities multiple interactions take place at the same
time. Thus, even if we interact at the same time at the same place together it
is most likely that two people might not have the exact same memory of the
experienced situation. And in order not to get confused with all the mix-
up, we need to be aware of a “Situated Knowledge” (Haraway 1988) and
position ourselves for mutual understanding.
Acknowledging different point of views on the question “What should we
(Design) care about?” was the basis of our conversations and exchanges
between the 1st and 3rd of July at Chiba University in Japan as part of the
workshop “Does Design Care?”. In one task, we received a questionnaire
in which single questions were assigned to two participants. The fact that
we both worked together in a two-hour dialogue on the question was at rst
more due to the coincidence that we sat next to each other. We had met only
about an hour before and did not know each other in the beginning. Besides
the common eld of design research, it seemed at rst, the only other thing
we had in common was our great interest in Japanese culture which brought
each of us to the country before. Thus, in order to start off the dialogue
on the given question meant gaining an understanding of each other’s
perspectives and exchanging research, as well as personal
interests pertaining to that question. It meant communicating between
situated knowledge of different cultural backgrounds, experiences and
understandings. Our common interest in the locality where we were helped
to open the conversation.
After a short introductory exchange, we decided to work outside. The
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workshop space inside could have been anywhere in the world: A
classroom at an international University with white walls, white tables,
some chairs and a big white screen for presentations. The space outside
was different. On the terrace in front of the classroom we found a spot on
the wooden ooring looking into the green vis-á-vis, next to the buildings
of Chiba University, watching people passing by, getting a sense of Japan
while discussing our question. A change of the locality and the surrounding
materials changed our perception and thus the process of the task.
So “What should we do (design) care about?” we were asking each
other. The big question that could not be answered on the spot. Quickly,
we came to the assumption that each person would most likely answer
this question very differently depending on their background. So we
started talking about each other’s perspectives, then juxtaposing them,
nding similarities and differences, asking each other further questions,
highlighting distinctive terms by writing them down, further highlighting
some words by underlining and encircling them while continuing talking,
creating connections between terms by drawing arrows, making each
other’s thinking processes visible while continuing talking, thick black
marker on shiny white paper, spoken words well visible from afar. This
lively exchange resulted in a nding, which we had already assumed at
the beginning: What we or Design should care about is highly individual.
However, in the process we found a common ground in aiming for
inclusion and empathy with our work.
By sharing personal and professional perspectives, by listening, translating
and understanding through various media additionally to spoken language,
people can start a dialogue, including themselves in each other’s past
experiences and thus creating common experiences in the present. The
topics of materialities and localities played a signicant role in our
respective research practices before. By reecting on our methodologies
collaboratively we became aware that our topics are tangible in our very
dialogue by changing the space from classroom to the terrace, changing
localities as well as materialities. We experienced in the present, what we
brought with us from our different backgrounds from the past. It helped us
to understand each other, which is an essential basis for working together
on imagining future experiences through inclusion and empathy.
Thus, our aim for the next day’s presentation of our dialogue was to achieve
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common ground with fellow workshop participants using participatory
methods through action. As a way of creating knowledge transfer those
methods can be delivered with a genuine interest in exchanging with other
actors in various places and situations, through various materialities and
temporalities. Because of this to share experiences is an effective way of
transferring knowledge. The idea was to make our discussion tangible and
engage the other participants in an interactive dialogue between localities
and materialities, between humans, non-humans and movements. For
transitioning our idea into action, we decided to end the rst day with
a conversational walk across the Chiba University campus, collecting
intuitively things we would nd on the way, again changing localities
and thus, gaining new perspectives on materialities. While walking and
talking about our backgrounds and research interests, meandering between
the University buildings and greens, we picked up material artefacts like
little stones, pieces of bark, blossoms, shreds of a plastic bike reector
and a water bottle. On the one hand, those things tell the narratives of
the particular places we found them at. On the other hand they tell the
narratives of our walk, by transferring them into the context of the planned
presentation the next day. By moving artefacts from one situation to
another they become materialized communicational tools for exchanging
our situated experiences.
The next morning we started our interactive presentation by inviting
all workshop participants outside next to the terrace, asking everyone
standing in a circle. The aim was to create a situation for a non-hierarchical
exchange with an active posture ready for engagement. After introducing
the question “What should we (design) care about?”, we opened with
a simple recollection of our previous discussion on materialities and
localities. We briey shared with everyone what we personally cared about,
which we had inked into our proposal for participation in this workshop,
and an early conclusion of our head-to-head debate that led to the gathering
at the terrace this morning. As hinted earlier in this text our personal
answers to the question had led to the themes “inclusion” and “empathy”
which we felt gave us a good chance to try a different way of exploring.
By including our fellow workshop participants in voicing out their own
perspectives on the big question, we intended to create a process of mutual
sharing and a potential space for empathy.
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Passing along the material artefacts collected the day before, we asked the
other participants “What memories come to your mind when holding each
of these pieces in your hands?”. By doing so, we aimed for connections
between different experiences. Holding a stone in her hand, one participant
spoke about acknowledging things, which have always been around, but
were never thought about much. Now by focussing on the materialities, she
recognized sharpening her senses and shared her ndings about sensory
perceptions, colors and shapes of things. The stone became a trigger for
opening up a dialogue about sensory perception. Another participant
holding a water bottle reected on how water nowadays is like petroleum,
becoming a scarce resource. In this case the water bottle became an agent
for a bigger global context and thereby connected different localities in this
very situation of us standing together on the campus of Chiba University.
So, how was our concept for inclusion and empathy transferred in creating
common experiences through acknowledging materialities and localities?
The engagements of the participants showed the possibilities for developing
further discussion and/or research questions. In literally changing the
perspective through body movement, sensory perception and subsequently
by reecting on the contexts of localities and materialities, memories where
triggered, associations were made and shared. The terms and arrows made
by the black marker on white paper the day before became materialities
which became spoken words again. They changed their condition like they
went through a ow-type calorier in a uid process of media transfer.
Unfortunately the time was too short to reect upon the interactive
presentation together with the other participants, which might have been an
interesting process for evaluating the collaborative part of the experiences.
The fact of creating this situated knowledge with a diverse group from all
over the world at Chiba University is that it is dependant on the time, space
and presence of the collaborating actors, localities and materialities. It
cannot be recreated exactly the same way here in this text. It becomes again
something different. This medium here is created with the help of digital
tools, in other places, other surroundings. For now it is just us, sitting in
Singapore and Berlin, a couple of months later, writing and reecting on
our experiences without being present at the same time in the same locality.
The situation here is highly different to the situation in Japan. Thus in
aiming to transfer our knowledge about materialities and localities of care,
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to share what we think Design should care for, we can only start an attempt
by recreating our rst dialogue on the terrace in front of the classroom of
the Chiba University building or at least the content of our perspectives
aiming for a mutual understanding.
LV: So, Hui Tse, what do you think? What should Design care about
from your perspective?
HT: I don’t even know where to start! I think what I care about is
possibly quite different from you, Lilo. Oh hang on a second. This was
one of the questions we had to answer when we submitted our proposal to
attend this workshop. What did you write back then?
LV: Yes, in the beginning our perspectives on what Design should
care about were quite different. But I think, throughout the workshop
and by exchanging our perspectives in many different ways like writing
them down, listening to each other and creating common experiences
by collecting materials, talking, walking and eating together with other
participants, we found common ground. But ok, i will start at the very
beginning to take the reader into our process. In my proposal I wrote
about my interest in observing the interactions between humans and non-
humans for rethinking our relationship with nature. I care about nding
out how processes of co-existence and diversity can be created. Especially
interesting to me is researching on different complexities, realities and thus
different social processes through experimental and playful methods. From
my experience those methods can help to create open spaces for different
perspectives. This is particularly benecial for transdisciplinary research.
How could we rethink social contexts of technologies, production processes
and integrate knowledge on material life cycles in design research
based on those approaches? What can material interactions and different
epistemologies teach us? I additionally included thoughts of Anni Albers
into my proposal. She wrote very communicative reective essays (Albers
2000) on interconnections between society, material and design based on
her experiences through making and critical reection. Additionally to her
reective thoughts her writings encouraged me to approach writing on
making in the context of design research differently. I remember that you
and I started our conversation on the terrace by addressing materialities
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from my side and traveling from yours. What did you write in your
HT: I wrote about a personal encounter I had when traveling in China
last year. I was sharing a room with a friendly, jovial girl. We talked about
our personal travels. After some time, she began to tell me a bit more about
herself. In reality, she was, at that time, on a “travel mission” because she
had been diagnosed with a disease that might bring complete blindness
over the next 20 years or so, barring breakthroughs in medical science.
She wanted to see the world as much as she could before that eventuality
happened. That really got me thinking because I love to travel and cannot
imagine that being taken away from me. I think it’s extremely unfair that
people are deprived of traveling and seeing the world just because they
are disabled in some ways. I believe that everyone should have the equal
opportunity to still travel freely even when they are handicapped in some
ways. I believe that this is something that can be designed - design can
change the way current travel is to be available to anyone who wants to
do it. And that’s why I think it’s something that we or design should care
about. At least that’s my opinion.
LV: I see. By telling you her personal story you started to think about
the inclusivity and exclusivity of traveling. But tell me more about this.
Why exactly do you think that everyone should be able to travel? Why is
HT: It is important for us to see and feel places, people and cultures
that are different from us in order to appreciate all the diversity and be nice
to each other regardless of who we are and where we come from. I think
this can only be achieved through travel. Sure, you read about these exotic
places all the time, you watch them on TV, YouTube, etc. But nothing
beats being physically there. People can describe to you how amazing
being surrounded by snow is or how awesome it feels in your hands, but
someone from the tropics like me will never truly understand that until I go
somewhere where it actually snows! I used to do that with frost from the
refrigerator but they don’t even have that anymore.
LV: Yes, today’s media and technologies make us see or feel things
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 129 10/12/2019 12:22
we might long to. On the one hand, technologies support us experiencing
realities in new contexts. On the other hand, they evoke desires
experiencing new realities. You could make winter in summer or being
immersed in an exotic place virtually. These thoughts are closely related
to our topics on “materialities” and “localities”. Localities are connected
to materialities in a sense that by experiencing material directly by our
sensory perception we gain a better understanding of what the world
is made of. This shows the importance of local experiences as decisive
parameters for understanding. It seems to me you might have had a quite
similar observation through your experiences when travelling? Or what do
you think? Why must people be physically in a place that is foreign? And
could we maybe create similar experiences without travelling?
HT: I think it is the connection. When you’re physically in a place, you
have plenty of time and opportunity to touch, feel and interact with all that
is around you. Whether the living and moving or those that are still. Like
we can read about Japan and see all the beautiful photos, but those are a
few minutes of ooh and aah. When we’re here, we watch the store owner
carefully wrap up the souvenir we just bought, we touch the texture of
the paper and ask where it came from, how it’s designed or made. We can
inquire the stories behind them. These direct connections spark something
in us to know more and care more. We begin to understand, like this is what
people go through everyday, here in Japan. And today, I’m going through
it with them. This is empathy. And through empathy, I think that’s how
people begin to understand a bit more about themselves and what is around
them. And then, people start to care a little more.
