A new tool to discover an integrated and demand-oriented policy agenda for near future__ De-sign:Re-form

Speaker: Koo yoori (professor of Hongik University, a laortory chief of SDE lab.)

"How design thinking, a human-centered approach to problem solving, can play a powerful role in the public and social sectors?”

Design, which first started as an activity of creating tangible goods, is now creating intangible values in the form of experience and service design.   As demand for digital services including mobile applications rises, user experience design that creates a system that evokes emotions started to get attention, and service design which focuses on finding invisible needs of users and developing a new service model has been widely adopted and used in various areas of industry including hospitals, banks, education institutions, etc. 

Today’s design trend is shifting from designing tangible goods to designing intangible value, which not only targets specific users but also applies across people and communities. This process leads to a joint project where various stakeholders can contribute together and developing not only technical but also meaningful solutions are considered important. Expanding the areas of design drives innovation in design. Design innovation means that members of a society, from the public, communities to large organizations including the government change the world for the better through design. That is, everyone can take part in the design process, uses the design to create new relationships and aims to drive society in a way that is favorable for everyone. 


A scholar, in a paper published in 2014, asserted that design and policymaking are the two very similar acts. These two acts go through repetitive and logical processes for integration and accompany experiments and exploration. Great administrators and politicians demonstrate excellent problem-solving skills and creativity in dealing with challenges. At the core of bringing creativity to problem solving is the underlying value that a designer pursues. Therefore, designing and policymaking are related as they share commonality as an act of creating something better based on the creative problem-solving skill.

Design Policy Lab in the U.K. classifies the context of design into three categories. 

When it comes to problem-solving, the initial role of creative design was to  give a form to the points of contact among artificial things that we handle. As this role expands and moves to the realm of user experience and platform, we enter the sphere of system and service design. When this again expands into an area of community value as well as the rules and principles that communities should follow, then we reach an area of policy design where a social context should be structured from the scratch, and therefore, it is fair to say that the essence of creativity required for design and policy making share the same attributes. Therefore, from this context, design thinking is a quality required not only for designers but also all people involved in establishing values and principles in the public sector. 



Innovation in a new era

In today’s world, innovation takes place in a new way. Thinking about innovation from a traditional perspective and comparing it with the innovation in today’s new era, innovation in the past was expert-oriented, which means it was led by administrative experts or design experts who played their parts. However, innovation in the new era takes place when everyone finds an opportunity together and various stakeholders from heterogenous groups participate in the conversation and collaborate for innovation. And what people discuss is a problem about a flexible situation, volatile and unclear, rather than open and easily recognizable. What is important here is the method of conversation. The innovation in the new era is evolving from the traditional way of evaluating and selecting among completing possible solutions based on the data in the past to seeking insights, opportunities and learning to develop a possibility never seen before.

Design Thought, Designer’s Technique, Design Thinking 

Design thinking, which is also referred to as design thought, designer’s technique, etc. highlights that the way of thinking and behavior should be changed for sure to allow innovation to happen in a new way. This change can impact fundamental characteristics of how individual, team and various stakeholders find a problem and solution to the problem. In particular, as new innovation emerges, design thinking provides “common language” and “problem-solving methodology” which can be used to achieve a goal of the public sector more effectively. 

The characteristics of design thinking can be summarized into following five points. First, a methodology such as design ethnography, etc., is used to empathize and focus on users and this process of deep understanding creates a new perspective that can address a problematic situation. Also, a new idea is quickly visualized to share the result of deep understanding and a repetitive experiment through creativity and boundless thinking is highlighted. These processes aim to develop an integrated solution by collaborating with stakeholders across various areas.

Characteristics of Design Thinking © SDE lab

Looking at changes we face in this era, I’m sure that our way of lives will be different in the future. So far, we have built knowledge, established a plan, and implemented it based on the insights we gained from experiences in the present and the past. However, in the post COVID-19 era, we are seeing unforeseen patterns in peoples’ behaviors so we can’t make a hasty assumption that future will reflect our past experiences. As there is a growing emphasis on a foresight capability that can imagine what will happen in the future along with a realistic insight, policymakers, strategists, service providers and public officers should be able to predict what will happen in their areas of responsibility and combine their analysis with outside data to contribute to the future. 

Predictive and speculative design method might be an unfamiliar concept in the public area, however, in the future post COVID-19, people should be able to make a prediction and build a scenario by observing and empathizing with the users based on a newly acquired qualitative data. Also, the need to build a process where users participate in the problem solving and jointly produce a solution is increasing.


Utilizing design tools for better problem-solving method

It is increasingly important to predict the direction of change, which is new data, design tools for better problem solving raises an important point about unpredictable issues in the future in a creative way, promotes a conversation through various tools and processes and shapes a visible solution using experimentation and prototyping. 

In this regard, I would like to introduce a joint design case that has brought a new voice to the problem-solving and some cases that proposed foresight using a future-looking and creative design methodology. 


