Co-design? New age bullshit – Or the answer to all design problems

There has been alot of chat recently following this article by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen entitled “User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and IKEA”. Which is a complete mouthful of a title – but at least it can’t be accused of beating around the bush any.

Co-design is a big thing in the design world right now I can tell you – numerous lectures on the subject – people becoming experts in the field – I even have a current project that is entitled “Contexts and stakeholders” based around, you guessed it, co-design.

So what is co-design? If you have managed to hide under a rock for the past little while and somehow missed it – I will enlighten you. At this point I would love to cite a wiki-article or some other fountain of knowledge – but they all seem to use huge words, acronyms and design jargon – no surprise there.

Co-design simply is designing in tandem with your user. Now you would think “most designers do this anyway” – not entirely true. However co-design takes this a step further – rather than interviewing a user “gathering data; then turning it into information” the user actually forms an integral part of the design process – telling you exactly what they want at each point along the way.

But here’s the thing. I’m spending 4 years (maybe even 5) of my life to become a designer – or to develop the tools that enable me to be an effective designer (as some people would argue designers are not created – they are simply refined). So why would it be prudent to essentially have me work with someone with no training whatsoever?

Not everyone is born a creative (Or has been shaped into one) and I personally believe my job as a designer is to look at people and figure out what they need – not for people to tell me what they want – these are often completely bi-polar points of view.

On the other hand – I am not so quick to dropkick many hours of lecturing and project research out the window. Yes I completely believe that co-design is a useful tool – but only one to fit into a massive arsenal that each designer should be armed with to attack such design tasks. I believe this example has already been cited in the discussion caused by this article; but to exemplify IDEO’s method cards – not every one is applicable to a design challenge (few or many may be). Co-design should simply be added into the fold – it is not all-encompassing.


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