I will present a chapter from my thesis (in process) in which I discuss different notions of democracy through design examples and political philosophy to support designers to challenge understandings of democracy in their practices.
How does a state driven public process differ for a designer to engage with in relation to working for companies or private interests? Being engaged in planning processes in two different municipalities and state employed through Konstfack, I would consider the responsibilities of the designer, of myself, to be towards democratic aims. However, there are many interpretations of democracy in design; the use of democracy is connected to different purposes and agendas. Some find participation crucial, others see activism as fundamental, while others rely on the relations to institutions. In political philosophy and theory democracy is seen as unresolvable, consisting of questions and tensions that has been given different answers throughout history and depending on context. These tensions from practice and philosophy are foundational for understanding democracy as ongoing negotiations rather than something that can be resolved. Since design is practiced within different parts of society, this implies that a responsible design practice requires not only an understanding of democracy but also the frames and part of society we practice within. Rather than providing an answer of how to interpret democracy this opens up for further questions concerning designer autonomy and our relation to institutions; whose interests we are serving, how our understandings of democracy differ and who we choose to align with.
Maja Frögård is a PhD candidate at the Art, Technology and Design program, a collaboration between Konstfack and KTH, and currently guest PhD at UID. Her projects in different ways concerns the politics of what ideas, values and realities designers partake in materializing through giving shape to things, situations and environments.