Three scopes of design tools  © SDE lab. 

Case 1. Living in the Community Housing Design for Adults with Autism : Kingwood Trust (2010) 

The first case is a one-year collaboration project between Royal College of Art and Kingwood Trust, a charity organization in the U.K. that improved a living environment for adults with autism through design. This project started from recognizing the need to improve services to help adults with autism live independently. These adults, despite being physically abled, were living in a confined and restricted environment like a prison-camp. To help autistic people live a life of their own choice, the project involved adults with autism, their families and caregivers when designing residential space, external space, and space for daily activities, created a new residential space for them, and developed a design guidance for adults with autism. This project developed new design criteria and comprehensive practice, thereby dramatically enhancing autistic peoples’ ability to live independently. 

When developing a design for people with autism, it is critical to experience the environment that they are in and understand the way they recognize other people and objects in that environment. We can take an approach from field of design to address how their environment should be built. It is widely known that adults with autism are hypersensitive and tend to have an obsession that revolves around certain topics. Understanding the hypersensitivity of autistic people correctly, it is possible to approach from design when thinking how to establish the environment for the autistic people. Kingwood first collected feedback from people with autism, their families, and caregivers, then used various design tools appropriately and performed activities including making sensory objects, creating sensory preference cards, etc. to engage users, and visualized the design tools throughout the entire process. As a result, it was possible to elaborate on the insights that were not clearly recognized or expressed by autistic people, their families, and people around them, and redesign the living environment of autistic people by improving individual living spaces and public space, building an outdoor green space, encouraging individual activities in the daily lives, etc. 


Living in the Community Housing Design for Adults with Autism: Kingwood Trust (2010)


In particular, the process that utilized visualization tools that allowed people with autism to take a full control and independence to their lives and explored the difficulties they faced in their daily lives through a prototyping workshop is a good example of using a visualization tool which was delicately customized to the subjects, moving away from the conventional survey method and tool. By using the design tool visualization extensively, it was possible to materialize the insights which the autistic people, their helpers and families could not recognize or clearly express, and therefore bring out empathy. Here, “visualization” was confirmed as a powerful tool as it served as a convincing medium to deliver the thoughts and minds of the users, going beyond an act of creating an image independent of oral or text communication. 

Case 2. Future of an Ageing Population : UK Policy Lab(2015)

The second case is about a project that used design in a more innovative way than the previous case. While many activities for innovation taking place across cities, municipal governments, and countries around the world, I would like to introduce you to the project between UK Policy Lab and EU Policy Lab.                        

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, population ageing was considered and discussed a very serious issue in Europe. As a case in point, UK policy Lab collected qualitative data, explored public awareness and reaction to population ageing and structured findings to provide policy information about the likely impact of aged population on society. As issues related to population ageing were not easy to solve, the UK Policy Lab used the speculative design tool to additionally explore public views on the possible impact of the population ageing in the future. 


In speculative design, a designer does not directly address a problem, but proposes virtual scenarios on various future spectrums and opens up new perspectives on a society (Dunne & Fiona Raby,2013). In this project, images derived to indicate futures (diegetic prototypes) were provided to the public, analyzed their reaction to the scenario and made them imagine a different type of world that was beyond what was expressively depicted. A workshop that employs creative thinking by encouraging participants to freely share their thoughts about what the future would look like, changing views intentionally, etc. serves as a starting point to explore a whole new technology, system, and a society. This project is the first project that actively used the speculative and critical design method in a policy making process of the U.K. government. 


 Future of an Ageing Population : UK Policy Lab (2015)

Case 3. Blockchain4EU : EU Policy Lab(2016-2020)

Next case is Blockchain4U, a project from the EU. It was a future-looking project that studied the impact of the blockchain technology on peoples’ daily lives and proposed an idea regarding the complexity and uncertainty around blockchain-based applications in industrial and non-financial sectors. This project also utilized speculative and critical design and triggered a discussion by creating a prototype through collaboration.

The first workshop identified the context and use cases of the blockchain technology and explored the context in the ecosystem where the technology could be used in the extensive European environment that was driven by industrial innovation. The second workshop has built scenarios and ideas to industrialize the technology, created future scenarios and prototypes and designed real speculative prototypes. In both workshops, many visual tools were used, and it is interesting to note that two designers co-led the project and actively engaged in creating a prototype based on a participatory, creative, and speculative design methodology. The third workshop focused on commercialization and SME innovation, so it invited the players in areas of focus to discuss and work with stakeholder groups, and co-produced future scenarios and prototypes of the blockchain application in five industry areas (energy, transportation and logistics, creative industry, advanced manufacturing, health).


All prototypes ask “what if” questions to policy stakeholders and other audience and collect their feedback by introducing them services they should perform or offer. This workshop led to the development of detailed prototypes for those ranging from share economy model of electric power, sharing bodily information using blockchain to healthcare.  


