The Convivial Approach to Co-Design

I recently purchased a copy of the “Convivial Toolbox” by Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers. This book is about “generative design research”, in short, about how to bring the people into the design process.

According to the authors of this book, there is a growing realization that we cannot continue living the way we have been living on this planet because we simply do not have the resources to do that. The authors recognize that there is currently a strong resurgence in interest in and an emphasis on creativity, and that people are more likely to choose experiences over buying commodities. According to them, this phenomenon and new technologies can facilitate the emergence of more convivial ways of living.

The authors of “Convivial Toolbox” view creativity as an antidote for consumerism, where people are only seen as customers. The problem is, most design students of the past have been trained to help people consume more. Nevertheless, many people are now seeking ways to make environmentally and socially responsible choices as consumers.

The book is divided into three parts.

Part One introduces the basic components of generative design research and provides a theoretical background to design research. The book builds on the idea that all people are creative, and able to contribute to design processes, and that people are particularly creative when it comes to the way they live. Part Two consists of four design case studies, ranging from a student project to real client-sponsored projects. Part Three describes how to plan, gather, document, analyze and communicate the data gathered during a generative design research project.

This book also includes 50 individual contributions from a diverse range of people in the design field.

The old, traditional design disciplines are merging. In place of where we used to have for example visual communication design, industrial design, interior design and architecture, we now see an emergence of customer experience design, service design, and design for innovation, transformation and sustainability. Contemporary design is focusing more and more on the context of using products and services.

This, in my opinion, calls for alternative forms of research, co-design and conceptualization. “Convivial Design Toolbox” makes an excellent read and a source of information to any design professionals.