Reflection on the political scope of user-centered design

For the last decade or so, we have been witnessing a growing interest in the design approach, in the guise of design thinking, for the renewing and reforming of many public sectors. This trend has gained traction partly in reaction to an apparent rift between civil servants and the public they serve. Design, with its stated engagement toward the user’s perspective on the world, appears to offer a relevant approach to tackle the policy problems that emerge from new social and historical contexts. But even if we had in hand a proper evaluation of the impact of design and design thinking in the development of public services, we would still have to consider what this trend entails with regards to policymaking. What is the political scope of user-centered design applied to our political and institutional environment? 


Philippe Gauthier, Associate professor at the École de design of the Université de Montréal

Philippe Gauthier holds a Ph. D. in sociology, and is an associate professor at the École de design of the Université de Montréal. His research interest covers the role of experts and of experiential knowledge in the development of policies and public services. It is with these questions in mind that he got into the analyses of the conditions and outcomes of participatory approaches in design, notably in the design of Montreal’s new public libraries. With his team, the Design et société research group, he has been working on a framework to better understand the general economy of codesign and of experience-based design.