The panel comprises the work of seven design researchers whose work addresses existing practices within governmental communication and cultural institutions. They ask how these processes could be redesigned to increase public engagement and drive design innovation to ultimately benefit the common good. The first paper looks at strategies for activating the process of designing factually dense documents, such as government reports and records to increase public engagement. The second paper explores participatory methods for the design of cultural institutions, particularly design museums, opening up processes to stakeholders, communities and designers. The third paper proposes a framework for a more collaborative, "activist" model of curating design exhibitions, repositioning cultural institutions as facilitators for innovation in design and the curator as a catalyst of this process. In this panel the audience will be invited to participate in the discussion within a mutual visual space exploring the topics and concepts of all three papers.
In the face of numerous global crises, including the rise of authoritarianism and targeted misinformation media campaigns, promoting information literacy, cultivating civic participation, and providing access to information is essential to the common good of communities all over the world. The repercussions of complacency and distrust of scientific expertise are being felt in real-time, even as the United States struggles to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. This paper, consequently, aims to capture design’s role as a communication conduit for the public good. Based on a current project titled Ongoing Matter: Democracy, Design, and the Mueller Report, this paper identifies strategies for increasing public engagement with and access to factually dense documents, such as government reports and records. Though focused specifically on the Mueller Report, Ongoing Matter is a case study for similar scenarios wherein information dissemination is crucial to the public interest.
In this paper, we advocate for design museums as civic spaces that allow for participation in discussions around relevant and urgent matters. Firstly, we join the discourse about the museum as an active agent enabling the shaping of the common good through participatory processes. Building on the work of academics and other professionals researching museum practices, we contribute to discussions about the use of participatory design methods to keep the museum as a vital and fertile place. Secondly, we devise an overview of participatory design and its increasing application within the cultural realm to further understand the importance that participatory design has in shaping the common good. Finally, we highlight the notion of reciprocity, a mutual exchange of benefits, that is needed to ensure the long-term success of participatory design in the cultural realm. By proposing designers as stakeholders, we advocate for a dynamic of reciprocity between the design community and design museums which will fuel the co-creation of the common good.
To curate is to care. Literally. Traditionally, curators are minders, tasked with cultivating, growing, preserving and exhibiting collections of precious objects, from artworks to stamps. Yet in recent decades, a new type of curator – and with them a different kind of exhibition – has emerged in the field of design. No longer bound to focus only on objects, curators increasingly care for issues. They reinvent the gallery space to become a zone for critical inquiry and for negotiating, debating and discussing how design can have a positive impact on society. But since both design practice as well as the role of museums and cultural institutions is radically changing, do we need to reevaluate the curator’s role further and adapt our operational model? What are current challenges and opportunities in the practice of curating design? In this paper, I trace the history of design curating, explore changes in museum dynamics and evaluate my own experience as a curator working with design practitioners. From this, I extrapolate learnings for a current and future curatorial practice in design. In place of a conclusion, I propose a framework for a more collaborative, “activist” model of curating to supplement existing curatorial practice. Responding to the challenges at hand both within design and museums, this framework brings together transdisciplinary teams of designers, researchers, industry and cultural producers. It positions the cultural institution as a facilitator of innovation in design and the curator as a catalyst in enabling design experimentation and innovations to ultimately benefit the common good.