Institut für Partizipatives Gestalten

Participatory design

Design is our ability to influence our environment. To design is an inherent part of human nature and the basis for innovation.

Designers can have different attitudes to design. Design can be thought of as being purely functional or instrumental. In that case, designers work on the premise that they unilaterally influence things that are outside of themselves. This type of design is concerned with solving a functional or aesthetic problem observed from the outside. Standardized planning procedures are the ideal of this attitude.

However, designers can also connect to the context of that which is to be designed. They then act out of an understanding of this connection. This kind of attitude is what we call ‘participatory’. Participatory design starts from the premise that design always evolves within a context. Rather than imposing the will of an omnipotent and detached subject on the objects, the participateurs – people, things, ideas or concepts – form bonds with each other which bring about an emergent new design.

Design thus becomes a co-creative process which is in itself alive. It is experienced as enriching by those involved and the results contribute to the unfolding of living structures, for example in the form of:

  • vital built spaces where we feel at ease,
  • workshop results which resonate with the participants and bring substantive progress,
  • educational concepts which foster the participants’ uniqueness and contribute to positive change,
  • businesses which economically support everyone involved and contribute with their services and products to a greater whole.


"Particularity and separability are infirmities of the mind, not characteristics of the universe." Dee Hock