The Myth of Co-Designing

Co-design is not about democracy among users, stakeholders, and designers. Co-design is, in essence, about creating synergy among them.

Creating synergy takes time. Personality, communication style, and motivation can easily drag people out of sync in co-design activities. It’s designers’ responsibility to keep everyone in sync.

When there’s not enough time to nurture the level of synergy that leads to deep engagement among users, stakeholders, and designers, co-designing still relies far more on the judgement of the designer, than the intuition of the users or the stakeholders.

In co-designing, designers, users, and stakeholders are equal. While designers are more equal than others.

In a co-design activity, a designer’s primary job is to provide potential framing and guide others through the exploration of a subject, which, in early design phases, is often contexts and problems, and in later design phases, measures and solutions. That requires substantial intellectual input from the designer.

When you don’t see designers’ substantial input in the co-design activity, you’re not even co-designing – you’re simply living a co-design fantasy.

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