Bringing design toolkits to public policy.

 

“The designer… has a passion for doing something that fits somebody’s needs, but that is not just a simple fix. The designer has a dream that goes beyond what exists, rather than fixing what exists… the designer wants to create a solution that fits in a deeper situational or social sense.” – David Kelley, Founder of IDEO, in Bringing Design to Software by Terry Winograd

 

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What is Human-Centered Design?

The Lab employs human-centered design thinking to generate ideas and recommendations. This methodology combines both analytical and creative approaches and is particularly appropriate when addressing “wicked problems.” In an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, John Kolko from The Austin Center for Design defined wicked problems in the following way:

A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems… Poverty is linked with education, nutrition with poverty, the economy with nutrition, and so on. These problems are typically offloaded to policy makers, or are written off as being too cumbersome to handle en masse. Yet these are the problems—poverty, sustainability, equality, and health and wellness—that plague our cities and our world and that touch each and every one of us. These problems can be mitigated through the process of design, which is an intellectual approach that emphasizes empathy, abductive reasoning, and rapid prototyping.

 

The Presidio of San Francisco, a National Historic Landmark and innovative new model for the role of a public park in a community.

The Presidio of San Francisco, a National Historic Landmark and innovative new model for the role of a public park in a community.

 

The human-centered design thinking process is a framework for innovation pioneered to a large extent by IDEO, initially for its work with the private sector. It has since been applied to the social sector. It is an iterative process using design approaches and tools that put the community’s needs in the center of design solutions, and ensure that their experiences drive innovation. The design thinking approach has been used across the country to tackle tough and complex social issues and challenges. In terms of urban parkland development, the approach and process have been applied successfully in the Presidio of San Francisco (above), a National Historic Landmark and innovative new model for the role of a public park in a community.