So, coming back to why the disabled must also be able to visit foreign
places like anyone of us. I just feel it’s not right that anyone should be
prevented from this just because they have some form of disability. I feel
strongly that design can make this happen. Like a conversation I had with
one of the workshop participants earlier - “we should not be designing for
the disabled but design for inclusivity”.
LV: Yes exactly! I totally agree with you on designing for inclusivity.
But the important question is “How?”. From my perspective aiming for
inclusivity and empathy means also taking nature, non-human species,
substances and their socio-ecological contexts into account. For a careful
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 130 10/12/2019 12:22
design we have to consider many different perspectives. So what do you
think? How could traveling for experiencing different surroundings,
realities and cultures for everyone come together with ecological
HT: I think the ability to experience a different culture rst-hand opens
our eyes to other people’s perspectives on things or the way of life that
we take for granted because we’re so used to it. By gaining the different
perspectives on how and why other people do certain things, we can decide
for ourselves if that is something positive or negative and how that will
affect our personal action day-to-day.
A very glaring example is the plastic bag and rubbish. In Japan, you get
plastic bags every time you buy something. For me, that’s wasteful. But it’s
actually practical if you live in Japan because you need to bring your trash
home or to the convenience store where you can sort it into the right bins.
In Singapore, we have trash bins everywhere, and all kinds of rubbish goes
in there. Our environment very clean, we can refuse the plastic bags, but at
the end of the day, are all these rubbish sorted? I don’t know.
Fundamentally, our objectives are about the same - to minimize impact
on the environment and to solve our growing waste and landll problem.
But is there a better way? When we’re able to experience another point-
of-view - how people in a different culture or locale co-exist and interact
with their surroundings - that is different from ours, then that might set us
thinking about these things that we normally take for granted. I think that’s
what travel does to you - put you in a place that is foreign that forces you to
adapt to the way of life that is alien to you, that you don’t agree with. This
tension will spark thoughts and emotions that we used to be indifferent to.
LV: I agree with you on the change of perspective for gaining a better
understanding of bigger contexts, but beside problems of plastic bags and
waste, I am as well referring towards the “how” of travelling itself, which
can be quite problematic for our carbon footprint. By observing the “how”,
the processes of human interactions carefully we become also more aware
of the non-human’s key roles in our relationships. But since I see your
point and can relate to your perspective as well, I think, the crucial question
towards careful Design is: How can we connect global contexts with local
knowledge of materialities and thus, developing inclusiveness and empathy
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 131 10/12/2019 12:22
not only for humans but also for non-humans? Our interactive presentation
could also be seen as a possible attempt for creating several connections
instead of nding one single solution, bringing different perspectives
together into a dialogue of understanding instead of generalization,
acknowledging that each socio-ecological parameter can inuence our
shared experiences. In order to do so we have to acknowledge different
HT: Yes exactly! I don’t think at the end of the workshop, or even after
this reection, we have any hard answer to the question: “What should we
(design) care about?” But what we had achieved during head2head was by
distilling our two different - but not contrary - perspectives, we were able
to arrive at the themes or principles of “inclusiveness” and “empathy” and
applied these principles during our interactive presentation in front of the
terrace. From that session, we were able to gather a variety of thoughts, just
from having people interact with the materials we handed to them, which
were sourced locally on-campus, but which triggered thoughts that were
far beyond the gates of Chiba University or Japan. Perhaps, there are many
answers to the big question, and what is more important at this juncture
is to nd the triggers for these conversations to start and keep going.
For people to become more aware and sensitive to their localities and
surroundings, no matter if they’re at home or abroad, and their interaction
with living and non-living being within these localities. I feel we have sort
of achieved this during our head2head - by presenting a possible way to
achieve that. Thinking back, some of our participants have reected that
they never really thought much about that thing only until they held it in
their hands that their thoughts and emotions were stirred. Maybe this is
what design should care about - how to invite people to do that...
LV: Yes, exactly.
Albers, Anni: Selected Writings on Design. work with material. . Material as
Metaphor. . Lebanon: University Press of New England 2000.
Haraway, Donna: Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the
Privilege of Partial Perspective. In: Feminist Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3. Maryland: 1988, 575-
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 132 10/12/2019 12:22
Mareis, Claudia: The Epistemology of the Unspoken: On the Concept of Tacit Knowledge in
Contemporary Design Research. In: DesignIssues: Volume 28, Number 2 Spring 2012.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 133 10/12/2019 12:22
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 134 10/12/2019 12:22
How might Design avoid the over-
development of Care?
David Coyles & Yutaka Yoshinaka
YY: So, ‘How might Design avoid the over-development of Care?’
One way we might want to approach this is to try to understand what the
statement/question might mean? For Design to avoid, or even hit some
intended target, it must be a process in keeping with meeting goals and
requirements that were set out from the beginning. Is this reective of how
DC: I think it might be, but these are very big terms we are dealing
with in this question and I wonder if it is even possible to talk about it
without having to qualify these terms a little bit? Because, my rst reaction
is how do you think about Design as a ‘process’ where you meet some
set of ‘outcomes’? How would you even dene and measure the ‘over-
development’ of Care? That’s difcult. These are huge philosophical
questions and I wonder if they can be spoken about in the abstract?
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YY: Trying to open up the connotations in the question, in exploring
Design as a process; what would it mean to ‘avoid’, and what would it
mean to ‘develop’? And also, following that, what would it mean to ‘avoid
DC: And following that again, I suppose, what do we mean by Care?
YY: I understood from previous discussions (i.e. before this Workshop)
about Design and Care, that there can be ‘Caring in Design’ (the process)
but also ‘Designing with Care’. But the way it’s formulated in this
particular question it seems like Care is the product.
DC: Ok, so taking that lead, let’s start with a hypothetical. With a
company like Apple for instance, is thinking about how the user experience
extends from the use of the actual product (the conventional focus of
Design) all the way to how that user also feels even in the act of just
opening the packaging of the product. This act of opening then becomes an
equally important part of the user experience. As commercially orientated
as it is, is that an aspect of Care?
YY: From my vantage point and from my experience as an educator,
yes, that indeed would also be an aspect of Care. Specically translated
into a notion of user experience. But, it’s only one aspect. And if I might
develop two things in regard to that. Firstly, that example or delimitation
to packaging design and user experience does not cater to the use of
resources that some actors (and even the user) in another context might
nd relevant. So, in that sense, the user experience becomes a very ‘uffy’
notion. Secondly, in that same product (let’s say it’s an iPhone) the kind of
Care that is put into the packaging does not necessarily enter into the Care
of how the product is materialised. There’s a tension there where users are
not privy to certain parts or aspects of the product. These tensions might
help to inform a developing notion of Care, in that Care can be ambiguous
and complex and a ground for contestation. Not in the abstract, but in ways
that are both empirically grounded and theoretically framed. I think this
goes very much toward addressing questions of over-development and the
notion of ‘avoiding’ or what it actually does mean to ‘avoid’. Through your
example and its simplicity, we can broach two or three really intriguing
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 136 10/12/2019 12:22
aspects and ambiguities in how we frame Care.
DC: I nd it hard, in any kind of framing, to divorce our analysis
from the pervasive capitalist sensibilities that underpin contemporary
democracies. That’s why I bring up the example of Apple. More and more
it has become apparent to me, just as a casual observer in the different
industries that I have worked in, how Design has gradually become another
‘thing’ that business can use to ‘do things better’. Sometimes I guess
it could be reasonably argued that there are altruistic reasons for this,
but my cynical tendencies tell me that more typically it is done to make
more money. We live in a world where Economists, investment banks,
big conglomerates and global operators like KPMG all hire Designers
so that they can bring ‘Design Thinking’ to innovate their working
practices. The example of Apple is almost a microcosm of the fusing of
Design and consumerism that I think about when considering what the
over-development of Care might mean. I immediately thought not only
of the boxing of the actual product, but also of the packaging waste and
the sustainability of those materials. Where were those specic materials
manufactured and by whom? Was it by Foxconn? And, if so, what does that
mean about labour conditions for example? All of a sudden it balloons into
this map of ambiguities. The over-development of Care is almost analogous
to something that is over-ripe. In this way of thinking, Design would
need to be more aware of its role within that bigger complex. Perhaps it
is already too late. Perhaps it has already become a commodity within the
system, as opposed to an extrinsic force acting on that system.
YY: So, we can see that things start to unravel somewhat, in terms of
there being different issues that relate to what might have started out as
a very ‘user-centric’ framing of the idea of product packaging by Apple.
Where does that leave us with the notion of Care? It seems that, on one
hand, Care is being leveraged by some actors involved in the Design in
attending to the user experience with the packaging as a vital link in the
business understanding, from a very specic vantage point. On the other
hand, the user is excluded and not allowed to engage in, or ‘Care’ for, the
ways in which the company pursues its other business orientations and
interests without regard to the user per se. That to me is paradoxical. Do
we want to leverage Care as something productive, that we can take stock
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of and work with? Or, do we actually want to be quite attentive to the
ambiguities and the pitfalls there might be when Care is also part of this
commercialisation? We do not want to fall into the trap of being blind to
some aspects in which Care is involved whilst also not really managing to
facilitate or encourage Care. I have some issues with this kind of tension
because I would not like Design to become normative in this regard, where
we say that this is the way we should Care. On what premise would such
a grounding be based? There are constellations of values that might be
contested, not just in terms of business vs. users, but for instance, across
different cultures, and we need to be attentive to how we might bring that
DC: Unpacking these ambiguities is crucial. From a philosophical
perspective it is fundamentally difcult to say that anything is true. It is
perhaps more useful then to explore these ambiguities and expose the latent
assumptions that are made in any given process. Even in an example such
as Apple and their approach to Product Design, I was thinking about just
how ambiguous it is. We have products that can be so ‘well designed’ that
you now can’t actually get access to their inner-workings and components
to repair them and prolong their use. What does this mean for Care? What
accounts for the associated waste and the extra costs? Those things are
almost hidden behind a veil of marketing and aesthetics. I was reading
recently about Apple’s target to close the material-loop of their products,
transitioning to a point where everything can be recycled and re-used. But
again, is that just another commercial move where Design is co-opted into
a system where a product cannot be repaired but it can be recycled? This
provides another window into this bigger world of contradictions where
Design has almost become an instrument that is in vogue. A tool to be
YY: Just one comment on this closed loop initiative. We could say, why
do they delimit the thought to closed-loop material circulation? Electronics
are only a specic part of their offerings, so how is a concept such as
sustainability congured in this loop? The impact is also thereby specic.
So, would it not be relevant in terms of Care to unravel or make explicit the
assumptions in their delimitation to electronics? What is Apple’s specic
way into Design (and Care)? What are their goals with Design? What are
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their short-term ambitions and business orientations, as opposed to more
long-term alignments to sustainability and community agendas?
