Title: Assessing design approaches' political role in the public sector

Authors: Federico Vaz; Maria Ferreira

Addresses: Institute for Design Innovation, Loughborough University London, London, E20 3BS, UK ' Design Department, Aalto University, Espoo, 02150, Finland

Abstract: Governments worldwide are increasingly adopting design tools and methods to explore new ways of public policy-making and governance. Such design approaches are often portrayed as politically neutral. Building on contemporary research that argues the contrary, this paper proposes a framework for making their political dimension explicit by distinguishing between the artefacts, techniques, and discourses that compose them. This paper is based on an interactive session held at DRS2018 where design practitioners and academics piloted the proposed framework and follow-up interviews with some of the participants. The analysis revealed the recurrence of certain themes, in particular the reinforcement of existing power relations and the encroachment of market logics into the public sector through the introduction of design approaches. This, we argue, shows how the proposed framework contributes to the awareness of the political implications of design tools and methods utilised in the public sector by making their underlying political conceptions visible.

Keywords: design for policy; governance design; public sector design; politics of design; political discourses; underlying ideologies; design neutrality; design artefacts; design techniques.

DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2021.124213

Journal of Design Research, 2021 Vol.19 No.4/5/6, pp.197 - 212

Accepted: 30 Nov 2020
Published online: 18 Jul 2022 *

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