2014-present – Design Society Development DESIS Lab

design society development / social impact design / development / UJ / DESIS

I was the co-founder of  the Design Society Development (DSD) DESIS Lab in 2014. The Design Society Development (DSD) DESIS Lab is a multi-disciplinary community of practice, based at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg, that seeks to better understand how design can best serve the emerging needs of broader society, specifically in the face of staggering inequality and rapid change in Gauteng, South Africa. The DSD DESIS Lab includes participants from design, the social sciences, economics and art. Activities undertaken within the auspices of the lab include practice, research activities and information dissemination.

The DSD DESIS Lab meets monthly to interrogate research, projects, methods and products that impact on the intersection and interplay between design, society and development in our specific context. We understand design as referring to the conscious choices we make in creating systems (community, society & productive systems) and technologies (products, artefacts, communicative technologies, systems integration); society as the human context that includes the broader social systems of culture, economy, politics and environment; and development as the discourse and practice of positive and considered change. We draw on critical political economy, social sciences, appropriate technology development, participatory and human-centered design, and other design approaches in our practice and research.

The following questions underpin the DSD Lab:

  • What role can design play in addressing social, cultural and environmental issues through technology and innovation?
  • How can designers help to make sense of an increasingly complex and interconnected world?
  • How should designers transform the way they think and do now – and in the future, in order to address issues like social injustice?
  • How can design act as a catalyst for introducing technology, where appropriate, to better the lives of people?
  • How could the impact of design be assessed and evaluated, and how could this feed into the design process and design education?

The key differentiator in this initiative is the focus on a human-centered approach to design, development and creative production.

Primary Research Areas & Activities

  • The design and development of products and systems to meet the specific needs and circumstances of identified communities in an economically viable, socially just and sustainable manner.
  • Design education.
  • The use of information technology to facilitate better interaction amongst social actors for knowledge sharing, social change and research.
  • Developing theory, design methodologies and evaluation methodologies for design interventions aimed at positive social change.

Model of DSD DESIS Lab


Main Project Partners:

To find out more about the Design Society Development DESIS Lab and the various projects that we undertaking as part of it, please visit www.designsocietydevelopment.org