Society
Centered
Design

See the principles

30 March 2020

All around us we see signs that patriarchal capitalism and exploitative business models place profit over privacy, and efficiency over agency. They pit individuals against the collective. At their core, they are hierarchical and exclusionary.

We designed tools and frameworks to help us see the world in new ways, but they also changed how we think. We shaped frameworks, and in turn they shaped us. 20th century approaches like design thinking, human-centered design, and jobs to be done too often look at people solely as individuals. Or, worse yet, only as consumers. They don’t consider people in relation to their communities or to wider society. And society itself is ignored by design.

Similarly, data protection frameworks like GDPR or CCPA express our rights only as individuals. This individualistic lens has shaped how we now design for digital rights. But data rarely represents a single person - it usually describes many people.

We’ve had enough. We demand better. Better design approaches and tools, better measures of success, better data protection standards. We need a new framework for design and data that is purpose-built for the 21st century.

We want to move beyond human-centered design to society-centered design. We must design for the collective. We must design for society.

Designing for society means designing for the broader context of systems that we impact and shape. We can redefine our social contract with each other, and with the world that we steward. To do this, we must be intentional about citizen empowerment, civic commons, public health, equity, and the planet:

Society-centered design has these principles:

A Manifesto by IF

These principles show what society-centered design must achieve, but we are not there yet.

Our next step is to set out practical advice about how to work towards these principles with real-world examples.

We are at the start of the journey.

Join us by sharing this manifesto. If you'd like to co-sign, fill out this form. Email us at sc.d@projectsbyif.com to find out more.

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