DC: That makes me think, what would happen if you remove the
commercial gain? What would be the motivating factors that would
encourage thoughts for sustainability or Care of the communities where
materials are sourced? What would any set of actors in that sector to begin
to value other ways of doing it? This might sound idealistic, or perhaps
even naïve, but might be possible to work with the different cultures and
communities, currently immersed in the manufacture of these products,
to develop ways of managing resources more carefully? But what would
YY: It’s just an assumption from my side, but I should think that
business would only take it upon itself if it would provide an advantage
in terms of competitors or those who might be/become competitors
in the future, but only in so far as if it may be of priority in relation to
other competitive advantages they might have already. Perhaps this is a
somewhat cynical approach to things, but in the spirit of sustainability and
shrinking resources, it might make business sense to do things differently.
Perhaps something of potential competitive advantage, for instance, years
earlier? It might even have been on a list of possibilities but not really
prioritised. In that sense, businesses tend to go for a lot of mileage with
little effort. But I am not sure about the non-business side of things. What is
our take on it? What would consumers actually get out of it? If Care tends
more towards being a gimmick that serves business rather than anything
meaningful, what would consumers gain from that?
DC: Are we saying that unless there is a different political system, then
we are doomed to repeating the same? That there is always going to be a
cynical motivation? Is that really so?
YY: Well, from a Design vantage point, I think we need to have
different issues, a heterogeneity of concerns, that can be synthesised or can
be framed in a way that they cohere, so that it’s not ‘just’ about recycling
or about an identied need. That it gives value(s) in different respects, and
perhaps even contested and ambiguous sets of values. That different actors
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would value different things but would have a stake in them in different
ways that would somehow cohere. I would not exclude that, in such a
contestation of values, there might be certain actors that get more out of
it than others. But, trying to integrate heterogeneous concerns is part of
the process of Caring ‘in’ and Caring ‘with’ Design. Being aware of how
issues manifest as a result of the process, but also as a result. How they
manifest through the Design being in use, or in the act of discarding or
recycling as extended uses of the Design. These are aspects that need to
be taken stock of as part of the Design process, short of saying that Design
determines what manifests. So, when we say something about ‘how might
Design avoid the over-development of Care’, we are already talking against
the notion that Design can determine anything at all. Design can, perhaps,
make plausible certain relations and outcomes more than others because of
the way that Design makes a difference. But that’s only half of the equation.
How users and other actors engage with the Design - whether a product or a
service or an architecture - is also part of how we need to understand Care.
DC: Very much so. That raises some parallels with my experiences in
Architecture where you might think about the social conscience that you
should have as a Designer. I don’t know how much Design education
touches on that? I’m sure it varies, but in conventional Architectural
education it wouldn’t be very much, and when you march forward into
employment, into the commercial sector, it’s very difcult to hold onto
those values. But it does raise the question - is this something that is taught
and adequately discussed in education at the moment? That I don’t know.
YY: I think that, at least from some of the more Science and Technology
Studies (STS) orientated approaches to designing and ‘learning through
Design projects’, there is some recognition of political activism and, on a
more general level, the sensitising of Design students towards the realities
of the world as a place that is lived and experienced by others. Where the
world is a plurality and not just one reality. One example that I am aware
of from research is about a project where Architecture students set about
investigating the impact of the built environment on wheelchair users by
immersing themselves within the infrastructure of the inner-city to try to
capture the experience of how someone in a wheelchair might actually
experience that built environment. So, these ideas about harnessing the
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‘lived experience’ and how that might actually feedback into the teaching
process, and reorganise or restructure ideas about ‘lived cities’, is in
one sense being taught by some, but it is certainly not mainstream. One
of the things that is also interesting is how these emergent trends in the
eld, buzzwords like ‘Empathy’ and how we talk about Care in Design,
are very much at play at the prototyping stage. That is to say, not in the
sense of prototyping before launch, but prototyping as an iterative and
generative process from the outset. This begs the question of just how
do we prototype that kind of ‘lived experience, for both the Designers to
work with in abstract ‘thinking ways’ but also in very concrete ways? And,
perhaps more importantly, how might iterative prototyping allow other
actors to become engaged in the process from very early on so that they
can facilitate a dialogue about what things mean and how it might make
a difference beyond the original scope and mindset of the Designers? Of
course, this has the potential to complexify things and make them more ill-
structured as there is no kind of checklist to work with, but it also opens up
different ways of working with different kinds of actors and knowledges.
The more you progress towards a level of completion or fruition, the less
and less the window of opportunity for ‘making a difference’ becomes
because this aspiration is now invested in the process. But that also
means that it is much harder to do things earlier in the process and that is
where the alternative of generative prototyping might make a difference
at the educational level. But these ideas are still at the very early stages.
Businesses would probably not have the patience to work with something
like that. They would like to test something denitive whereas generative
prototyping is not about testing. It is about dialogue, about reframing and
qualifying; Did we understand what the problem or opportunity was? Do
we have a deeper understanding of what it is we are actually working with?
That is where Care might come in. Care as a ‘Caution’ or a ‘Concern’ or a
‘Set of Concerns’.
DC: To me, the over-development of Care then begins to emerge
from whenever there is an unmitigated ambiguous and contradictory
proliferation of Care. Where Care has become part of the established
business ecosystem. Where you are no longer self-aware of what those core
values of critically-aware Design might have been. Where those values are
now consumed and normalised by business practices. This is why education
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 141 10/12/2019 12:22
is so important. Imagine your rst introductory Design lectures in ‘Design
101’ focused on the ‘neoliberal capitalist-democracy’ that we are working
within today and what Design means within that system. You would
probably be very confused, and I doubt that this is what you would expect.
In my own teaching, even to rst-year architectural undergraduates, I try
to avoid abstracting Design from the real world and instead fully embed
Design within it. And perhaps, without trying to dash the hopes and dreams
of students completely, show that it is very difcult to make a difference,
and reveal instead just how complex the world really is. Of course, there
is always the danger of scaring people away by shattering the ideals that
students might have about their future role as a Designer. It becomes more
of a question about when you actually begin to teach that way of thinking.
I agree there are emerging trends in the curriculum, but the curriculum
seems to be lagging so far behind where the world is at right now. Industry
seems to be way ahead with realising where (usually for cynical means)
Design can go. Education seems to be still catching up to those concepts.
Yet, education is actually the perfect setting for radical and provocative
YY: When we consider all of this, is seems that there must be some
driving forces which have played a part in making ‘Design Thinking’
palatable to Industry. Interestingly, Intel, for example, has been very good
at bridging the Academic-Industrial divide around the idea of Empathy
towards users, leveraging debate about topics such as Ethnography, not
just regarding how users behave in ways that are interesting to Designers,
but about what it means Ethnographically to study practices. But, in terms
of educating young undergraduates, it is of course about not completely
crushing their dreams but also about making them competent from early-on
in their professional development so that they can build upon this as their
career progresses. One of the challenges for me and for many colleagues as
educators, was that we could dedicate a lot of effort to rst-year students
but if there was no one to take things on in succession they would then stie
somewhere and become seduced by more ‘commercial’ and ‘less reective’
ways of working. So, there is a denite and important issue there. However,
I remain hopeful and actually quite optimistic. Many students would come
into our programme saying, ‘I want to be a Designer’ or ‘I want to me an
Innovator’ and believing that they already had the best idea or the best
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solution. But very early on we managed to somehow get them to learn
to always be a little more critical, not just of their own work, but of the
others and of preconceived ways of thinking about the future. To give one
example that relates to this business dimension we have been discussing,
many of our third-year undergraduate projects are done in collaboration
with NGOs or even with Industry (where of course the realisation of
prot is a concern). One of these projects involved students being asked
to redesign two assistive devices that are used to help people with brain
injuries to raise themselves up from a seated position to a standing-upright
position. One of these devices was a device to lean-on, the other was a
mobile device with wheels. The business that wanted the project done
wanted a device that was a combination of the two. So, we approached this
thinking that ‘we don’t know what the results are going to be, but we will
look at it and we will work with you on it’. At the rst milestone meeting,
about ve weeks into what was a fteen-week project, the students had
identied a few specic areas that they wanted to discuss with the business
collaborators. These were mainly about where the problem issues might
be and also some really nice ‘nuggets’ about how things could be different
- without going into a solution mode. The business partner said, ‘Oh,
that’s interesting… but, those three aspects that you are really concrete
about… do you know if anyone has taken out a patent on them?’ What was
rewarding for me was that the third-year students had learned to say, let’s
be a little bit cautious; these issues might just be symptomatic; they might
not be things that we need to actually work with. I had tried to teach them
that there is no such thing as a ‘root cause’ and no ‘one-to-one relationship’.
As a Designer you have to qualify between those things that are symptoms
and those things that are more fundamental. In this sense, the students
were actually trying to convince these business people not to be hasty, that
‘we’re not there just quite yet’. For me, that shows promise. In our teaching
with rst-year undergraduates, the idea was very much to give them an
appreciation of (in a uid sense and not a restrictive sense) just who is it
that they are designing for. For example, in an early project where they are
trying to understand children’s playgrounds in public parks, there was a
realisation that some play-things are not being maintained and some have
become quite dangerous to play on, having been neglected over time. And
even whilst children play, the students appreciate that some children like
to play quietly while others were active. The question there is how do you
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deal with these kinds of tensions in play situations and in designed objects;
who is it we are actually designing for? Some of the students catch on
quite quickly. They think about situations where you might have children
at three or four years playing in the playground, with parents just standing
watching. These students then begin to think, Why are they just watching?
Why are they not engaging in the play? Can we devise something so that
the parents can interact with one another rather than just watch their own
kids? This was especially relevant to certain multicultural neighbourhoods
of Copenhagen where there is the opportunity for parents to interact
across their cultures. So, in a very roundabout way, we are trying to give
students a sense that they are designing not for a person, but different
aspects of different ways of thinking. And within this there is of course a
need to include the Municipality responsible for the public grounds and
the playground equipment. There is a need for them to become open to the
idea of the playground being something different and not simply limited
by the EU standards that govern the Design of certain playground artefacts
and instruments. We wanted our students to try and understand these
sorts of issues from the get-go, so that when they present their products
or concepts they are aware of how different parties can see themselves
reected in the solution in different ways - without these parties really
being aware that that is what they were looking for. This can help these
parties to feel included. It’s not about saying ‘we want this and this and this
done’ but ‘these are our concerns’, where even if they might have suggested
something, they are actually participating and somehow transforming the
process. That’s one of the ways that I think we have tried to instil Care in
our Design teaching. But it becomes really tough in the ensuing years as
we try to equip students to deal with the world of business and their ways
of cutting straight to questions of patents and so on. That’s not the way we
want to serve users and there are a whole set of concerns that simply do
not align with business interests. Education is somewhat disparately trying
to deal with that, though not in a way that currently follows through into
programmes and curriculum. But there are hopeful signs that it is possible
to do. The question is more about whether we should do that early on in the
education process. I think this is possible, but it has to be fully followed
through as training progresses, which is actually a really tough thing to
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DC: One of the things that struck me from the examples that you just gave
was when you talked about how your students presented little ‘nuggets’
about a particular problem. I often think that these little ‘nuggets’ are
all you can really hope to understand in those sorts of instances. To use
the analogy again, it provides a way of opening up a window onto just
how unbelievably complex things really are. That is the sort of thing
that I was thinking about in terms of how education might respond. It
is not about a fundamental shift in the philosophy of education. Rather,
it is about embracing a philosophy where the world is recognised as a
complex system, where you can hope to understand tiny little bits of it,
one bit at a time. Maybe in that way of thinking, these ideas about Care
can then come through more strongly. This all takes place however, within
a context where a dominant commercial sector wants to know about the
patent and how quickly they can get a product to market. And we know
that in response to this dominance, universities offer many courses about
being ‘business aware’ as Designers and on Entrepreneurship and so forth.
