Reframing the Paradox: Evidence-based Design and Design for the Public Sector









Design in the Time of Policy Problems

Lucy Kimbell

University of the Arts London

Keywords: design thinking; policy making; interdisciplinarity; policy labs


This paper discusses an emerging context in which design expertise is being applied – the making of government policy. It reviews existing research and identifies the claim that design changes the nature of policy making. The paper then adapts a conceptual framework from social studies of science to make sense of the encounter between design and policy making. The paper applies this lens to an empirical account of design being applied to policy making in a team in the UK government. The findings are that in addition to supporting officials in applying design approaches, the team’s work shapes the emergence of hybrid policy making practices, and at times problematizes the nature of policy making. It does this within logics of accountability, innovation, and reordering. The contribution is to provide empirical detail and a nuanced account of what happens in these encounter between design expertise and policy making practice.

This paper is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence.

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Cite this paper: Kimbell, L. (2016). Design in the Time of Policy Problems. Proceedings of DRS 2016, Design Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference. Brighton, UK, 27–30 June 2016.

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