Using Design for Transformation

25 Apr 2023

Design for Transformation is a crucial concept for addressing the challenges faced by countries, societies, and humanity, particularly in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is a holistic approach to design that considers the social, economic, and environmental impacts of products, services, and systems. This approach aims to create solutions that can drive positive change, promote sustainability, and support the achievement of the SDGs.

It can help countries and societies to tackle unforeseen challenges by creating innovative solutions that can adapt to changing circumstances. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries and organizations had to quickly develop and implement new approaches to healthcare, education, and work. Design-led transformation can help to facilitate this process by providing a framework for creating solutions that are flexible, adaptable, and sustainable.

Design is the key to addressing global challenges, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality. By considering the long-term social, economic, and environmental impacts of products, services, and systems, designers can create solutions that promote sustainability and support the achievement of the SDGs. For example, a design solution that promotes renewable energy sources or reduces waste can have a positive impact on the environment and support the achievement of SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Design replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.

The European Commission estimated that 80% of a product, service or system’s life-cycle costs and environmental footprints are determined during its design phase. Making it evident that design decisions radiate across the ecosystem and lead to long-term investments, financial and social commitments and determines a product’s carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Transformation Design

Transformation design, like user-centered design, starts from the perspective of the end user. Designers spend a great deal of time not only learning how users currently experience the system and how they want to experience the existing system, but also co-creating with them the designed solutions.

Transformation of design tackles complex issues involving many stakeholders and components, more expertise beyond the user and the designer is always required. People such as:- policy makers, sector analysts, psychologists, economists, private businesses, government departments and agencies, front-line workers and academics should be involved to participate in the entire design process – from problem definition to solution development.

With so many points-of-view brought into the process, transformation designers are not always ‘designers.’ Instead, they often play the role of moderator. Though varying methods of participation and co-creation, these moderating designers create hands-on, collaborative workshops that make the design process accessible to the non-designers.

Process of Transformation Design

Transformation Design is a process that aims to create positive social change by designing new systems, products, and services that address complex societal challenges. The process involves multiple stages, which can be adapted to fit the specific needs of each project. Here is a general overview of the Transformation Design process:

Discover and Define: The first step is to research and analyze the challenge at hand, including understanding the problem, the context, and the stakeholders involved. This involves gathering data and insights from various sources, such as interviews, observation, and literature reviews, to define the problem and identify the opportunities for transformation.
Ideate and Co-create: The second step is to brainstorm and develop ideas for potential solutions. This can involve co-creation with stakeholders, such as users, communities, and organizations, to ensure that the ideas generated are relevant and feasible. The ideation phase can involve techniques such as brainstorming, mind mapping, and scenario planning.
Prototype and Test: The third step is to develop and test prototypes of the proposed solution. This can involve creating physical or digital models of the solution and testing them with users and stakeholders to gather feedback and refine the design. This feedback loop allows designers to continuously improve the solution and ensure that it meets the needs of stakeholders.
Implement and Scale: The final step is to implement the solution and scale it to achieve wider impact. This involves planning for the long-term sustainability of the solution, including considering the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the solution. It can also involve developing strategies for dissemination and adoption of the solution.

Overall, Transformation Design is a highly iterative and collaborative process that involves multiple stakeholders and disciplines. It is a flexible process that can be adapted to fit the specific needs and context of each project.

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