Daily Reflection 10: Facilitating Design

Since starting graduate school I have been exposed to a number of perspectives on contemporary design practices. Aside from learning about emerging disciplines such as interaction design or service design, I have also started to consider the role designers play in groups and organizations. Practices such as co-creation and co-design have fostered a new kind of relationship between designers of all sorts and non-designers, or people not trained in a design discipline. A leader in participatory practices, Liz Sanders has written extensively in partnership with several Scandinavian designers and researchers on roles in the co-creation process. She sees researchers (who may be designers), as facilitators of design. Rather than responding to a design brief provided by a client, in co-creation, designers (who may also be researchers!) aid non-designers in externalizing and analyzing their needs and desires. In addition to work done by Sanders and others in the area of co-creation, there is also an emerging trend toward design consultancies aiding organizations in the design of strategies and services. In such a scenario, designers harness the techniques they use for collaborating, ideating, prototyping, etc, to help organizations gain insights into the way they work both internally and externally.

While the concept of design facilitator seems to be gaining a lot of traction in the field, there doesn’t appear to be much knowledge or research around the practice. A fair amount of digging today dug up only a few resources that explicitly had “design facilitator” in the title. My journey to Sweden started with an essay about the role of design methods in addressing complex social problems. Reflecting on the current trends in design practice, it seems my research on generating knowledge about design methods and practices in relationships to design facilitation. Some preliminary questions I have on my mind on the topic are:

1. Do design practitioners identify as “design facilitators?”
2. If so, in what situations, and in what capacities? Basically, how do designers go about facilitating design?
3. What resources support design facilitation? Are there trained design facilitators?

I am pretty exciting about pursuing this area because it seems quite relevant to trends in design practice, and could fill a gap between the buzz surrounding “design thinking” and the critical theory and research that support its practice/development.