Impact of Social Problem Design and Conditions for its SuccessIn this article, I will first introduce how social problem-solving design has evolved for the last 30 years, and as a result that we should approach social problem-solving design in a way different from the traditional design of a single product. In particular, I will tell how it is important to assess the long-term performance of design, and the need to have a strong link to policy to successfully implement the design.
Universal Design Paradigm and Universal Design CitiesOn March 30, 2007, 82 UN member countries signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the world’s first comprehensive human rights treaty of the 21st century. The CRPD adopts the principle of equality and non-discrimination to safeguard the dignity and rights of all individuals with physical, mental, or intellectual disabilities. A total of 182 countries ratified the CRPD as of December 2021. Given that there are 196 countries, 93% of the adoption rate is quite impressive. UN highlighted the success of the CRPD as ‘a paradigm shift ,’1) while WHO in 2002 changed its view on disability from the medical model to the social model. The former regards disability as a personal matter and the latter sees disability in terms of milieu. With such changes, people started to perceive disability as a social issue rather than an individual problem and understand that ‘environment’ is a powerful impact factor either ‘enabling’ or ‘disabling’ a person. As a consequence, designers needed to embrace a new approach, shifting from special designs for the few with physical disabilities to inclusive design for all. Some designers believe that design can be considered ‘good’ when it satisfies different needs of people. On the other hand, many creative designers instead applied ‘universal design’ to come up with winning global applause. The CRPD also specified ‘universal design’, coined by an American architect Ron Mace, in the action plan as ‘design of products, environments, programs, and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.’ This propelled many initiatives to cultivate and advance the universal design paradigm in our society.
Exploring the concept of social problem-solving design and its value, and evolutionary directionSocieties around the world are increasingly facing more diversified and complicated problems (e.g.: social structure and policy, climate change, chronic infectious diseases, inequality, etc.). And recently, in addressing these social problems by developing an actionable solution through collaboration with stakeholders, “social innovation” is emerging as a useful concept, and the use of human-centered participatory design approach is emphasized as a practical methodology to execute this concept. Unlike the conventional supplier-centered innovation that involves a top-down approach, these concepts focus on a bottom-up approach that emphasizes social connectedness, and the role of design as an elaborate problem-solving tool is critical in implementing these concepts.
Special Interview: Ezio ManziniTo answer this question a premise is need. To do it, I refer to what I wrote a decade ago1) : in a fast and profoundly changing world, everybody designs. ‘Everybody’ means not only individual people, groups, communities, companies and associations, but also institutions, cities and entire regions; and ‘design’ means that, whether they like it or not, all these individual and collective entities are forced to bring all their designing capabilities into play to devise their life strategies and put them into practice. The result of this diffuse designing is that society as a whole can be seen as a huge laboratory in which unprecedented social forms, solutions and meanings are produced and social innovation is created. Therefore, to discuss “What do you think the city government should do to improve the value in the cities and in the lives of their citizen through design” we can refer to two types of design skills: (1) that of experts (expert design) and (2) that potentially widespread among citizens and citizen organizations (widespread planning). It follows that, for cities, the main objective should be to promote the design capabilities that are widespread in citizens and in their organization. This is the way to release the energies that exist in the city. To do this it is necessary to develop a new type of governance which could be called collaborative governance. In this framework, the role of design experts should be to activate and support the capacities of citizens and their organizations to be active and to use their widespread design potential.
Special Interview: Rachel CooperWhen thinking about Design as a resource for the city, it is important to understand the attributes of Design. Thinking about the Design process and the ability to translate numerous interdependencies into a tangible visions, is very much the value of Design. Many government organisations are looking to Design as a way of creating value, buy helping policy makers rethink policy, around issues such as net zero, health and wellbeing. Design organisations within government should be organised in such a way that they are able to synthsise science social, science and cultural insights, to help policy makers, and citizens co-imagine alternative furture, imagine the implications, benefits of policy and service design. This means Designers at the heart of government in policy labs, insight and foresight units. In terms of creating value one of the areas that design needs to engage with is the notion of value… how does new policy, new services, new urban design contributribute to environmental value and social value. Much work has been undertaken on establishing the natural capital value of enhanceing environments through policy making and design, much less has been done on how to establish social value through Design and quantify and evaluate it. This is the much more complicated area where Design needs to establish a strength.