But these days Designers are also being brought in at management level,
so that the Designer can now bring their ‘Design Skills’ and apply these
ways of thinking to the management of previously unrelated areas such as
‘Inventory’ and ‘Human Resources’. They are bringing Design Thinking
to business and to management. I think that is something crucial that is not
really being touched on in a meaningful way at university.
YY: It’s the reality that as a Designer, you are dealing with people.
DC: Yes, and perhaps the reality is that everything we have talked
about today is inherently Anthropological. Maybe that is an assumption
that we already inherently understand? But, at the end of the day, it is hard
to divorce Design from people. Those two things can be seen to bookend
what we would want education to do; there is at one end, the socially-
aware Designer with their value system, who can come to terms with
understanding both the aesthetics and the fact that the world is indeed a
complex place and you can understand one ‘nugget’ at a time. At the other,
there is this idea where, as a Designer, you have a distinct philosophy of the
world that you can apply anywhere, not just in Design. Design is actually
a way of thinking about the world. That’s the part that I think Industry has
caught onto really well now.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 145 10/12/2019 12:22
YY: Would you call it ‘instrumental’?
DC: Yes, I think it is all about Design becoming instrumentalised. You
can imagine the scene in the boardroom; ‘We need a Designer in here to
give us a fresh look at things... now!’ Then it all becomes jargonised. That’s
the ‘over-development of Care’ once again, the ‘over-ripeness’. Where it’s
now part of the system, everywhere. Where Design is the ‘new normal’.
YY: This is just a small thing, but in the Danish tradition of
understanding Design it has long been primarily concerned with aesthetics
and to giving form more generally, i.e. Design as sometimes thought of
as the ‘nishing touches’. That in itself is bad enough. But here we are
thinking about how Design becomes instrumental and how it becomes very
incisive, and not in a very productive way. In order to remain productive,
it should attend to matters of concern (to borrow Bruno Latour’s phrase),
for how people work together in organisations, or how a product ‘becomes
what it becomes’. So, for me there are two extremes. One is all about going
in and doing the ‘facelift’ through the Design. The other is about going
in (in not a very reective way) and meddling with processes that would
otherwise be productive.
DC: You use the word ‘reective’ and that is important. I think that
if you lose that ability to be reective, you lose one of the strategies that
might be used to avoid the over-development of Care. That might be one
way of thinking about it; if there is this constant interrogation, where we
are always willing to stand back, willing to throw out all assumptions and
preconceptions and start again. Not becoming lost in this notion that we
have reached a heady period where Design has attained its zenith, where it
has fully become part of the wider cultural ecosystem. Some of our greatest
philosophers would tell us that this is exactly when we have to be most
cautious and most critical. If everybody is now talking about Design, that
should scare the hell out of everyone.
YY: If we think about ‘being reective’ as an integral part of Design,
and a way to work with things and with people, for me that is exactly what
Design is. It is iterative. It wants to be constantly seeking, broadening and
deepening through divergent processes. You could call it ‘ways of thinking’
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 146 10/12/2019 12:22
if you want, but there is also a lot of materiality and thinking in prototyping
the convergent synthetic processes. There is also iteration, going back when
you have a set of problems that you synthesise through the work but where
you perhaps start to think, are these really distinct issues or opportunities,
are we missing an iteration where we can reframe them and they become
inclusive or exclusive? Iterating and generating things productively, and
discarding ideas within a process that permits them to sneak back in later
in a more meaningful way, for me these concepts are included in the notion
of Design. Not in the instrumental sense where they can be leveraged for
‘quick-xes’, but where it is embedded in the thinking and the set-up. Any
response to a question such as ‘How do we avoid the over-development of
Care?’ must encompass that notion of Design.
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Is it possible for Design to operate in a
context where we choose not to Care?
Marc Ruaix & Jonathan Ventura
The Design Choice of Care
Few in the design industry would anticipate the argument we want to
present, a subject-matter bound to be met with reactionary responses of
reassurance. However, it will hopefully kindle an internal, presumably
silent, self-assessment of our personal design practice. It seems to us that
design practitioners have fallen into a trap of goodwill. If one might very
rightfully think that it is morally unacceptable to suppress design’s potential
to foster good, it is equally impermissible to vociferate our allegedly
caring endeavours without a sharp and conscious understanding of our
intentions. We believe that unmasking this motive of concern is our duty
as design careers, and we hope fellow designers will give our text careful
consideration if we even remotely intend on holding the reigns steering our
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In a time engulfed by fear, hate and narrow practicality, wherein liberal,
pluralistic and egalitarian approaches are perceived as naive, feeble
or simply anachronistic, it is vital for the designer to take an explicit
stand. The pathologic lack of conscious and clear values driving design
has plagued the discipline since Romanticism, which hailed the false
embodiment of capitalism as a dogmatic force of nature rather than a
chosen set of priorities. The extent of our unease is such, as to say that a
lucid redenition of our role in society is compulsory, in order to escape
a future where designers become unnecessary or obsolete. That being
said, we not only wish to trigger an act of conscious evaluation but also
to present humble and actionable guidance that, hopefully, will guide us
through the nebulous rationale that drives us, designers.
Recent technological advances, coupled with global social, economic, and
political shifts have emphasised the necessity of reecting on the reality
of our role in such a context of constant upheaval. The loss of ideology,
feared and loathed by most designers, has led the discipline to the gluttony
of chrome-papered catalogues, celebrating its relevance to an anecdotic
portion of society. Fortunately, a vanguard represented by a growing
stratum of socially-rooted sub-disciplines, such as inclusive design and
design anthropology has emerged with the intention to reverse this trend.
Having said this, as most of these signicant changes in the discipline
unfold in its academic-cloistered margins, a mind-set shake is needed inside
the realm of design practitioners.
Concealed beneath the thick robes of our unconditional love for design
and the sturdy moral convictions aimed at actively sculpting a better
world, lies the undeniable crude motivation that pushed us into the design
industry spiral. We may be preaching to an audience fortunate enough
to slip through the reality of it, but we are quite certain that, for the vast
majority of us, the purpose of the design practice we devote our lives to, is
ultimately to provide a means of sustenance. We might be at a stage of our
professional career where this reality has long been forgotten, but it seems
difcult to dispute the existence of any other reality for us, the working
As a point of fact, we do not see any grounds why, as practitioners, it would
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be demanded of us to care for anything else other than our own subsistence,
to fully execute the design profession. Although noble, it is naively
ludicrous to adopt a position other than defending our freedom, as design
practitioners, to decide how w e want to care in our practice and what w
e want to care for. In radical contrast with the impossibility of producing
genuine works of art by someone working for the necessity of earning a
livelihood (Morris, 1901), the authenticity of design is not bound by the
purity of its intentions.
How is design then so inherent to the idea of social responsibility? There
exists an ontological clash between the foundations of the discipline and
post-modern ideals that assume an elevated position to the bare visual-
material solution seeker. First performed as a mere tool of self-survival, the
design’s fruits were proven attractive enough to place design at the service
of others through the knowledge of those who embraced it as practice.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, design endeavours evolved
from the boundaries of communities to service the market machinery itself.
Nevertheless, as dehumanising as it may seem, design was catalysed by
the wonders of automation into a scale that would reach an unprecedented
volume of people across all socio-economic strata.
The caring ideals of our design practice are as irrelevant as the
puppeteering strings of labour are an uncomfortable reality. Employing
our main source of subsistence to care beyond ourselves is a privilege that
a large segment of designers is not in a position to attain. We, the authors
of this text and you, the reader, have the opportunity to raise our sight
beyond the humdrum workday and malleableise the core of our practice in
the pursuit of new questions which, we hope, will be granted the virtue of
playing a role in sculpting the meaning of our profession.
All these self-congratulatory caring arguments must be passed through the
sieve of reality. There is no genuine act of caring in a labour engineered
process. But rather than questioning our moral integrity as professionals
and citizens of a shared society, let’s employ this text as a vehicle to
acknowledge our role as agents of change. Altruism, the purest and most
inaccessible expression of caring, shines above us, obfuscated by the
gears of the industry, but we would be foolish to let this distant gleaming
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possibility blind us to the fact that there is no operator more capable of
fostering care than the industry itself, even if this is through a careless
The emergence of digital products and their overbearing ability to grant
production access to the most unexpected businessperson, have given
rise to an assembly line of unrecognisable offspring. In an ecosystem
where product propositions shine by their lack of distinction and brand
differentiation is a big gamble for newcomers, the design process shifted
from designing for the industry to designing for the people. Today, you can
see wherever you look an optimistic change of course in the idiosyncrasies
of the design practice. But we must not fool ourselves about the
motivations that drove it in the rst place. This is a process that sparkled
as ideology to quickly become an industry catch-phrase. Professions such
as user experience design seek to alleviate people’s most acute concerns,
but are often motivated by the survival instinct of the industry they serve.
– The American industrial designer Henry Dreyfus, who rst engaged
with the concept of User Experience, noted in his publication Designing
for People (1955), that ‘if people are made safer, more comfortable, more
eager to purchase, more efcient - or just plain happier - by contact with the
product, then the designer has succeeded’ (p.25). However, there is no room
for social change in a design process based on the product outcome. As
conspicuous as the design’s potential to shaping a better society might seem
today, there is no trace of this subject-matter until Victor Papanek’s (1971)
work Design for the Real World . Almost 200 years had to pass from the
inception of design as a profession to the rst distant emanating suggestion
that, perhaps, we do have a role in society.
As part of this scarcely planned-out change of course, the designer has
been rapidly, but extremely subtly, cast out of their comfort zone into
a new territory of promising moral rule-sets. But any change casts its
own trade-off shadow. In resemblance to a pendulum that made use of
gravity to swing forward, designing for people is under constant threat of
swinging back to the market. In the swiftness of this process, which we
conveniently named The Design Care Pendulum, we noticed that some
of our fellow designers have fallen out of the caring spectrum into a
terrifyingly oblivious state of sheer carelessness. The shift in direction has
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Figure 1 . The Design Care Pendulum
passed over our heads without causing any legitimate pause or commotion.
First, are those who have not yet awakened to the crude reality of suffering
from the progressive sneaky swap of direction, somehow noticeable yet
not understood. Second, there is an undesirable group of crafty fellow
designers who, having seen the new reality ahead, have scrutinised
themselves and feared the moment when their insignias of capital expertise
would be plucked away, after admitting that learning a new design process
is a condition sine qua non to remaining in the profession. In the same
manner that a painter would not use watercolour to decorate a facade or an
architect use a wooden corinthian pillar in a factory mechanical room, a
designer cannot by any means expect to use the tools of market care to face
the endeavours of people care.
