Beyond Usefulness: Exploring the Implications of Design in Policymaking

Jocelyn Bailey


This paper reflects on the convergence of design and power in the emerging trend of design being used within policymaking processes. The author’s personal experience of working as a design consultant in this field in the UK is used to surface questions about the role design is playing in contemporary politics and governance, and how this might be understood. The paper reviews the growing body of literature around ‘design for policy’ and highlights the extent to which it is preoccupied with a purely instrumental account which neglects a broader political interpretation. Three possible alternative analytical approaches are then discussed – a critical design history, Foucault’s governmentality lens, and Latour’s account of the different political stages in the trajectory of issues – all of which have the potential to deepen our understanding of the present.

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