Policy Design

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(one of the two definitions, see Design for the distinction between policy design and other design)


Elizabeth Tunstall:

"Design, with an uppercase D, is the processes of abstract, strategic, ideal creation that is open to everyone. In the context of policy, it is often the intellectual domain of the political science and economics. But design, with lowercase d, is its complement – tangible, improvisational, reality creations that is the mostly professionalized and within the intellectual domains of design, communication, and usability.

Policy Design (with uppercase D) is a long-standing area of study and practice in the political science, law, and economics. It involves defining the problem and its source, identifying the most effective policy instruments, determining the metrics of measurable change, and figuring out which instruments and metrics provide solutions to the problem. Policy instruments are the set of activities that policy makers use to solve problems (Tunstall 2007). Policy instruments seek to control the provision of goods and services: from voluntary contributions of families, subsidies, taxes, to regulation and direct provision (Howlett 2005: 39). They can also seek to control membership and group cohesion through information suppression, labeling/recognition, hearings, to direct group creation and institutional reforms. The instruments of goods/services provision and group identification form the strategies by which specific Designed outcomes are planned and implementations are attempted. These strategies are often Designed by experts in the technical languages of law or economics that alienate lay people from the policy formation and implementation processes." (http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=358)


Why expert designers have difficulties accepting participation

Elizabeth Tunstall:

"Political scientists Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram argue that these expert policy designs often create unjust and alienating political systems. Expert policy designs create them by constructing deserving and undeserving target populations and privileging expert professional and scientific knowledge over that of citizens. Schneider and Ingram (1997: 2) articulate an understanding of policy design not as juridical and economic abstractions, but rather as “observable elements” that refer to “the content and substance of public policy – the blueprints, architecture, discourses, and aesthetics of policy in both is instrumental and symbolic forms.” On one hand, these designed instrumental and symbol forms come closest to lay people’s own experiences of policy. An individual may not understand the intricacies of health policy law or financing, but they understand the access granted to them by having or not having a medical ID card. On the other hand, design can become another expert language that excludes lay people’s knowledge. For while many designers have embraced a human-centered design ethos, there is still sometimes reluctance to accepting lay people’s knowledge over the designer’s expertise.

On a recent government project of mine, the creative director did not want the team to ask people to evaluate whether the type was too big or too small on a brochure. The argument was that people always say that it is too small and that they don’t understand all the reasons why something may be easy or difficult to read. My counter argument was that while designers are the experts in design, the people are the experts in their experiences with designed artifacts. The desire to not solicit certain types of design feedback from people has to do with the designer’s need to maintain control over the expert domain of design, with lowercase d. I encountered this tension between designer expertise and people’s evaluative experiences throughout my work with AIGA’s Design for Democracy." (http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=358)

Why we need DIY Policy Design

Elizabeth Tunstall:

"The old model of policy design was one of getting a centralized group of smart experts in the room to solve problems. Yet the complexity of globalized politics requires decentralized problem-solving approaches that can operate locally, inexpensively, and be distributed widely across lay knowledge networks. A model for design’s role in generating these networks is Sussam Preja’s Kit-o-Parts developed for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Because the environmental graphics of the LA Olympics was highly distributed across the city, too much for one or two design firms to handle, and did not have a lot of money, Sussam Preja created this Kit-o-Parts that design subcontractors could use and assemble in any way they thought appropriate, yet still result in a unified look and feel for the Olympics. I propose the creation of a Policy Design Kit-o-Parts that lay people could locally adapt, yet still result in a unified visual language to support sharing and comparison of policy problems and solutions.

Design/design plays an intermediary role in people’s relationships to government policy. It is the way in which people see, smell, taste, touch, hear, and feel how government affects them materially and symbolically. Design is the stuff of government. Yet, designers should not play an intermediary role between people and their government, at least in democratic society. Distributed creativity has the potential to democratize the process of policy formation from legal, economic, and even design expert systems. The DIY Policy Design Kit-o-Parts is a proposed model for how this can work in the area of policy making, thus politics, because it is adaptable to local lay knowledge, yet can form a common vocabulary for sharing and understanding the scale of socio-political policy implications. In this way, it represents the potential future of both design and politics in general." (http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=358)

More Information

Read the full article at http://www.re-public.gr/en/?p=358