Uscreates: Innovating Design Methodologies in Social Spaces


We asked Joanna Choukeir (@Joannachoukeir), a Communication Designer at Uscreates (@Uscreates) to share some insights into their practices and views on the current drives of change in design.

1. Tell us about Uscreates’s design practices and describe why you do what you do.
Our key aim at Uscreates is to help organisations achieve social impact. Our design practices involve working innovatively and collaboratively with people and organisations to ensure ownership, sustainability and meaningfulness of the outcomes. We call this co-creation, a process which starts with a co-scope phase where we engage with local communities and organisations to get buy-in and a comprehensive understanding of the issues and people at the heart of the problem. We then move on to co-develop where we share insights with everyone involved and work together to develop, prototype and test ideas and solutions to the challenges identified. At the co-implement stage, we harness community assets and co-production by supporting and empowering local organisations and individuals to deliver new interventions, programmes, campaigns, and services. Finally, we are continuously co-evaluating the work we’re doing to ensure that social impact is measured, and that learning is contributing to how we improve our practices. Over the past six years, our work has demonstrated positive impact on social issues such as early detection of cancer, sexual health, alcohol consumption, community cohesion, wellbeing, and so on…


2. What do you think are the current drivers of change in design practices at Uscreates?
Design has always been at the forefront of change. It foresees future requirements and addresses them early on. Therefore, we believe that design practices need to be in constant flux to be prepared to respond to tomorrow’s needs. Today, we can identify three key drivers to how design practices are changing: co-partnerships, sustainability, and local collaboration.

Co-partnerships: It has usually been expected from the Public Sector to consult with the public, and co-create solutions for social change. Today, event the public sector is becoming more interested in demonstrating that their products and services achieve a positive social impact. There is a potential in this area for design agencies to partner with private organisations using engagement, co-research and co-creation approaches to harness their skills, assets and resources towards positive social change.

Sustainability: ecological, sociological and economical sustainability are topping global priorities. This is creating a transition from commissioning to building capacities and capabilities, and from one-off products and campaigns to 360-degree services and programmes. This is driving design agencies to show organisations how it is done, rather than doing the work on their behalf, thus enabling them to replicate the process in future projects.

Local collaboration: The spirit of global self-centered individualism which was predominant in the last two decades is quickly making way to local collectivism. Many are realising that this local collaboration is essential to build communities that are more resilient to the challenges of the 21st of century. Organisations whether public or private are therefore shifting their focus from scaling up to reach a standard global mass, to tailoring for local communities’ needs and assets.

3. What excites you about design at the moment (this can either be your own practice at Uscreates or other practices)?
The most exciting thing about design at the moment is that is it regaining its original role as a way of thinking which can be applied to in any discipline, organisation or context. Design today is more about innovative problem-solving, and less about creating a range of physical outputs.

4. What do you think the future practices of design will look like and why?
For the past ten years, the separation between design producer and design receiver is becoming more and more blurred. This is leading to a culture of participation where various stakeholders and interdisciplinary experts join efforts to design ideas and solutions. Designers are no longer be autonomous authors. They will become facilitators of collaboration and innovation. We envisage that in the future, practices of design would involve creating open systems and processes that empower and support communities and organisations to ‘do-it-themselves’. This ensures design aligns and keeps up with the three drivers of change: co-partnerships, sustainability, and local collectivism.

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