At the apex of this people care escalation, signalling our intentions in
the right direction seems to be key in conciliating our image with what
is morally expected from the potential of our discipline. In the event you
might direct the question of caring to someone in the senior positions
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of any of the most popular health-tech companies in the UK today, they
would answer, without a trace of hesitation, that their actions are the most
caring and noble, since they care for the greatest number of people. If, at
the same time, one would ask the very same question to a commission-
only orthopaedic cobbler, one would receive, in return, a rm declaration
that their practice is the most caring since it is tailored to the unique needs
of each individual. At one end, the idea of creating standardised global
care solutions might sound truly tempting by contrast with the ego-centred
mud in which a notable portion of design nds itself. Nevertheless, from
a design anthropology stance, material and visual culture outputs vary
between cultures and social groups. The inherent Western self-importance
tends to lead to low-quality care results. We note well-intentioned
solutions for the developing world, managed by design rms failing to
deliver appropriate solutions since, in an ideal scenario, they simply do
not conduct in-depth research and, in the worst case, they simply believe
they know best. We are sickened by marketing experts appropriating
the very concept of care and transforming it into another buzz-word to
reach a wider breadth of consumer audiences. At the opposite end of the
spectrum, bespoke design, while ticking most of the socio-cultural boxes,
irremediably leads to extremely expensive solutions, excluding the vast
majority of the population design care could address. We must confront
this situation with the acceptance that a perfect solution is unattainable
and seeking it contradicts the functionalist nature of design. We have full
condence in the possibility of reaching a middle ground where design
care considers local socio-cultural norms and preferences while providing
high-end, aesthetic, analogical and digital solutions. It seems to us that the
only hopeful solution in reaching an agreement on the problematic meaning
of ‘useful care’ relies in stirring in the same mortar frugal design and a
meaningful partnership with local professionals.
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Figure 2 . The design care trade-off between design reach and quality of care via
Rather than thinking of care as a binary subject - either caring in our
design practice or not - we must start thinking of care as a crossroads,
where we are generously offered the choice of caring and we must take
an unequivocal direction to proceed on our journey. Our duty as designers
is not in caring but in taking a stand with regards to the caring question,
and we must do so in absolute subordination to the intricacies of the
context we nd our practice involved in. First, with respect to the range
- a necessary choice ranging from a weak to a strong tendency to care.
We already believe in our inherent empathy, as humans, to be affected by
different intensities of caring, according to each situation. This now needs
to be a conscious act of intent. We must see through every motive that
models our caring range, for example, when designing a waiting room for a
children’s oncological department, compared with when we design a tech’s
unicorn headquarters outdoor garden. Second, with respect to the choice of
direction - a diverging path leading to various caring ambitions which, as
the swinging pendulum extremes, are intrinsically distant. This being said,
one must realise that the mechanisms for caring and the directions of caring
often share identical ingredients, yet we must not mistake the ‘caring for’
with the ‘caring through’.
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From the epicentre of the classic lacuna of mediating academia and the
reality of the industry, we need to rewrite the denition of care. Combining
this with an intra-disciplinary and in-depth culturally-relevant vernacular
design will enable us to identify a broader approach, embedding care in
design. By contrast with healthcare, which tends to be concerned with the
amelioration of existing outcomes, the care designer must help redene
the situation by redirecting the focus to designing a product to reinterpret
a contextually complex situation. This will help dene the care needed by
each design partner, upscaling the design practitioner from a peripheral
consultant to an active caregiver. For this to happen, the caring design
forum can no longer be moderated by the hope of goodwill. We must turn
our thoughts into an intentional and dedicated act of design, based on
ideology, and focused on a profound understanding of its specic context.
There must be a sober shift from the designer as an educated craftsperson to
the designer as a value-oriented practitioner.
While theoretical rhetoric is all well and good, a genuine change to the
discipline must emerge from practice, the sole agent in possession of both
the tools, and reach, to achieve it at a relevant scale. We have a suggestion
for those who managed to surpass the needs of self-care , and who now nd
themselves in the uncanny position of being able to choose. We propose
the path of integrating the concepts of (a) the layers of care vis-à-vis (b)
the design situation added to (c) bespoke design, which results in the
methodology we have dubbed Situated Design Care: a ruled blank page
intended for each practitioner to grasp, mould and action with intent and
lucidity the act of caring.
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Figure 3 . Situated Design Care methodology
Care for the Craft : The always determinative debate between aesthetics
and functionality is as persistent as it is futile. The outcome, regardless of
whether it is biased towards function, aesthetics, or if it magically strikes
a democratic balance, is as instrumental as the highest source of thinking
it might serve. Indeed, dening a new aspect of care for the craft is almost
a catch-22 situation. From the Industrial Revolution until just recently, the
traditional delivery-based understanding of design framed the designer as
a technical problem-solver procuring for the market. Functional design has
served the industry’s agenda, whilst the most sensible aesthetic intentions
have followed marketing goals, determined to create evocative artefacts
within the connes of consumer culture. Yet, on the other side of scope,
the new paradigm of people care engendered a stigma towards the process
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of caring for the craft as one that is intrinsically antagonist to the newly
discovered and more elevated caring goals, to such an extent as to cause
the designer to feel shame at the mere thought of their devotion to crafting
beautiful functional artefacts. A prosthetic leg needs to be cheap to be
accessible, yet if a woman refrained from wearing a skirt as a result of
the shame caused by this situation, design would have embarrassingly
failed. Fortunately, today we see a renewed and more forceful conversation
regarding the craft’s importance, when it is founded in an understanding of
the audience’s idiosyncrasies and becomes an instrumental agent to enable
relevant impactful solutions. The aesthetics and functions of the design
outcome must blend seamlessly with the daily routine of the people they
Care for the Discipline : Caring for design itself is still an alien matter yet
to be naturalised in the design discipline. Less appealing than design-art
and less widespread than industrial design, it remains a topic for the design
connoisseur alone. It is an upsetting theme for us to see how the ssure
in place between academia and the industry has deteriorated to the point
where each side has consigned the other to oblivion. Whilst the academic
designer can easily tailor an expansive discourse on the topics of ethics
and care, today the market designer diverts their gaze from any intangible
thought in order to make ends meet. Machinery has directed the patterns
of innovation since the Industrial Revolution, but it has been the people
of arts, with which design has been so historically attached, who managed
to prevail in their own space of creation, with their own tools. For a long
time, design practice has been asked the bounding question of coming-
up with tangible solutions and, for a long time, this has been successfully
achieved through our own interpretation of the necessary tools to process
the available raw materials. Digital products have altered this romantic
setting. We no longer own the design tools and, before even having had
time to cry about it, our practice has become dependent on the stock of
technologies on offer. However, there’s hope in the duality of a technology
that takes as much away as it offers. Not only have the design tools become
overbearingly accessible to virtually everyone, but technology has also
been evolving to a point, where the entry barrier is surmountable even
to the artful designer. Today, this new reality is prompting a vast array
of digital design tools, not only engineered for designers, but engineered
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by designers. We have created a unique opportunity to automate our
most manual processes and give ourselves the singular chance to have a
tranquil space within which to rethink the balance in our discipline, and
start focusing on the ‘what’ rather than the historical ‘how’. The design
practitioner must stop deecting their responsibility to participate in
dening the meaning design will have in their lifetime. There is an open
opportunity to reinterpret design in every action taken by the practitioner
willing to stand up, wipe the dusty forgotten glass ceiling above us and see
a new horizon within reach of anyone ambitious enough to pass through.
Care for the Design Partners: Identifying and catering for the various
groups of people affected by our design decisions, to a greater or lesser
extent, has been a process fraudulently swept under the rug of discretion
by the designer set in the tools of the market. Yet, we see today how this
process has been gracefully bumped up by the stemming adjacent discipline
of design anthropology. Rather than a stage within the design process, care
for design partners must be taken from the periphery of the design process
and positioned as a central single pillar that will enable and constrain
each of our design resolutions. The effects of designing a hospital bed
will reach the patient directly, but they will also reach the caregiver, the
healthcare professionals, the healthcare system and ultimately, the designer
themselves. The design’s audience context has to be relished as much as the
context of its underlying ecosystem of entities.
Care for Society: Socio-demographics and cultural traits can inuence the
use or neglect of a designed artefact. A remarkable example of this can be
found in a research study conducted in the early 2010s by one of the largest
investment banks when they were planning to open a network of branches
in South Africa. The research was conducted by a Western survey agency
that did not consider the variations across a population accustomed to
extreme politeness to the unknown, which resulted in a bias highlighted by
an avoidance to answering negatively to formal questions. The result was
a staggering difference between the responses and the actual actions taken
later by the local community. While caring for the socio-cultural context is
indeed crucial in the design practice from a micro perspective, it will only
inuence design as a discipline when caring for society itself. Political
design must extract its prominence out of a reality where it is anathema in
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both design theory and design practice. Design must be revitalised as an
active social agent of change. Designing for the top 1 percent is as banal as
using energy-saving light bulbs to combat climate change. Unless there is
broad consensus, individual diversions do little to induce broader discourse.
Designers must be inuential in their communities and the broader national
and global decision-making. Starting by drawing red-lines when practising
design, we must dene our value-system. The ratio between social design
and market design must be rebalanced, but we are certain that there is
enough room in the discipline and abundance of creativity in the design
industry to raise our sights beyond this inherited horizon and start building
society changing initiatives that can shape the market and hopefully bring
prosperity to it.
We do not call for any segregation between the value-oriented design and
the design for the market nor we call for neglecting the love for the craft
in favour of caring for the design partners, rather the contrary. We call for
designers to regain control of our minds and hands and equipped now with
a more translucent set of lenses make a sober choice to situate our design
Morris, W. (1901). Art and Its Producers, and e Arts and Cras of To-day: Two Addresses
Delivered Before the National Association for the Advancement of Art. London : Longmans
Dreyfuss, H. (1955). Designing for people. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Papanek, V. (1971). Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change . New
York: Pantheon Books.
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How might we best Design Care?
Mark Bradford, Jaime Garcia & Veronika Antoniou
MB: It’s great to meet you both to explore Question 5: “How might we
Best Design Care?” at the ‘Design for Care…? ’1 workshop [DDC].
What’s your rst impression about the question we’re been asked to
VA: I am absolutely intrigued with the thematic ‘Design for Care,’1 as
it opens a wide spectrum of sub themes and the exploration around it could
take many different directions. So my rst response is to start thinking
about what are we designing for: is it a product, a service, buildings etc?
Would we use the same approach for Design and Care even when the end
JG: That’s a good point: While I was reading the proles of the
DDC participants1, I thought about the way Care changes context (and
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perhaps adopt different meanings) depending on someones professional
background2. For example – when designing, the way graphic designers
or product designers, or interaction designers perceive Care is reected in
the type of solutions they provide – whether they are products or services,
wireframes or country policies. Healthcare or child care for example, would
have a different point of view. I believe the position towards Care that
different professions assume, it could diverge slightly: It won’t be the same
approach towards Care an open-heart surgeon has, compared to a clown or
a magician (although clown Care is a thing3).
