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Having fun at the Design Policy Conference, as part of World Design Capital.


Policy making is generally associated with bureaucracy, red tape and politics.

So when I was invited to the Design Policy Conference as part of the World Design Capital initiative, I was curious:

How do people from an industry that strives to push creativity to its max, turning ideas into innovation deal with policy making?


Here’s what I took away from the Design Policy Conference:


  • Design is in everything

Everything around us is designed. Often this only becomes apparent when we encounter design fails.

In the end, a well designed product means it was well thought through, taking into account every possible user and their specific needs.

Unfortunately in nowadays times of cheap Chinese products and rushed to launch apps, this gets all too often forgotten. Especially in industries that don’t think of themselves as creative, but stick to traditional conservatism.

What I learned: Get a designer’s input, it can offer a new perspective and solution.


  • Design centers around us humans

Ulrich Meyer-Höllings: “Designers and those that think like designers could be the perfect CEOs in businesses as designers have all of the skills required to survive and prosper in this turbulent environment. Industries that are struggling to survive like banks and media are now trying to learn new processes from designers such as understanding people and their behaviour. Designers can redefine the business landscape and inject a more people-centred view.”

What I learned: We are human by birth, but we are people by design. (Dale Dutton)


  • Design needs policing

Whereas there’s a lot of criticism towards ‘Design by Committee’, which apparently results in a camel for a horse, there needs to be a direction in order to achieve results.

However, you can have the bestest policies, it still takes people to implement it. That’s why a solid Design Strategy is required to provide that plan to put things into action.

As Carlos Scheliga pointed out: Design Policies need to be a society decision, you need to have the engagement of the citizen. It needs to be a state policy, not a government policy. Shift the mindset: Design can improve all public services. The city is the natural environment of the human being. It’s our nature to be together.

He added: “People are mobilising, organising, conducting or exerting pressure for transformations. Depending on how this popular participation interacts with city administrations, it could represent a great opportunity to build the desired city. It is clear, therefore, that design policies can catalyse the improvement of urban space and should involve the participation of citizens.“


  • Design can’t collaborate too much

Once the goal is clear, it seems with design you can’t have enough input. As with techniques to stimulate creativity such as brainstorming: No idea is a bad idea. Any idea can spark off something great.

But how can the public truly be involved in the decision making process? As with all good ideas, solutions don’t have to be complicated: One good example are the WDC stickers, which rate whatever people think is design.

What I learned:
One of the key reasons policy making takes so long is because the parties involved don’t trust each other. Collaboration needs trust. Trust can be achieved through relationship, which can be formed through interaction, which can be sparked through experiences, which can happen at events such as the Design Policy Conference, for example: the War Horse performance.


  • Design is cool enough to make mistakes

Whereas people in the public services space fear failure, in design errors are forced out early to guarantee a fool-proof product through the process of prototyping. Other industries could implement similar techniques to gather real results quicker and find a sustainable solution faster.

What I learned: Policy making and business decisions could be improved by incorporating design thinking. (Richard Perez)



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