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From Transformation Design to Translation Design

Format: Keynotes & Talks, RSD6, RSD6 Programme, Topic: Cases & Practice

Lucy Kimbell

All designing is already about systems, even if the object-focus of traditional design practices has obscured this. With recent developments in the field such as service design, design for social innovation and design for policy, the need for designers to engage more seriously with the systemic nature of designing is acute.

This talk explores the issues arising when contemporary designerly approaches attempt to address systemic challenges. While such approaches offer some potential benefits, they also bring with them assumptions and elisions which are worrying. A shift to designing for translations between worlds, rather than transformations of worlds, may help address these weaknesses.


Lucy is an experienced researcher, postgraduate educator, and strategic design consultant. She has spent much of her career on design’s fringes, intersecting with other disciplines and contexts including social innovation and policy. Lucy has been involved in research, teaching and assessment within leading international universities for over a decade, with a particular focus on the role of design in society, services and innovation. Her leadership and facilitation skills are complemented by research in design thinking and service design and art experiments in visualising data.

Before joining UAL Lucy was AHRC research fellow in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office (2014-15) and principal research fellow at the University of Brighton where in addition she jointly led projects for the AHRC around social design. Previously Lucy was a Clark fellow in design leadership at Said Business School, the University of Oxford for five years, where she remains an associate fellow. Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia.

As an educator, she has been involved in developing the joint MBA between CSM and Birkbeck College and UAL’s executive training offer. She’s taught an MBA elective on design innovation at Said Business School, University of Oxford, since 2005. Lucy also designs and delivers training in people-centred design for the UK Civil Service.




Citation Data

Author(s): RSD6 Keynote. Lucy Kimbell: This talk explores the issues arising when contemporary designerly approaches attempt to address systemic challenges.
Title: From Transformation Design to Translation Design
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Article No.:
Symposium Dates:
First published: 18 October 2017
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