This paper reflects on the principles and practices of design in a time of great social change. Its narrative begins with a reflection on the structural reasons why design practices and professions are acquiring even greater social significance than they have had in the past. After a context-setting examination of notions of 'creative economy' and 'knowledge society', the paper moves on to explore the subtly shifting semantics of 'design', tracing key aspects of the changing contexts and practices of design. The paper introduces the notion of a 'shift in the balance of agency', which affects the roles and relationships of designers and users and which increasingly demands design interdisciplinarity. The paper concludes with the suggestion that, given the dramatically changing social and economic terrain in which the design professions are today located, we need to broaden our repertoire of design practices. The case we want to make is this: the changes of our times are of such significance as to suggest that we should rethink the fundamentals of design, its basic principles as well as the dimensions and range of our everyday professional practices. Not only is design now of pivotal significance in newly emerging economic and social orders; what is demanded of design and designers is also changing. Sometimes this represents no more than a subtle shift in tone; at other times, the changes may require us to participate in basic transformations in our ways of conceiving the design processes and doing design work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-63
Number of pages19
JournalDesign Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Creative economy
  • Design practices
  • Design theory
  • Social change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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