decentred design

decentred design

Method

Remove the human from the centre and depart from the idea of having a centre at all. Step into a more nuanced sphere of design and include the existences, needs, and views beyond those of the human actors. Decentred Design sparks a profound conversation on designers’ roles and positionalities in their practices that eventually guides practitioners to realise our power and responsibilities that shall extend far beyond just the realm of the human users, and cover those on society, culture, and the environment.

Remove the human from the centre and depart from the idea of having a centre at all. Step into a more nuanced sphere of design and include the existences, needs, and views beyond those of the human actors. Decentred Design sparks a profound conversation on designers’ roles and positionalities in their practices that eventually guides practitioners to realise our power and responsibilities that shall extend far beyond just the realm of the human users, and cover those on society, culture, and the environment.

What & how?

What & how?

1. Discover New Actants

1. Discover New Actants

The term “actant” was incorporated in the influential works of sociologist Bruno Latour. In his Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Latour proposes to look at the world where everything, social and natural, human and non-humans, exists in a continuously shifting network of relationships. Through this lens, there is not exactly a central focus or locus, but rather networks that interconnect surrounding the actants.

Latour’s theory is especially helpful for designers in redefining the concept of actors and their agencies within the design process. It prompts us to reconsider who plays what roles and wields influence throughout both the design journey and the resulting cumulative outcomes. In such a view, animals, plants, geological resources, and other nonhumans could be design actants — capable of creating, influencing, and breaking the designed networks of relationships.

The term “actant” was incorporated in the influential works of sociologist Bruno Latour. In his Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Latour proposes to look at the world where everything, social and natural, human and non-humans, exists in a continuously shifting network of relationships. Through this lens, there is not exactly a central focus or locus, but rather networks that interconnect surrounding the actants.

Latour’s theory is especially helpful for designers in redefining the concept of actors and their agencies within the design process. It prompts us to reconsider who plays what roles and wields influence throughout both the design journey and the resulting cumulative outcomes. In such a view, animals, plants, geological resources, and other nonhumans could be design actants — capable of creating, influencing, and breaking the designed networks of relationships.

More (diverse) humans

Broaden your perspective by inclusively defining the target audience. To disrupt the repeating cycle, embrace diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, values, and viewpoints.

Non-humans

Design is shaped by non-human elements, from landscapes to digital files, influencing spatial and temporal contexts. Acknowledging these actants empowers designers to anticipate impacts and recognise the value beyond monetary considerations.

Design process

Work with the design process, perceive it not as a rigid structure but as a dynamic entity with its own movement, entwined in ever-shifting temporal and local circumstances. Observe, recognise, and partner with the design process to enable it to evolve purposefully.

  1. Reposition "the designer"

  1. Reposition "the designer"

Recognising more actants within the design process challenges the traditional notion of “the designer.” The power dynamics embedded in the ever-changing network of relationships among actants prompt shifts in designers’ roles. Designers’ identities are not fixed within specific actant groups; rather, they are temporary states arising from these fluid relationships. Consequently, the concept of “the designer” evolves alongside the changes in power dynamics.

Recognising more actants within the design process challenges the traditional notion of “the designer.” The power dynamics embedded in the ever-changing network of relationships among actants prompt shifts in designers’ roles. Designers’ identities are not fixed within specific actant groups; rather, they are temporary states arising from these fluid relationships. Consequently, the concept of “the designer” evolves alongside the changes in power dynamics.

Challenge power dynamics

Imagine scenarios where the main stakeholders are not humans, or what it would be like to design for a completely maginalised group. Question and rebalance power distribution and ensure that non-humans actively participate and influence design decisions.

Diverse input integration

Actively listen to or observe the needs and viewpoints of all actants. Use tools like empathy mapping and journey mapping to identify patterns of pain points. Try to understand the needs, values and desires of actants as various as possible.

Participatory design

Develop systems that offer chances throughout the design process for every actant, human and non-human, to assume the role of a designer. Try employing methods like decision matrices that account for non-human's agency to ensure non-human actants are also active participants.

  1. explore networks & interconnectedness

  1. explore networks & interconnectedness

Actants exist within their own network of relationships, collectively forming systems that extend beyond their immediate surroundings. A digital file, for example, relies on various elements such as storage space, encryption codes for security, networks for embedding, and established connections. It also has the ability to transform formats and be transferred to different spaces. This journey highlights the file’s co-dependency and, to some extent, coexistence within surrounding interactive patterns. While this codependency enables system functionality, each actant possesses agency that can disrupt the system when its needs are unmet.

Actants exist within their own network of relationships, collectively forming systems that extend beyond their immediate surroundings. A digital file, for example, relies on various elements such as storage space, encryption codes for security, networks for embedding, and established connections. It also has the ability to transform formats and be transferred to different spaces. This journey highlights the file’s co-dependency and, to some extent, coexistence within surrounding interactive patterns. While this codependency enables system functionality, each actant possesses agency that can disrupt the system when its needs are unmet.

Actant relationships

Recognise that actants exist within interconnected networks that extend beyond immediate boundaries. Acknowledge the interdependence of these relationships to estimate the impact your design may have on them.

Product ecosystem

Understand that digital or physical products exists in context. Files, for example, rely on various elements, such as storage, encryption, and networks. Recognise the co-dependency and coexistence of such actant with humans within these interactive patterns.

Agency & disruption

Realise that each actant possesses agency, capable of disrupting the system when its needs go unmet. Design with the understanding that all actants have their own influence.

related to decentred design

related to decentred design

Method

Ethnography

Delve into people's real-world contexts and gain rich insights. Unbundle social and cultural fabrications to understand people through their worldviews

Approach

Coming soon

Participatory design

A democratic creative process, ensuring more inclusive and relevant solutions that reflect their needs and desires

Approach

Coming soon

Pluriversal design

Embrace diverse worldviews, cultures, and experiences for creating solutions that honour pluralism, equity, and environmental harmony

See the whole collection

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