Relational or conversational design

Relational design is about designing with, rather than for. It is about conversation and involvement in the process. It is about shared ownership.

This is an open field of study, and I hope to develop more thoughts and ideas over time. An alternative term could be conversational design. See Second-order cybernetics.

I believe we are in the third major phase of modern design history: an era of relationally-based, contextually-specific design.

— Andy Blauwelt, Design Observer Towards Relational Design (2008)

See workshop questions not ideas.

Relational design is preoccupied with design’s effects, extending beyond the form of the design object and its attendant meanings and cultural symbolism. It is concerned with performance or use, not as the natural result of some intended functionality but rather in the realm of behavior and uncontrollable consequences. It embraces constraints and seeks systematic methodologies, as a way of countering the excessive subjectivity of most design decision-making. It explores more open-ended processes that value the experiential and the participatory and often blur the distinctions between production and consumption.

Towards Relational Design (extracts from a lecture series)

In relational design, the role of the designer is closer to that of an editor or a programmer, not an author but an enabler

Towards Relational Design (extracts from a Walker Art Center lecture series)

How is it different to a design committee, or design by committee?

It is not a top-down approach to design. A committee will often consist of a group trying to reach a consensus about a given design.

Whereas in relational design, a group will form the design together through dialogue. Workshops can be led by someone with both practical design knowledge and soft skills.

It is about provoking emergence, by making available tools and processes not normally used by the group.

This process often leads to new ideas, patterns or suggestions that would otherwise be hard to discover: for the organisation on their own, and for a designer on their own.

#definition #review