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Aug 17, 2016 02:00 What is co-design and where is it happening?

Co-design is the topic of many discussions today. But these discussions can be confusing because co-designing has many meanings. For example, some people use the term co-design to refer to the use of specific tools and techniques. Others see it as an approach to design research. Still others talk about co-design as a mindset that describes the culture of a company. I will argue that co-designing can be all three: set of tools and techniques, an approach to design research and also a mindset of the company culture. But its impact will vary depending upon the perspective we take regarding its value.

The design and development process has transformed over the last 10 to 20 years with the growth of a large front end that is often referred to as the "fuzzy front end". It is here activities take place in order to inform and inspire the exploration of open-ended questions. In the front end of the design process we determine what could be (or should not be) designed.
The fuzzy front end can be approached from a designing for people or a designing with people mindset. When we invite people into the design process to design with us, we are taking the co-designing or co-creation approach.

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Figure 1: Co-creation and co-designing are taking place at all points of time along the design and development process.

Co-creation can take place at every point along the design and development process as the dots in Figure 1 show. But it is not always used at all points along the process.

In Figure 2 another dimension has been added to the design and development process. Here three levels of value that can be adressed in the co-design process (monetary, use/experience and societal) are shown.

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Figure 2: Co-designing provides different types of value at various points along the design and development process.

The monetary value of co-creation, the top level, has received the most attention in the business community. Co-creation that results in monetary value is aimed at making money. Co-creation at the monetary level does not necessarily require direct contact between the company and its customers. For example, crowd-sourcing can be used to obtain feedback from customers about products, services and brands.

The use/experience value of co-creation is fueled by a company's desire to transform consumers into users by ensuring that the products and services they offer will better meet people's wants and needs. Co-designing at the use/experience level may impact monetary gain if its application results in satisfied repeat customers.

The societal value of co-creation is aimed at longer term and more sustainable ways of living. It supports the exploration of big and open-ended questions such as "how can we improve the quality of life for people living with a chronic illness?" Co-creation at the societal level involves the integration of experts and everyday people working closely together. Direct personal involvement between such people is needed for this type of co-creation.

The shapes shown in Figure 2 reveal that co-creation with a focus on monetary value is more likely to take place later in the design development process, in the design adoption stages such as marketing, sales and distribution. Co-creation with a focus on the use/experience level tends to take place during the design process. And societal value co-creation starts in the very early front end and continues throughout the design and development process. So the earlier in the design development process that co-designing or co-creation occurs, the greater will be the likely impact.

Figure 2 shows the pattern of the three distinct applications of co-designing:
Co-designing as a collection of tools and techniques refers to the use of specific tools and techniques after the design of the product or service. This is a fast and low-cost way to drive interest in and attention to brands and/or new products and services in the marketplace.

Co-designing as an approach refers to the use of participatory methods in design. This application is used primarily during the discovery and design exploration phases.

Co-designing as a mindset has the most potential to impact the lives of people in the future since it starts in the fuzzy front end of the process. If the co-designing mindset is shared by all the people in the organization, its impact will be very large. However, the co-designing mindset may not be shared by them all. But it can start in small ways and grow to define the company culture if it is nurtured over time. For example, the adoption of co-designing practices might start at the monetary level and then move to the use/experience level and move, finally, to the societal level.

Liz SandersMakeTools 代表

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