MB: The question ‘How might we Best Design Care?’ contains some
interesting words – specically, we and best. According to OED online, we4
as a pronoun refers to “I and one or more other people considered together”
… in other words, ‘we’ identies us (people attending from 16 nations
across 5 continents) as “the” group5 through our participation during
DDC. Is it problematic to expect/assume that we as a group know the
‘best’ way(s) to Design Care? As an adjective, best6 means “of the highest
excellence; surpassing all others in quality” ... “most appropriate, advisable,
or desirable” … a superlative of ‘good’ i.e., the best thing to do. As an
adverb, best is a superlative of ‘well’ (as skillfully or accurately) i.e., try to
do the best you can. [Begins writing on the Acrylic Whiteboard (Fig. 3)].
JG: When reading “How might We Best Design”, I agree with you, it
could sound a bit pretentious7; however, if the word “best” is removed, we
are left with “we Design”, highlighting our position as creatives. We work
conguring – and making possible – scenarios to communicate to people
what they could do, how they could do it: to perform within the scenarios
and with the tools given.
Having designers asking the question as well as assessing the design
responses could be problematic, more when design is hermetically isolated
from others to confront the real value of the interventions.
MB: Design responses involve producing both tangible and intangible
elements. Jaime, how would you dene what you design?
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JG: I am a product designer8, currently involved in user experience
design: It’s both tangible and intangible. I mostly work on UX9 applied
to new technologies (aka ‘consumer electronics’) and how these can be
adopted by dierent communities.
MB: Interesting! I have a number of design roles I engage in
ranging from design educator/academic/practitioner through to design
researcher. Through my interdisciplinary research, I designed the
‘BeWeDō® framework’10 – a unique motion-led experience where people
utilise physical movement techniques and talk simultaneously to share
perspectives and generate creative opportunities (Fig. 1). BeWeDō is a way
of designing-with-care which has intangible elements and also involves
tangible sensory experiences11.
Veronika, how would you dene what/how you design?
VA : I also come from the design background of processes, systems and
approaches. In the last few years, since I launched Urban Gorillas12, an
Fig 1: ThinkPlace BeWeDō® Kenkyukai, New Zealand, 2018.
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NGO in Cyprus, I’ve moved from designing something tangible – I was
practising architecture before – to the design of ideas and systems: that is,
how do we design better communities, and what kind of processes need
to be put into place to better address problems in the urban realm. So my
approach to Design has moved to something intangible, allowing me to
introduce Care into my practise along with a more human centred approach
which resulted from thinking, designing, and acting together with people of
the community (Fig. 2). We are choosing to build better communities by
creating cohesion through events and activities and adopting co-creation as
a design .
MB: ‘Cohesion’ – interesting word! Where would you place the notion
of cohesion in our drawing ... between tangible and intangible? And the
terms ‘community’ and ‘designing of community’... where would you place
both of these terms on the Whiteboard?
VA : [Places ‘community’ above Design and Care on Fig. 3, as an
umbrella shape protective layer*]. I feel that Care in its essence dictates
that one puts aside individualistic concerns in order to offer something that
will provide a certain positive improvement for somebody else. Caring
Fig 2: Urban Dinner, Participatory Installation by Urban Gorillas.
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for communities is a tangible act, while the Design for Care development
process might appear to be an intangible act.
JG: From my point of view, the issue it is not really about if we
are making tangible or intangible objects, but more how solutions are
conceived and how much Care is put in at every step of the process.
For example, if you start a project from a concept, and from that concept
you develop different ideas, the concept is denitely intangible. However,
the ideas and how they end up being transformed into practical solutions,
whether it is a tangible product or not, are just the nal stage in a ow of
‘Caring Acts’13 that can be nally validated through iteration. Solutions
could end up being policies, or a new method to be applied and shared
within a community. You cannot see any of them but you can observe the
transformation between people and the environment and you can evaluate
and compare the before and after through metrics to improve functioning.
How solutions are measured – and most probably enhanced afterwards – is
Fig 3: Drawing generated during DDC. Acrylic Whiteboard.
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the way to demonstrate how much you care about them: Their core users
and the context in which the solution takes place.
MB: Should Care be about Design or below Design in our drawing?
Where does the Designer t? What is their role in designing Care?
JG: At the beginning of a project I prefer to prioritise my position as
community member – a people’s person, as opposed to designer. Once I get
involved and know the community better, when I feel I can now understand
the situation then I put on my designer hat14.
MB: It’s crucial for designers to understand who they are designing for.
VA : This is actually a great question. What does come rst?15 As a
principle, when you need to care about something, you shouldn’t put design
rst –you design for the user. If you let Design come rst it will subsume
real needs, not allowing you to absorb those of the community. So initially,
it would be best to let it go, understand, and empathize. One should not
start a project with any preconceptions of design. For example at the annual
neighborhood festival Urban Gorillas organises, we asked neighborhood
residents to ‘Adopt an Artist’16 in their houses, transforming houses into art
galleries and performance spaces. We let the process evolve organically.
Even if we did not agree on the way some works were curated by residents
and did not connect with some artists’ work, the project was based on
community. We supply a process and let the community be an active part
and engage in the project.
JG: William Osler once said: “it is more important to know about the
patient who has the disease than the disease that has the patient.”17 So
when you are designing for the patient, that means you care about him or
her, that you are willing to understand the situation. Before considering
there is a sickness to be attacked, we should design for the people and their
expectations and aspirations.
MB: [Talking while contributing to Fig. 3] Great points! For me,
they echo Humantic’s18 critique of designers using assumption-based
methodologies19. VanPatter’s position is that “whatever the name of the
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approach happens to be, it now seems clear that tools, methods and skills
geared and preassumed for product/service/experience creation are not a
good t within the context of highly complex fuzzy societal challenges”20
i.e., how do designers ‘Best Design Care?’.
JG: Before coming to DDC I was wondering if the audience was
going to be all designers... if I should be talking about design-based topics,
design processes, the step-by step of a specic process; about non-linear
processes and how you can jump ahead in any direction.
For example, people wanting to use services – so you think I need to use
service- design, I need to use experience design, but in any case – coming
from a design background – I should come up with something tangible.
However, if you remove Design Care and you replace with ‘something’-
care: Engineering-care or philosophizing-care, in this case the term
design is just an action. Knowing the user who should be cared for, by
understanding what is his situation, by nding different ways to understand
the problem, by trying different means of nding a solution.
VA : So what you are saying is that Care is the main purpose, Care is
our central objective, and Design is just the method we use after caring,
and after adopting a process of how to care. It is just the method we use to
make the product or service, the process comes into life in an effective and
JG: Yes, totally. In my opinion – after having worked with different
communities – one of the main concerns at the very beginning is the fact
none of them is a designer, “I am not a creative thinker”, “I do not have
good ideas”, “I am just not the creative kind”; so if you address them with
the question “How do we Design Care?” they all most probably would say
“I am not a designer”.
You can easily face two extremes:
1. I do not care about it because I am not a designer, or
2. I am not a designer so probably the ideas I have are probably not the
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 169 10/12/2019 12:22
If instead, we remove ‘Design’ as label (for the question, as well as for our
role – at least when necessary) people will start bringing their particular
ideas and thoughts, expressing how they feel, how they perceive the
community, because they do care about it.
MB: [Talking while contributing to Fig. 3] If we remove ‘Design’
as label, will this mean no designing takes place? What’s the difference
between ‘design’ and ‘designing’... does Care even needed to ‘designed?’
VA : So is the best answer to ‘Design and Care,’ not to design at all?
MB: [Talking while continuing to contribute to Fig. 4]... Who is the
designer?... Design(ing)?... Co-creation21 as designing?... Where is the
community?... What are the key challenges for Care?... Where do the
humans that we care about come within this process?... What is the role
of AI?... Is Design guilty of creating the ‘illusion of inclusion’22 when
designing solutions for Care with people?...
JG: What you have drawn here (Fig. 3), putting community in between
Design and Care, makes me think we should as designers – at least, as
people coming from the creative eld – give the community the possibility
to Design Care and Care about Design. So for example, if I am in a group
of people who are willing to participate, and care about design, I can let
them know that they are able to think of different solutions – which will
not necessarily be tangible. In a way it is like we are training people to
understand design, understand everyone is able to design, understand how
to consciously care about design. Therefore, to understand design care we
must rst Care about Design.
MB: This is tricky. How can we enable/encourage people to care
about the Design process when potentially they don’t feel empowered
to be designing? Who is the “expert” when designing for Care? Are
designers guilty of continuously ‘reinventing the wheel’... being seduced/
pressured into producing the latest ‘shiny new thing’?... rather than seeing
opportunities in xing and rening, clients want a new ‘glory project’
where they can be seen to be doing the right thing, even if they don’t really
care if it works or not … it’s about ‘ticking the project off’ on their journey
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 170 10/12/2019 12:22
up the hierarchy.
VA : Maybe these are key words we should start introducing... not ‘over
design’ – repair instead of new design.
JG: It is a sort of cycle: Once you have a tangible product, learn it can
be reused and start the process once again...
VA : Or sometimes you design stuff with Care, in a caring way, but in
the end you’re just overproducing things.
MB: Yes, overproducing AND overdesigning at times.
VA : Let’s say products don’t exist and we Design Care for humans, for
communities. How might we best Care without products? How might we
best Design Care not around products or objects – for people?
JG: If we look into the details, there are some actions we might be able
to take to support this. However, overall we are just probably participating
in 20% of these initiatives, since the other 80% come from within these
communities. For example, when working with people from outside any
creative eld who are willing to come up with solutions for their own
community, all I try to do is to facilitate. By listening to people, and by
putting ideas together, what I am bringing are some case studies, some
key frameworks. Samples to demonstrate “hey, you could do the same,”
throughout the process, I am just facilitating.
VA : You are translating.
JG: The way we are adding Design here is as “translation” actually; I
believe ‘translate’ is a good term.
In a very simple example: A client comes to you and says “I need a new
chair”. As designers we ask “why do you need a chair”, “what do you need
a new chair for”? We start questioning and collecting data; then when we
start building ideas, we need to translate them for the client. If it has been
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 171 10/12/2019 12:22
well translated the client will get interested and notice why you care about
that design, and decide to make it tangible.
However, if the client did not get your translation then the process is still
probably at a concept level – in the world of ideas – it hasn’t reached a
really good translation. The whole point here is, we should be aiming to
effectively translate ahead of designing Care.
VA : So translate is right at the start of the design process, then there is
the delivery – which is a different task. Let’s say maybe you are very good
at connecting with the user and as a translator you manage to conceptualise
a good or service, but then through the delivery you may fail to ensure
the aspect of Care is in place. For example, in the case of a building: Let’s
say you’re designing a hospital, in the course of the design you work with
patients, nurses, all the people who are related to designing the best facility.
But the implementation – how the patients are going to experience it –
has a lot to do with how other humans relate to them. So sometimes the
translation happens, but the implementation of the delivery is something
that is beyond your control.
