The research explores how socially sustainable system-oriented design and participatory design methods can create collaboration between design students and communities. By creating experimental, cultural and educational “playgrounds” and interventions in urban space, the aim is to challenge the role of product design education in developing more socially sustainable and socially responsible design objects and futures. Firstly, this paper will define the concept of socially sustainable design, and the research will discuss the ideologies present in acts of design and how these acts can bring communities together; to include and exclude, or homogenize or diversify. Secondly, the paper addresses issues related to the designer’s and researcher’s role in challenging, disrupting and transforming existing societal systems and structures. Thirdly, the research introduces and discuss two experimental cases and design projects that involve product design students and citizens and the community in Søndre Nordstrand and in Bjørvika in Oslo. The paper concludes with a discussion on the influences and learning experiences social design and social theories can have on product design education, looking beyond the quality of the objects themselves to the aesthetics of the social, psychological and cultural experiences they mediate.