#Blockchain4EU : EU Policy Lab (2016-2020)

Case 4. The Future of Government 2030+ : EU Policy Lab (2017-2019) 

The fourth case is a project of EU Policy Lab which studied the role, form, and detailed shape of future government with a prospect that rapidly changing society and technology will change the role and form of the government in the future. This project explored new social challenges, analyzed the trend of rapidly changing digital society and discussed the future role of government that looks to 2030 and beyond, and held workshops in multiple stages bringing together citizens, companies, leaders of civil organizations, students in design major from Austria, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. to develop ideas together. During the workshop, tools of future vision scenario were used to trigger discussions among stakeholders and FuturGovGame, a toolkit similar to a board game was developed to encourage creative thinking and active participation.


This project was characterized by its intensive use of speculative and creative design, and active participation by stakeholders and use of a bottom-up approach to discover scenarios. Also, this project engaged staff, faculty, and students in design among stakeholders across Europe to use creative thinking and making based on design to explore possibilities and produced detailed agenda by using their expertise in idea development and visualization. 


The Future of Government 2030+ : EU Policy Lab(2017-2019)


To briefly look at the process, stakeholders discuss and identify around 20 scenarios, and among them four are selected and visualized to encourage imagination. So, the four scenarios of DIY Democray, Private Algocracy, Super Collaborative Government and Over-Regulatocracy are selected, and designers discuss interaction ideas and repeat the process of opinion sharing and discussing. Ideas proposed by students in design based on scenarios are then delivered to the stakeholders. Participants can assume what the future would look like, find, and define their roles through action cards while exchanging opinions with other participants and imagining a better future. Designing creative conversational styles require both designer’s competency as well as physical interaction.

What is special about this project is that it involved a join design process that had various stakeholders based on design-based creative thinking, that 100 students and faculty members in design actively engaged in the project and participated in developing a creative future scenario and concept, and that it developed a future scenario in the beginning and utilized it as a tool to actively trigger an imagination. It is worth noting that the project developed tools to encourage participation of various stakeholders and triggered various discussions.

Case 5. 2030 future vision scenario for the disabled and the elderly, that will change through QoLT (Quality of Life Technology)

: National Rehabilitation Center + Hongik University SDE lab (2021)

The last case is a project between National Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and SDE Lab at Hongik University that used future vision scenario. This project started from asking a question how the life of the disabled and the elderly could change if they use Quality of Life Technology (QoLT) in the future and its biggest goal was to establish a demand-oriented QoLT paradigm and imagine future and its impact to help enable the development of demand-driven policy and technology. The project held a co-creation workshop and brought together a group consisted of the disabled and the elderly, experts of rehabilitation engineering, QoLT experts and care experts to come up with future vision scenarios. SDE Lab attempted to intently harness the strengths of service design methodology including the diversity of experimentation and visualization, joint creation and problem-definition centered on the demand side and understood the technologies by analyzing the elements of the future to find an answer to the What if question. Also, an interview that was conducted with stakeholders to identify and understand the life of users confirmed that opinions varied within a same group.    

This project was conducted in stages. First, user values were derived based on the analysis of future environment and insights about users. Then tools that could be co-created with the stakeholders were designed and utilized. Finally, 2030 smart village future scenario where technology, human and society were connected to build a local community was developed and depicted how independent life of each individual including an elderly, a physically disabled person, a person with hearing impairment and a person with visual impairment are connected to each other through technology using experience prototyping.


2030 future vision scenario for the disabled and the elderly, that will change through QoLT (Quality of Life Technology)

Developed by: National Rehabilitation Center + Hongik University SDE lab (2021) © SDE lab.


What is notable about this project is that it reinterpreted the QoLT area which was classified based on traditional technologies by connecting with the lives of people with visual, hearing, and physical impairment, and laid a foundation to develop future QoLT product and service through a demand oriented QoLT design principle and idea design. Also, it utilized “design fiction” and created a future vision of QoLT product and service which visualized benefits for the disabled and the elderly and built a platform to discuss in detail, and visually realized and proposed the context of the use of QoLT in user’s daily life and therefore enhanced the level of understanding of people working in the disabled and the elderly sector. This project can serve as a useful reference for relevant studies in the future and can serve as a base to establish a user-oriented in the future.   


© SDE lab. 

What is notable about this project is that it reinterpreted the QoLT area which was classified based on traditional technologies by connecting with the lives of people with visual, hearing, and physical impairment, and laid a foundation to develop future QoLT product and service through a demand oriented QoLT design principle and idea design. Also, it utilized “design fiction” and created a future vision of QoLT product and service which visualized benefits for the disabled and the elderly and built a platform to discuss in detail, and visually realized and proposed the context of the use of QoLT in user’s daily life and therefore enhanced the level of understanding of people working in the disabled and the elderly sector. This project can serve as a useful reference for relevant studies in the future and can serve as a base to establish a user-oriented in the future.

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