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Designing the Invisible – A Practitioner Dialogue

Format: Workshops, RSD5, Topic: Methods & Methodology

Facilitators: Josina Vink, Tai Huynh, Meagan Durlak, and Leslie Ruckman

In this session, we will explore what it means to transform social systems (and ourselves) from the inside out. Through deep reflection and dialogue, we will investigate how design practitioners can re-shape invisible social forces (like norms, roles and beliefs) to realize fundamental change in systems.

Are you interested in designing for transformation? Do you want to move beyond tweaking existing products, services or experiences, to design radical, long-term changes to organizations, communities and ourselves?

Designing the Invisible is a half-day dialogue for practitioners interested in designing for fundamental change within social systems to enable equitable and sustainable futures. The discussion will focus on how deeply held social structures (like collective norms, roles, values & beliefs) can be shaped through design practice, but also how they influence us as we design.

To begin the session there will be a short provocation on how we might think about the invisible social structures that guide our actions and their importance when designing for preferred futures in complex social systems. To make these discussions tangible, three practitioners will share short stories about how they have been grappling with changing the “rules of the game” in different spaces. Then we will have a short period of personal reflection using design diaries. This process of individual reflection will build into a large group dialogue about the potential and challenges of designing invisible social structures to realize transformation. The session will end with the collective development of guiding principles for engaging in this deep design work.

Key questions that will guide the dialogue include:

  • What are social structures and why do they matter when designing for transformation?
  • How do you influence social structures through design and how do they influence you?
  • What are the challenges of shaping social structures through design?
  • What are some strategies that could help us in this dynamic relationship with social structures when designing for transformation?
  • While the dialogue is open-ended, the goal of the session is to increase our collective literacy around the role of social structures in complex social systems and begin to equip ourselves with better strategies for shaping these invisible rules to aid in realizing preferred futures.




Citation Data

Author(s): Josina Vink, Tai Huynh, Meagan Durlak, and Leslie Ruckman
Title: Designing the Invisible – A Practitioner Dialogue
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
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Symposium Dates:
First published: 27 September 2016
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