Design for social innovation and new product contexts

Authored by: Nicola Morelli

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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Designers have played a key role in the definition of the present production and consumption system, interpreting and addressing social and technological change. In the last decades however, the speed of technological change is increasing, and major environmental, social and economic issues are challenging the way we live, produce and consume material and immaterial resources. The crisis of the existing system also involved all its key actors, including designers, whose role has been crucial in the diffusion of consumption patterns and lifestyles. From being a key resource for the system, designers now risk to become part of the problem. They need to reframe the conceptual context in which they operate, which implies challenging the basic assumptions of the existing production and consumption systems, from the idea of comfort to the dominant function of technology in innovation processes. This chapter proposes that reshaping the production and consumption system is possible by working on different perspectives, which link rapid social changes to the ongoing technological innovation. Those perspectives emphasize new opportunities to use social change and technological innovation to mobilize every creative resource available in our society, including citizens’ diffuse design capabilities, tacit knowledge and local knowledge generated by social aggregation. This way of framing the future is also shifting the role of designers from creators to enabler; therefore designers’ expert knowledge is becoming a key support for a broad transformation towards a more sustainable system.

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