Participation and design competencies

Designers can contribute to the development of systems which are alive. For this task they need competencies which we call ‘participation and design competencies’.

  1. Participation competencies
    1. Process understanding
    2. Implementation capacity
    3. Practical knowledge
    4. Reflectivity
  2. Design competencies
    1. Application of design procedures
    2. Application of design methods
    3. Integrated technical knowledge
    4. Field intuition

Participation competencies describe the designer’s attitude to openly and receptively involve themselves in the design process. Building on this, design competencies describe the abilities to apply specific design tools and methods during the design process.

1. Participation competencies

Living systems are permeable and flexible. Working with them requires special abilities. As designers we are aware of the fact that we are always part of the systems within which we act. This recognition calls for special participation competencies which enable our sustained and co-creative participation in the systems within which we design.

1.1. Process understanding

Designers who can openly, flexibly and creatively deal with temporal and spatial developments affecting their projects or themselves possess general process understanding. To design living solutions, it is important to understand the dynamic of design processes, see their patterns, to be able to yield to them, work with them, reflect upon them and to render them comprehensible.

1.2. Implementation capacity

Implementation capacity describes the ability to become involved, to act and to bring one’s concepts and ideas to life, using relevant tools.

1.3. Practical knowledge

Practical knowledge is based on direct participation within environments. It is generated through concrete, practical engagement with the systems in question and through the implementation of one’s own concepts. It helps to expand and deepen one’s knowledge and field intuition.

1.4. Reflectivity

Reflectivity becomes evident when designers reflect their own role and thus their participation in systems as humans, social beings and elements of the world, draw conclusions from these reflections and incorporate the resulting understanding in their work.

2. Design competencies

To us, designers are not uninvolved planners delivering turn-key solutions. That would contradict our understanding of living systems. We understand design competency as the capability of designing in such a way that it supports development which fosters aliveness. In this context, design competencies stand for the ability to utilize the tools and methods which directly aid the design.

2.1. Application of design procedures

Every design goes through a generative process (see above). In order to give helpful structure to it, design procedures might be used. A design procedure is a set of instructions for a sequence of steps including e.g. observation, analysis, intuition, creativity, drafting and action. For a Participatory Designer it is important to know various design procedures to apply and varie them according to the context of the project and its process.

2.2. Application of design methods

Design methods are all methods and techniques which are deployed in the course of a design process. These can be methods of observation, perception, depiction, analyses or drafting. At the institute we have a comprehensive repertoire of successfully tested methods at our disposal. On this basis, new methods are often generated in adaptation to the task at hand. Methodology must not become an ideology. A pluralism of methods ensures the ability to react to a broad variety of challenges.

2.3. Integrated technical knowledge

Technical knowledge is the substantive basis on which design processes and their specific methods can unfold. It is therefore important to us to base each design task on solid technical knowledge of the topic at hand.

2.4. Field intuition

Design competencies are rounded off with field intuition. We understand field intuition as the empathic engagement with the non-visible and non-analysable factors of an overall task. These can be cultural, normative, psychological or spiritual factors that strongly shape a problem’s context without being apparent or rationally fathomable.

"You must be the change you want to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi