The process of bringing what we know, how we think and what we measure into being is called design.
Whenever we are trying to creatively solve a problem, synthesize different pieces of information, and create something new that addresses underlying challenges, we can use design thinking. Design thinking is an approach to problem solving that looks at how current systems are structured, and seeks to create new structures as a solution. Everything around us has been designed.
Design is everything that sits in between one another. It mediates our relationship to each other and the world around us, and reflects our values, perceptions and in turn forms our experiences. The structures and spaces that have all been designed, from cities to organizations and information, shape us endlessly, but who gets to shape these designs?
Democratic and participatory design is key to creating a just and vibrant world. Co-creation is how we value the diversity among us, because differences in experience, talent, perspective, identity and passion can be combined to form a clear picture of what we need to do. This is the process that makes design human-centered. As we all learn this process of design thinking, we understand that difference is valuable, not a reason to be apart.
Because it has the power to shift how we value each other, the design of systems and places is a fundamental human activity in which we can all participate. Furthermore, being able to thoughtfully design for yourself and with others is a key barometer of agency. Through design, we can create freedom and self determination for one another, or we can box each other in and limit our potential.
Thus, the design of places, systems and plans must be a living process. We see design as an iterative, visual and accessible process with communities: not a one-off, arcane and top-down process for communities. That’s why we need a long-term infrastructure to facilitate community-driven design and development in our neighborhoods.