Design and Social Innovation


Today, many public and social leaders are embracing ideas and methods previously only associated with design. Visualisation, experimentation and user involvement is becoming central factors in social innovation. Terms that signify collaborative and inclusive approaches such as design thinking, service design, co-design, human centred design and strategic design are increasingly becoming more prevalent.

A designer is often challenged to engage in collaborative projects where the user of the service is involved in the design of the service. For example, in Denmark mentally handicapped took part in workshops where they cut out images from magazines and made a collage of the kinds of activities they wanted. Several ideas from these workshops turned into practice, such as a new shop to sell crafts. Being involved in the generation and development of the ideas made the service users feel more satisfied with the service that they were provided with.

Design Principles for Change

Design is often linked in our minds with creating new attractive products – lamps, chairs, smart phones, and shoes. But design can also be involved in shaping an identity. Capturing our imagination and getting us involved in changing our environment is part of a design process.

Traditional design disciplines:

  • visual communication design
  • interior space design
  • product design
  • information design
  • architecture
  • planning

Design disciplines for change

  • design for experiencing
  • design for emotion
  • design for interacting
  • design for sustainability
  • design for serving

Go here to read more about the new shape of design.


Today, there is a strong focus on visualisation, infographics are used to make sense of data, animations helps us understand concepts and we can learn to use new tools by watching them. RSA Animate Series are one example where instead of communicating by writing an article, the message is communicate in a powerful visual way. Visual artists and designers are working together to help scientists and social scientist to gain insight and new ideas. Visualisation is a tool that can be used in design thinking but there are several other tools that can be used, we will describe some other tools later.  The infograph below can be used to design ways to help find missing children. Social scientist Herbert Simon said that devising a plan to create something that is better than what exists today is design.


From the blog CoolInfoGraphics

Photo: “Eye Cube” by Idea go

4 Replies to “Design and Social Innovation”

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