Thus, design must make clear that its remit is expanded from simply problem-solving to context-setting.
In 1964, the Swiss designer Karl Gerstner wrote “To describe the problem is part of the solution.” A few years later, Norman Potter reinforced why this is necessary simply from the point of view of efficacy.
And yet we see system failure all around us. For all its strengths and successes, the UK’s National Health Service, said to be the third largest organisation in the world, will not have been designed to produce lengthy waiting times and overly full triage centres, yet that is what we see. The system has been designed in enormous detail, from a policy perspective, and often works like a
If it’s too easy to get an idea accepted, you’re probably doing it wrong. You’re probably not disturbing the dark matter enough.

Темная материя

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 — h
This is where design thinking falls short of anything remotely radical. It’s where it is actually stuck in process improvement within a predetermined problem space, unable to manouevre into more interesting and useful areas.
Synthesis is quite different to the apparently objective approach of the analyst or engineer, or that of management consultant; again, not least as it requires judgement in order to decide what to do, as synthesis produces
Actually, design is usually deployed as problem-solving within a defined space, as process-improvement within a bounded system, or new product development within a market.
Dark matter surrounds the various more easily perceptible outcomes that we might produce — the observable physical matter of a neighbourhood block, a street food cart, a mobile phone. It is what enables these things to become systemic, to become normative. It is the material that absorbs or rejects wider change.
A genuine and concerted engagement with dark matter is what would enable an intervention to be
become systemic, permanent, influential. It is not enough to produce the prototype of an entirely new paradigm for the motor car, say, without redesigning the organisation that might design and produce them, the supply chains that might enable their construction and maintenance, the various traffic and planning regulations that must absorb a new vehicle, the refuelling infrastructure, and so on.
There is a danger in describing projects overall as prototypes, in that it suggests they are in some way “not real”, that they can be turned off, decommissioned. Strategic projects such as Low2No must be beyond mere prototyping, or “showcases of sustainable living”. It must be a real block, with real inhabitants living and working in it, as it is the foundations upon which the subsequent or associated strategies sit. Remove the foundations, and the whole strategic edifice might crumble.
Note the symbiotic relationship, though: without the attention-to-detail required in executing high-quality interaction design or industrial design, for example, the strategic elements will not be realised; without the strategic alliances opening up the platform, the particular products and services will not be used enough.
For all the value they could create, too often designers appear naive in the face of genuinely understanding cultures of decision-making, of how an inability to generate political capital can undermine their ability to deliver change. Yet if design can truly create new cultures of decision-making that recognise the value in prototyping and platforms, it would in turn indicate a core value of strategic design to policy and practice in public service. Shared language is key to this process of assimilation; could policy usefully absorb the language of design and vice versa?
There may be something in the role of designer as outsider, too — the naive position of not being a political scientist enables a different perspective, which could have some value. Designers, often used to working across different contexts from job-to-job, are used to rapidly absorbing context and content, but also asking the unspoken “obvious” questions to understand the architecture of the problem from as many angles as possible.
Dark matter is a choice phrase. The concept is drawn from theoretical physics, wherein dark matter is believed to constitute approximately 83% of the matter in the universe, yet it is virtually undetectable. It neither emits nor scatters light, or other electromagnetic radiation. It is believed to be fundamentally important in the cosmos — we simply cannot be without it — and yet there is essentially no direct evidence of its existence, and little understanding of its nature.
83%.
Thus, the relationship between dark matter and more easily detectable matter is a useful metaphor for the relationship between organisations and culture and the systems they produce.
Strategic design often involves doing what the physicist Fritz Zwicky started doing in 1934 — looking for the “missing mass”, the material that must be inescapably there, that must be causing a particular outcome. This missing mass is the key to unlocking a better solution, a solution that sticks at the initial contact point, and then ripples out to produce systemic change.
The dark matter of strategic designers is organisational culture, policy environments, market mechanisms, legislation, finance models and other incentives, governance structures, tradition and habits, local culture and national identity, the habitats, situations and events that decisions are produced within. This may well be the core mass of the architecture of society, and if we want to shift the way society functions, a facility with dark matter must be part of the strategic designer’s toolkit.9
HDL Studio model, which is designed to rapidly prototype vision in complex, interdependent problem areas by better understanding the architecture of the problem.
direct attempt to embed design practice at the heart of systemic change, through engaging with policy, public service, social innovation and wider civil society
Another response to the critique is that design, at least as discussed here, is more exploratory than “prescribed trajectories”. It might instead use prototyping and feedback loops to flush out the right questions in the first place, before embarking on tentative processes that are iterative and adaptive in nature
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