JG: That is a very good point. For example, when you are producing
consumer electronics, you are a designer in between a team of engineers,
and a team of marketers. Working with a team of people who are probably
from psychology or sociology backgrounds who are bringing human factors
to the data. At this point, as a designer you will be translating your concept
for that specic mixed team. Simultaneously, engineers will also come up
with an idea from an engineering point of view, and marketers from their
marketing point of view. At this level translation needs to be effective.
Effective enough to understand users, but also communicate to others,
independently of their role or profession.
MB: [Reecting on Fig. 3] Interesting. Your comments are getting me to
rethink about the order that we added certain terms to the whiteboard... for
example, we put the term ‘designer’ on rst rather than the ‘design process.’
In other words, we added “our world” – as designers – before considering
any of the humans involved i.e., patients at a hospital! Translate23 is a
fascinating word, although I feel designers need to go beyond simply
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 172 10/12/2019 12:22
“translating.” I’ve just added the terms ‘transfer’24 and ‘transform’25
[talking while contributing to Fig. 3] . . . . transfer is one of the biggest
challenges in the space I design … I’ve added the term between ‘Care’ and
‘Best’ (Fig. 3).
So, what do you both think about the word transfer?
JG: So if we put it in those terms, there would be 4 steps [Describing
steps while drawing spirals on Fig. 3]:
1. “I’m aware of the problem” – in the community – “I’m aware of the
problem” because people are telling me, or because I have experienced
it before, or because the client is articulating through a compelling
2. Then I digest (assimilate): I uncover the problem, I probably know by
then what is bad, what is good, what could be improved – and then I
can proceed to translate.
3. While translating, I can inform the community or the client: “this is
how I understand the problem, how I have assimilated the situation, my
approach towards it.”
4. At a transferring stage, the way I transfer would probably be: “this
is how I would solve it as a designer.” Actually, it could also be as an
engineer, as an architect, any different role.
So, In my opinion, these 4 steps could be considered the ‘pre-’ steps before
you actually start conguring a solution.
VA : Aware, digest, translate, and transfer. Aware becomes the rst step
to Care, it’s where we empathise with whom and what we are designing for.
Digest is the time we need to fully comprehend, to research and to question.
Translate becomes the design action as we know it, the proposed design
solutions to the problem. Transfer could also refer to the ways the design
is communicated to concerned parties, making room for revisions and
involvement of key actors as it comes to a realisation.
JG: One more thing, when looking at the question “How might we Best
Design Care?” if we talk about “Best” Design, it is because there is a good
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 173 10/12/2019 12:22
Design as well as a bad Design. In that case when we are doing the ‘digest’
part – at that point we understand “ok, this issue requires a solution,” we
need something that is the ‘best’ because we are aware of what has been
designed before. Best Design might imply an iteration of what has been
done before, either good or bad.
MB: Another interesting word to consider is “inclusion” – especially
if we consider how to Best Design Care using collaboratively approaches
such as ‘co-design’26, and ‘co-creation’21 . In my opinion, in order to ‘Best
Design Care,’ it’s critical that designers work with (and welcome!) non-
designers into their design process. This means from the start... or, as Jaime
suggested, within a ‘pre-design’ translation stage... not when it’s too late
What were those 4 steps again?
JG: Aware, digest, translate, and transfer.
MB: And where do you think the key design decisions are being made in
that 4 step process?
JG: Probably between translate, and transfer. For example, there
are some clients who say “you are the designer, you deal with it”. In this
example, they are giving you the opportunity to do whatever you want
-which is scary- but you can say: “ok, this is what I understood from our
rst steps (Aware and digest), now I can proceed to translate in any way I
That’s why, for example, there are ‘star’ designers, because the way they
translate is very particular, is very special.
MB: I love the word translate because it can refer to multiple
‘languages’... provides a different ‘starting point’ with no preconceived
assumptions... extends beyond simply designing ‘objects/interfaces’... it’s
about including people/communities who aren’t normally heard!
[Reecting on Fig. 3] I wonder if the steps from the intangible through to
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 174 10/12/2019 12:22
the tangible are translate, transfer, and transform? Can the translate step
offer a “pause”... a chance to slow down the design(ing) process a little?
Everything is so focused on efciency and speed... we continue to wonder
why design often doesn’t work!
However, translating or learning a new language takes time... where does
“time” come in here? [Referring to Fig. 3]... Would you feel uncomfortable
if I introduce the terms translate, transfer, and transform?
I’m enjoying the complexity of our emergent drawing... I see the design
process we’re discussing more as a “spiral” [contributing to Fig. 3]. So,
maybe we start with translate... we then transfer what we learn ... which
transforms into something... it’s a reexive loop! This would contrast with
more traditional linear design processes such as the ‘Double Diamond’27.
JG: Right, I totally agree with you Mark when you say it is a reexive
loop. This being aware of the Double Diamond is very linear for once,
and second, it does not leave space to consciously talk about Care, it goes
implicit – and could easily go unattended. It is kind of taken for granted:
You read the brief and after a couple of research-based steps, voila! You’ve
got some insights!
On the other hand, how could you add ‘Care’ as a step in a design ow
when every step should be permeated by it? Two alternatives we can think
of: Conceive our spirals of Care (Fig. 4) at the beginning of every half
diamond (discover, dene, develop, deliver) in the Double Diamond ow.
A second alternative would be to run our Care validation in parallel along
the Double Diamond taskow (Fig. 5).
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Before I forget, I would suggest we add some details to our ‘Spirals of
Care’ (Fig. 4): When you show it this way, what we are aiming for is to go
from point A to point B; but we can highlight that projects could start from
Fig 4: Spirals of Care.
Fig 5: Spirals of Care seen across the Double Diamond.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 176 10/12/2019 12:22
When starting from different sections of this ow, it does not mean you are
doing the process wrong, but most probably the nal solution is not going
to be the most appropriate (which it might get solved through iteration),
simply because you are missing steps along the process. But it could also
mean after every stage you can easily come back and review.
VA : I do agree! I think these stages can be interlinked and at times
interwoven (Fig. 4). Design is not always linear, and you need to go back
and forth continuously amongst the different stages.
MB: I feel Clement Mok would enjoy this... when he was President-
emeritus AIGA he famously criticised how design consulting practice
hadn’t evolved and comparing it to “a fast-food take out service”28! More
positively, for Sanders and Stappers, “the emerging design practices will
change what we design, how we design, and who designs”21. Furthermore,
they maintain that designers AND non-designers will create new
VA : Surely! Elaborating with a concrete example, nowadays, there
are lots of companies developing APPs where you can make you own
house... It could be argued that is very human-centred because you
decide on your house according to your needs, but I believe that design
as a creative process has no place in these design tools. Such processes
really underestimate creativity as an essential part of designing, and end
up creating stereotypical environments, because they lack the designer/
architect to translate people’s needs into personalised spaces – gadget tools
obviously are limited. Yet, people are happy because they feel in charge of
the process. I feel there is still there is a lot of work to be done for Design
and Care to have a place in new spaces, especially digital platforms.
Paul Rodgers: Are you guys not going for lunch?
MB: Good points. Unfortunately, I’m conscious that our DDC session
is almost up. We started with a question... let’s end with question. If you
could all do only ONE thing to change how you best Design Care, what
would it be?
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 177 10/12/2019 12:22
VA : Ha! Time is always such an important constraint for designers. It
could even play a role in how we best Design Care. Bjerke and Ramo29
wrote that understanding timeliness is crucial in dealing with effectiveness
and trust in relationships. Having said that, attributing the right amount of
time to nurture Care through the design process – through the development
of meaningful relationships with those concerned or through investigations
of the best solution to the problem – is important. One of the best measures
for Designing Care is actually to take off our designer hat, and let those
concerned take an active role in the entire process; participation is the key30.
We also need to consider extending Care to address issues that are not
directly related to the design problem in question i.e., the life cycle of
materials and their side effects, the people involved in manufacturing
design objects, etc. I would go as far as proposing that we potentially add a
fourth step – transcend31 – to our existing translate, transfer, and transform
(Fig. 4) steps for best Designing Care. With transcend I suggest we take
a step out of the design “issue” in question, and examine those aspects
beyond the design question which are inevitably inuenced through a
Designing process in one way or another.
JG: I believe for the time allowed at DDC we have managed to
discuss a range of issues a designer must consider while in his/her role.
We even managed to put together a step by step process for how to start
bringing Care into our day to day as designers.
One thing to do, one thing to change… we designers focus a lot these days
on the know-how of the profession; I would perhaps dive deeper into the
‘know-why’ of our creative acts. These undoubtedly will lead us towards
more human conversations with people as users which will develop and
revitalise our existing approaches to Care along the way.
MB: Personally, I’m still comfortable (for now) with translate, transfer,
and transform (Fig. 4) proposed to best Design Care. One thing I will
change when designing for Care in the future is to allow more time during
the translate step to actively enable more inclusive conversations.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 178 10/12/2019 12:22
1. AHRC Design Leadership Fellowship. “Design Research For Change.” Accessed
October 16, 2019. https://www.designresearchforchange.co.uk/does-design-care-2.
2. Vaughan, Laurene. Designing Cultures of Care. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts,
3. Snowberg, Richard. “Ten Keys for Caring Clowns.” Accessed October 20 2019. https://
4. OED Online. “we [Def. 1].” Oxford University Press, Accessed 30 September 2019.
5. OED Online. “we [Def. 2].” Oxford University Press, Accessed 30 September 2019.
6. OED Online. “be [Def. 2].” Oxford University Press, Accessed 16
October 2019. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/view/
7. Bierut, Michael. “On (Design) Bullshit.” Design Observer, September 5, 2005. https://
8. Garcia, Jaime. “Jaime Garcia.” Accessed October 21, 2019. https://www.jaimegarcia.
9. Norman, Donald. “Peter Merholz Speaks with Don Norman.” Accessed September 1,
10. BeWeDō. “HOW+WHY.” Accessed October 17, 2019. https://www.bewedo.com/how-
11. Bradford, Mark. 2019. “BeWeDō® Kenkyukai: Small moves can set big ideas in
motion” EKSIG 2019 conference : Knowing Together – experiential knowledge and
collaboration, Tallinn, Estonia.
12. Urban Gorillas. “Our Work.” Accessed October 22, 2019. http://urbangorillas.org/
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 179 10/12/2019 12:22
13. Random Acts Of Kindness. “Caring.” Accessed October 16, 2019. https://www.
14. De Bono, Edward. Serious creativity : using the power of lateral thinking to create new
ideas. London: HarperCollins, 1992.
15. Riach, James. “Zaha Hadid defends Qatar World Cup role following migrant worker
deaths.” The Guardian, 25 February, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/
16. Urban Gorillas. “Pame Kaimakli: Adopt an Artist.” Accessed November 11, 2019.
17. Cranston, David. “Introduction”, in William Osler and his Legacy to Medicine. Words
By Design, 2017, XV.
