Paper: Designing for Systems

Designing For, With or Within: 1st, 2nd and 3rd Person Points of View on Designing for Systems

An academic paper, published during NordiCHI '12 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

van Heist, M.M.G.; Tomico, O.; & Winthagen, V.O.; (2012). ‘Designing for, with or within: 1st, 2nd and 3rd person points of view on designing for systems’, NordiCHI ’12, October 14-17, 2012 Copenhagen, Denmark.

In order to actually realise smartly distributed energy networks in India, Rural Spark developed an unique approach. Rural Spark uses an agile design process to be able to move quickly from vision to context. Developing new energy networks in India requires modern technological knowledge which is mostly found in western countries. Entering the (informal) markets at the base of the pyramid requires new ways of designing products and business models. Because of the enormous cultural differences, these products and business models cannot be designed outside the context. This paper emphasises on the theory behind this approach, but is also a guideline for actually applying the approach. The approach has later been named ‘Hidden Design’ and has been nominated for the ‘Rotterdam Design Award 2014’.

Abstract: As society is constantly changing and crises emerge, opportunities to develop society arise. A series of technology developments are coming from the research field. But research needs to be brought into practice. Designers can go from a vision to the making. This article presents a journey between three points of view on systems design by means of three iterations from a project done on creating rural energy in India. It started with a design approach ‘from brief to production’, based on technological opportunities, followed by a co-design approach. Without success (approach one was lacking insightful values behind the project and the other did not stimulate ownership of the design challenge by the stakeholders), a third point of view combined research valorization and Base of the Pyramid (BoP) entrepreneurship into design action. Reflections on outcome helped to analyze the multiple roles; the designer had to become the system and being it, enable stakeholders to build around it.

The full paper is available upon request.