Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: a Strategic Design Vocabulary

Dan Hill is a designer and urbanist. He works for Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund, in their Strategic Design Unit in Helsinki, exploring how design might enable positive systemic change throughout society. Prior to Sitra, Dan was an Associate at Arup, Web & Broadcast Director for Monocle, and Head of Interactive Technology & Design for the BBC. He writes the blog, as well as being Interaction Design Editor for Domus magazine. His essays feature in Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space, Mark Shepard (ed.) (Architectural League & MIT Press, 2011), Best of Technology Writing 2009, Steven Berlin Johnson (ed.) (Yale University Press, 2010), and Actions: playing, gardening, recycling and walking, Mirko Zardini (ed.) (Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2008).
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Thus, design must make clear that its remit is expanded from simply problem-solving to context-setting.
’s tempting to look at how some other interconnected systems have been designed to deal with failure.
Essentially, strategic design, the focus of this essay, is focused on the systemic redesign of cultures of decision-making at the individual and institutional levels, and particularly as applied to what we can think of as the primary problems of the 21st century — healthcare, education, social services, the broader notion of the welfare state, climate change, sustainability and resilience, steady state economic development, fiscal policy, income equality and poverty, social mobility and equality, immigration and diversity, democratic representation and so on.
Explanations offered veer between feckless nihilism, moral breakdown and consumer culture, through to the belief that an entire generation has been systematically disenfranchised and discarded by 30 years of neoliberal social and economic policy.
The BBC’s economics editor, Paul Mason, in his blog post “Twenty Reasons Why it’s Kicking Off Everywhere”, described a new sociological type — “the graduate with no future” — later going on to describe the “economic permafrost”

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