Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation (Design Thinking, Design Theory) (英語) ハードカバー – 2015/2/20
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The role of design, both expert and nonexpert, in the ongoing wave of social innovation toward sustainability.
In a changing world everyone designs: each individual person and each collective subject, from enterprises to institutions, from communities to cities and regions, must define and enhance a life project. Sometimes these projects generate unprecedented solutions; sometimes they converge on common goals and realize larger transformations. As Ezio Manzini describes in this book, we are witnessing a wave of social innovations as these changes unfold―an expansive open co-design process in which new solutions are suggested and new meanings are created.
Manzini distinguishes between diffuse design (performed by everybody) and expert design (performed by those who have been trained as designers) and describes how they interact. He maps what design experts can do to trigger and support meaningful social changes, focusing on emerging forms of collaboration. These range from community-supported agriculture in China to digital platforms for medical care in Canada; from interactive storytelling in India to collaborative housing in Milan. These cases illustrate how expert designers can support these collaborations―making their existence more probable, their practice easier, their diffusion and their convergence in larger projects more effective. Manzini draws the first comprehensive picture of design for social innovation: the most dynamic field of action for both expert and nonexpert designers in the coming decades.
‘Design. When Everybody Designs’ is an insightful contemporary account on designing social-technical conditions for initiating and supporting collaborative social changes. However, the work is more a (design) proposal and a call for action than an academic examination on the topic. A more precise sub-title might have been: An Introduction to Manzini’s Vision, Stories and Guidelines of Design for Social Innovation. The delimitation would not only be helpful to orient readers’ expectation and but also acknowledge the fruits of Manzini’s decades of labour, and his intention of writing the book. Manzini aims to offer a specific design point of view written in its own language. “(I)t is a contribution to a specific design culture parallel and complementary to others” (p.5). Once it is clear about what the book is and about, it is easier to understand its slight evangelist tone of voice and the omission of other positions that an “Introduction” normally includes. I will come back to this point later, but first the juice.
Manzini masterfully assembles and interprets, in short creatively synthesizes, numerous third-party and own projects, concepts and theories from different disciplines to construct his arguments and positions. The key points are: we (particularly in the post-industrialized world) cannot and must not go on living as we did: individualistic, passive and excessive in consumption. Everyone, as ‘diffuse designer’, ought to participate collaboratively in redefining and creating social, economical and environmental well-being sensible to her own contexts. Expert designers should remake themselves and play the new role of activist, initiator, facilitator or supporter in co-designing for social innovation. There are promising design cases, principles, methods, and tools to be employed and improved, as shown and discussed in the book. Expert and diffuse designers should “make things happen”: experiment, replicate and connect. Together slowly but hopefully a new sustainable and meaningful civilization will be created to replace the current dysfunctional one.
On the one hand, I am totally inspired and feel that I can follow this book and start experimenting. On the other hand, I am curious about how Manzini draws the lines when he says:
“The book crosses various specialist ambits that mingle together in design practice, seeking to elaborate its own point of view and its own language: in short, its own culture. So, although it touches on different disciplinary fields, it is not an interdisciplinary book; it is a contribution to a specific design culture, parallel and complementary to others. This is a culture to whose growth all other social actors may contribute, but it is the design experts who should be its major producers.” (p.5)
What specific design culture does he refer? Surely it is not Politecnico Milano since Manzini is interested in contributing to an international debate. Does his design culture includes Tony Fry in Australia, Cameron Tonkinwise in the USA, or Wolfgang Jonas in Germany; or to step a bit further and backward to “Designing Social Systems in a Changing World” by Bela Banathy who has also advanced the idea of creative participation of ordinary citizens for social change.
Was Banathy a design expert writing from a design point of view in a design language? Well, I think, Harold Nelson, for example, would think so. And so would Klaus Krippendorff whose idea of design as sense making (The Semantic Turn) has been taken by Roberto Verganti and to whom Manzini refer.
Despite its brilliance, this book, like many other design books, is a stand-alone disconnected from other relevant design discourses. Now, to be fair, the other living design thinkers do not necessarily seek connections to Manzini. The academic design culture is rather individualistic. Perhaps in design, a social innovation in which everybody not only designs, but also reads, examines, corrects and builds on others is needed.
Rosan Chow, Germany