18. Humantic. “Humantic.” Accessed October 25, 2019. https://www.humantic.com.
19. Humantic. “Making Sense of Design Thinking & “Agile” Method.” Accessed October
25, 2019. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/making-sense-design-thinking-agile-method-
20. Humantic. “Making Sense of Harvard Business Review.” Accessed October 25, 2019.
21. Sanders, Elizabeth B. N., and Pieter Jan Stappers. “Co-Creation and the New
Landscapes of Design.” CoDesign 4, no. 1 (2008): 5-18.
22. Gaventa, John, and Andrea Cornwall. “Power and Knowledge.” In Handbook of Action
Research : Participative Inquiry and Practice, edited by Peter Reason and Hilary
Bradbury, 70-80. London: SAGE, 2001.
23. OED Online. “translate [Def. 3].” Oxford University Press, Accessed
5 November 2019. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/view/
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 180 10/12/2019 12:22
24. OED Online. “transfer [Def. 1].” Oxford University Press, Accessed
5 November 2019. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/view/
25. OED Online. “transform [Def. 1].” Oxford University Press, Accessed
5 November 2019. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/view/
26. Mattelmäki, Tuuli, and Froukje Sleeswijk Visser. 2011. “Lost in Co-X: Interpretations
of Co-Design and Co-Creation.” IASDR2011, the 4th World Conference on Design
Research : Diversity and unity, Delft, the Netherlands.
27. Design Council. 2018. “The Design Process: What is the Double Diamond?”, accessed
January 29. https://www.designcouncil.org.uk/news-opinion/design-process-what-
28. Mok, Clement. 2003. “Time for Change.” accessed April 6. http://www.clementmok.
29. Bjerke, Bjorn, and Hans Ramo. Entrepreneurial Imagination: Time, Timing, Space and
Place in Business Action. Edwar Elgar Publishing Ltd, 2011.
30. Carraz, René, and Veronika Antoniou, Yiorgos Hadjichristou. Green Urban Lab:
Activating Public Spaces. University of Nicosia and Urban Gorillas, 2018.
31. OED Online. “transcend [Def. 3].” Oxford University Press, Accessed
14 November 2019. https://www-oed-com.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/view/
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ddc2 h2h book2.indd 182 10/12/2019 12:22
Can Design empathize? If so where does
all this empathizing get us?
Enza Migliore & Fangzhou Dong
About the Question, a premise
Sit face to face, we pose each other the rst question, “can design
Without hesitation we answer simultaneously: YES!
We think design should have some solid and not questionable key points on
which it sets up its competences, skills and peculiarities as a discipline and
profession. We should not question every time the grounds of the discipline,
but the way we can adapt and decline them according to the changes in our
One of these is empathy as a human capacity translated, by design, into
a professional skill to reach the goal of understanding human being’s
needs, expectations and beliefs, which is at the base of a successful design
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 183 10/12/2019 12:22
activity. In order to state that empathy is one of the design skills, we
rst need to clarify the scientic meaning of empathy in psychology and
sociology to specify which perspective we refer to. The Oxford English
Dictionary denes the term empathize as “to comprehend and share the
feelings of another” (“empathize, v.”, 2019). Hodges and Myers (2007) say:
“Empathy is often dened as understanding another person’s experience
by imagining oneself in that other person’s situation. One understands
the other person’s experience as if it were being experienced by the self,
but without the self actually experiencing it. A distinction is maintained
between self and other. Sympathy, in contrast, involves the experience
of being moved by, or responding in tune with, another person. Another
common distinction is to use sympathy when referring specically to the
emotional side of empathy.” The rst consideration to start our discussion is
the assumption that speaking of empathy is entering the topic of emotions
Emotional and cognitive empathy
Within social psychology, empathy is used to describe emotional or
cognitive reactions - or both (Hodges and Myers 2007; Decety and Ickes
2009). Emotional empathy is often discussed in three components: feeling
the same as another, personal suffer because of the perception of another’s
difculties, and compassion for another person. The third component in
psychological study is often called empathic concern or sympathy, which is
considered playing an essential role in triggering prosocial behaviours.
Cognitive empathy, on the other hand, emphasises the evidence to prove
that one has guessed and perceived another’s feelings and thoughts to
some extent. It is based on the traditional philosophy that “we can never
directly access the contents of another person’s mind”. Emotional elements
such as sensitivity and instinct are still essential in cognitive empathy
since empathic accuracy (greater cognitive empathy) requires a complete
and accurate understanding of others, including their feelings. However,
cognitive empathy does not entail responsibilities to care about others but
fully understand and accept the distinctions among individuals instead.
Although there exist large amounts of literature researching into separate
facets of cognitive and emotional empathy, Davis et al. (1987) have
demonstrated the collective impact of them and emphasised the signicance
of the multidimensional approach to the study of empathy.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 184 10/12/2019 12:22
The New Questions: How Design is Capable of Controlling and
Handling Empathy? What are the Past, Current and Future Issues
about Dealing with Empathy?”
With the premise that, YES, design can empathize and on the base of these
denitions and distinctions, we highlight and suggest different ways design
deals with the types of empathy we mentioned above and we reformulate
the question as “How design is capable of controlling and handling
empathy? What are the past, current and future issues about dealing
with empathy?” Below we make a short overview of selected cases of
established design methods and practices based on empathy as a key factor
and a highlight of future developments (see Figure 1). We divide empathy
in design into three categories of design with empathy (empathy as a
tool), Design for empathy (empathy as a goal), and Design and empathy
(empathy within the design team) to demonstrate the distinctive roles
empathy plays. We critically discuss the established “empathic process”
and pose questions for further discussion in each category.
Figure 1. Structures of our discussion, illustrated in the DDC  workshop.
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 185 10/12/2019 12:22
Design with empathy - empathy as a tool
Most existing practises and approaches aimed at deep connections with
others’ thoughts and feelings, have mainly been addressed the others as
users/consumers and through a kind of “cognitive empathy”, that is, as said
before, the condition where we try to collect evidence to guess the users’
thoughts and identify their needs. One reason for this is that the mainstream
of the innovation process is driven by capital and the market.
Ways for designers to empathize with the user
Design has always been using methods and tools from multiple disciplines
to predict and understand people’s thoughts, emotions and inner needs,
striving to improve the daily life experience, both in terms of functional and
emotional satisfaction. Designers apply ergonomic knowledge to ensure the
physical products t the body character of the user. Psychological theories
and approaches are utilised to understand user behaviour. Ethnography,
an anthropological methodology is introduced to design eld to research
the culture through immersive observation of people and society.
Questionnaires, interviews and focus groups are common approaches to
help collect user data. There is no doubt that all these approaches and
methods contribute to building cognitive empathy between designers and
the user. Skilled designers understand the powerful appeal of emotions
and have used their intuitions and artistic skills to exploit this appeal,
creating tools to measure the user’s response to a particular product,
service or situation that help designers to meet people’ s requirements and
perception. Pieter Desmet (2002) has made a thorough analysis of all thesis
and accepted standards for the cognitive analysis of emotions, such as the
facial coding scheme of Ekman, Frijda’s classications, and the widely
used Ortony, Clore and Collins (OCC) model for the cognitive analysis of
emotions (Ekman and Rosenberg, 1997; Frijda, 1986; Lewis and Haviland-
Jones, 2000; Ortony, Clore and Collins, 1988) and has taken a powerful
move forward with his thesis, Designing Emotions (Desmet, 2002). He
builds upon the vast body of research that indicates that facial expression
and body language are universal and he uses animations, cartoon diagrams
of emotional expression combining face, hands and body, and sound in
Participatory design (e.g. see Kensing and Blomberg, 1998) is another
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 186 10/12/2019 12:22
common approach to help designers empathize with the user more directly.
It involves participants in the designing process to better interpret their
needs into the design language. Co-design and co-creation involve multiple
stakeholders and make efforts to balance their demands in the design.
During this process, not only empathy is built between designer and user
but also among the stakeholders.
Empathy and inclusive design
The more a method succeeds in problem-solving, the more it aimed at
resolving more specic and complicated issues, the ones concerning
smaller groups of people, the minorities. It had to improve its capacity to
deeply understand specic necessities and to get closer to experiencing
very particular physical, mental or emotional conditions, claiming that a
good design is inclusive and take care of everybody.
The concept of inclusive design, or universal design, is to design for as
many people as possible so that everyone can use the design condently.
This requires designers to empathize with and feel the feelings of as many
people as possible. Clarkson and Coleman (2015) describe inclusive design
as the opposite of designing for disabled or elderly people. It integrates
disabled or elderly or other groups of people in the mainstream of society
rather than isolating them as special groups. By comparing inclusive design
and designing for the “special”, it is not trying to declare that only inclusive
designers empathize. Designers all empathize - they conduct user research
to understand their users and identify their needs, as discussed in the earlier
sections. To empathize with disabled people, for instance, is essential to
designing for them. However, what inclusive design tries to emphasise
is equality. The British Design Council (2006) points out that “it enables
everyone to participate equally, condently and independently in everyday
activities”. Inclusive designers not only empathize with the physical needs
of disabled people but also their mental requirements by not separating
them from society.
Emotional empathy and technology
The beginning of the Technological and Digital Era, made of stunning
progress in domains such as Neuroscience, Biotechnology, Data
Visualization, AI, has started to provide sophisticated tools for “reading”
and precisely decipher human thoughts and emotions. For instance,
ddc2 h2h book2.indd 187 10/12/2019 12:22
biometric technology such as facial recognition and EEG tries to explore
the hidden real feelings of individuals (Ekman et al.1997). From now on we
are entering the Age of Designing with Emotional Empathy, if we consider
the latter as a professional capacity we can control, exploit and enable
through the project beyond its acceptation as a spontaneous and natural
No matter what approaches and methods are used to understand the user,
empathy is exploited as a designing tool to ensure more predictable success
of the designed products/services. To empathize describes the process
of design where designers try to discover how the user feels. Modern
technologies have expanded empathy in design from cognitive to emotional
dimension. However, it has been noticed that the more technologies
help to understand the thoughts, feelings, and consciousness of people,
the more people rely on machines to interact with others and lose the
ability to empathize. Questions come up at the intersection of technology,
cognitive and emotional empathy, and expanded into a broader context.
How designers could build emotional empathy with users besides taking
advantages of technology? As mentioned above, we are living in a world
where most innovation processes are driven by the market, resulting in
most established methods and tools addressing “cognitive empathy”. If
design could escape from the commercial constraints, are designers abler to
really feel the users through emotional empathy? Considering the origin of
empathy theories, is it possible to handle empathy from a multidimensional
view, as it has been researched in psychology, in the designing process?
Another critical consideration comes up from the analysis we made at
the beginning about the counterpoint of exploiting the cognitive empathy
as “not includ[e]ing any reference to caring about the other person, thus
allowing for the possibility of a kind of Machiavellian cognitive empathy
that can be used to harm others (e.g., know thy enemy)” (Hodges and
Myers 2007). So we ask: has empathy always positive social and human
implications, or, sometimes, it can just be a simple marketing tool for
generating new needs only for commercial goals?
Design for empathy - empathy as a goal
Design not only is a problem-solving activity which creates commercial
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