Collective Design MTakala 2021

What is Collective Design

Pandemic has revealed many systemic failures. In order to tackle complex problems to build more inclusive futures traditional market research and big data collecting is not enough. We need to dig deeper.


The great post pandemic goal is to develop not only human but beyond human i.e. planet driven new solutions. When the goal is to innovate and not just improve existing solutions more collective and hybrid approach helps to uncover opportunities.

Participatory and exploratory methods are practical tools for creative problem solving. They start with more open ended questioning and follow lateral thinking.


Pandemic has increased a pressure towards wider understanding of value creation in society. The aim is more inclusive value creation by working together (in a workshop or in a team) towards finding common ground. Collective approach uses a combination of knowledge and skills from variety of fields (e.g. Anthropology, Ethnography, Design, Marketing, Semiotics, Business) to gather wide intelligence and fuel imagination in creative problem solving process.

Depending on the design goals and participant preferences value creation can be achieved using different methods or their combination. See below a simplified image Collective Design and Value Creation

Collective Design MTakala 2021

The framework presents three pathways towards Value Creation. Each pathway offers a different type of participant experience for collaboration. Method selection depends also on the type of research problem area.

Objective + METHOD -> Research area -> Outcome

Three simplified examples of content:

  • Learn & Unlearn + PARTICIPATE
    When the objective is learning new and unlearning old misconceptions participatory method can give voice to underrepresented groups.

    • Research area: Understanding people and behaviour change beyond demographics and stereotypes
      • Outcome: stories and insights


  • Explore & Experiment + PLAY
    Playful techniques through lived experiences can add sensorial layer into design process.

    • Research area: Using intuition and empathy to design experiences
      • Outcome: idea generation and concepting


  • Apply & Build + CO-CREATE
    When building together new worlds co-creation and collective decision making can mould more diverse futures

    • Research area: Futures, trends and culture. Constructing desirable future worlds
      • Outcome: future worlds and scenarios

It is advisable to start from using one method first if it has never been used before. Pathways can also be used in stages e.g. starting from research problem related to changing behaviours. Next, playing out how those changes would take place. Finally, making artefacts and future worlds based on the new situations discovered during play phase.

(Strictly speaking all methods overlap each other e.g. co-creation is also participatory and play can be used in co-creation process).


Collective design can bring together domains that wouldn’t be otherwise connected. It can be a catalyst for cultural change by providing more intersectional lens to explorative research process. All in all it has a better chance to identify common ground in complex problems better than traditional research.


– Understanding the wider context through diverse and more inclusive perspectives

– Gaining common ground, building new culture, learning new skills

– Identifying emerging behaviours; barriers and opportunities

– Designing imaginative concepts, new environments, interventions

– Translating vision into action

– Recognising need for system change

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