Special Interview: David BermanLet me answer with a story. In the summer of 2008, I had the honour of meeting Mayor Oh Se-hoon at Seoul City Hall as part of the Seoul International Design Forum for which I had travelled from Canada for. On the way to the event, my first time in the city, I was struck by how integrated the design disciplines were. I recall saying to a colleague “When we were in China, we were saying they are catching up with us. In Korea, they have already blown by us.” Why? In Canada, the design disciplines were siloed: here in Seoul, they were delightfully integrated, both horizontally and vertically: from alphabet to surface to building to infrastructure. To discuss one without the others simply didn't compute, and I wondered “How is this done”? The answer came when I was introduced to the person to the Mayor’s left: their business card read “Chief Design Officer”. At that point in my career as a speaker, I had travelled to over 40 countries, and this was the first time I had heard of a City having a CDO. This explained how Seoul was doing such an impressive job of integrating the design disciplines. Ever since, in many travels, I have shown that card as evidence of a keystone to excellent design governance ... to any government clients who would listen. Here in Canada, we have our design strengths that are admired by others, such as our leadership in inclusive design, our national flag, and many other proud habits. However, every time someone in our government asks me how we can maximize the value of design I tell them it all starts with what Seoul has done: every major plan should be vetted by a CDO in the C-Suite, sprinkling design thinking into every project charter.
Special Interview: Yap Lay BeeMany successful cities around the word share one key attribute - a high-quality urban environment, brought about by a strong emphasis on excellent architecture and urban design. In Singapore, we are proud to be recognised globally as one of the world’s most liveable cities. A key contribution in achieving this accolade has been our long-term and integrated approach to planning which ensures that sufficient land is safeguarded to meet our future economic, housing, social and recreational needs, and our integrated approach to land use and transportation planning which ensures that developments are easily accessible by road and public transport, and that the city is walkable and pedestrian-friendly. The long term planning approach and timely investments in supporting infrastructure networks have given us the reputation as a “city that works” – one where high quality buildings are designed in the context of their surrounding urban landscape, and where buildings have mixed uses or shared public spaces that are able to enhance social and community life. This has not been achieved by Government initiatives alone, but through setting out clear and strong visions and plans and through close partnerships with the design and creative community, professionals, developers and other industry stakeholders.
Universal Design and City for EveryoneThe Seoul International Seminar on Universal Design1) that began in 2013 introduced and discussed the universal design of Seoul and major cities around the world. Introduced by Ron Mace, the concept of universal design refers to a functional and attractive design made accessible to all people, regardless of age, disability, or life cycle.2) Therefore, universal design connotes a significant meaning for urban planning and design. Instead of an urban space only for the healthy and economically active group, it aims to make a city for all, including the elderly and persons with disabilities. Universal design also suggests the possibility of a new urban paradigm. The concept of neoliberal entrepreneurial cities that surged in the deindustrialization era placed emphasis on competition among cities to attract capital,3) which deviates from the purpose of a city for all. Many cities struggled to grow and become competitive to acquire higher positions on global city rankings. Sometimes, they were more faithful to meeting the needs of domestic and overseas capitals than taking care of the socially disadvantaged. Accordingly, universal design brings up the creation of social values as the topic instead of competitive values, offering an opportunity to shift the paradigm and make cities warm and kind for more people.
Online Platform as a center for Seoul DesignThe boundaries are becoming blurry. The restriction of time and space and the limit of subjects no longer apply when solving common problems and creating new value. Nowadays, various subjects, including online and offline environments, virtual and real worlds, industrial and public domains, and city governments and citizens, are preparing for the future in different areas. The new dimension of energy manifested from combinations that jump over the boundaries is a catalyst to solve daily problems and solidify the city that provides the base for everyday life.
Special Interview: Rico QuirindongoAs civil servants, our responsibility is to serve the needs of our cities, our citizens, and our diverse communities. To improve the value of our cities and lives of our citizens through design, we must start by listening to our communities, particularly marginalized communities of color, hear from our citizens what they need to be supported, how they can be uplifted, and how they have been underserved. That input and education needs to be institutionalized and iterative. With that data and interaction, city governments should use that information to inform and coordinate our infrastructure and capital investments, our placemaking efforts, and our policy decisions.
Special Interview: Jeffrey ShumakerFirst of all, I am very happy to hear that the City of Seoul is continuing to emphasize the importance of design. For me, an emphasis on design must mean benefitting the broader public and should include an emphasis on the design of the public realm: the city’s streets, parks, promenades and plazas. Every new private development must give back to the city in some way, and this usually means either expanding or enhancing the public realm. It is an important role that the city plays: to leverage all private development for the public good and ensure that every new building is a good citizen of the city.
Special Interview: Blaž KrižnikDesign aims to address diverse needs and resolve problems in everyday life. In this sense, it is the social value, social innovation, and social responsibility that make up the very idea of design. At the same time, it is important for design, as an innovative and responsible social practice, not only to improve the quality of everyday life of citizens but also to enable and empower citizens to ‘design’ their everyday life on their terms. This can be achieved through community design for various reasons. First, community design focuses on citizens.
Special Interview: Joanna FrankAt the Center for Active Design (CfAD), we translate rigorous public health research into practical tools to support healthier buildings and communities. Decades of research have demonstrated that our built environment—or the buildings, streets, and neighborhoods where we live, work, play, move, study, relax, pray and socialize—has a major influence on our health and well-being. The design, maintenance, and governance of cites shape our daily experiences, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced this understanding that public health is a cornerstone that enables the functioning and strengthening of our society.