Before I began typing this blog, I intuitively reached for my go-to resource, a powerful enabler, one that is readily available no matter when I need it. I am of course, referring to the internet. Without having to move my body and with just a few simple clicks I am transported to a virtual learning environment. By accessing a wealth of shared information I am able to ‘level up’, and quickly fill in any knowledge gaps to equip myself with tools needed to begin any task at hand. 

In this digital age of information, the internet, is, for all intents and purposes, the ultimate collaborative ecosystem. Those seeking knowledge, become knowledgeable, and as we all know, knowledge is power. However, it also a privilege. 

Now let’s look at this through a design lens. Design is inherently a collaborative effort. Through co-creation, idea sharing and knowledge exchanges, we can find creative solutions to many problems-together. Design in isolation is much less effective.

The solutions, innovations and new possibilities that manifest as a result of collaborative creative processes, have the power to positively change the lives of individuals and society as a whole. The sharing of knowledge when people are working towards a common goal is the truest, most authentic design process. Knowledge builds on knowledge, ideas upon ideas, creating continuous shared opportunities along the way. Designers don’t ‘own’ problem solving, nor should they ‘own’ the tools and methodologies to solve them. 

True, human-centric design should therefore be about the sharing of tools, and the privileges that help to access them. By democratising design we are shifting the power dynamic, so that it is not about ‘us with the tools’, and ‘them without’ (the passive by standers in this narrative). True, human-centric design is therefore about making tools accessible to all, and democratic approaches. A good designer should exhibit and practice compassion, as well as champion the responsibility to give agency and equip others to make change. Design processes and creative design making should be a constant sense check – who is this for? What impact is it having? How useful is it?

Design is a tool that shapes the world around us, it’s power influences our decisions, our actions and our choices including what we buy and where we buy it, what we wear and how we wear it, where we live, what we listen to, who we connect with, what we believe in, our political leanings, who we choose to resist and who we wish to attract. Democratic design should be a catalyst for positive cultural, economic and social change and at Sail we always share the tools of our craft. This can as simple as sharing designs that are easy for our clients to recreate in house, providing them with assets that are manageable on design platforms they have access to, offering design thinking workshops that provide methodologies to find creative and unexpected solutions to common challenges or sharing ideas and resources that will better connect people to audiences for maximum engagement and impact. Essentially, if there is an easy way to pass on our knowledge we will, and we do. 

We have built this new site as a resource platform, a knowledge base, a place to ask questions. We are also, not perfect. We make mistakes and we are learning. So any creatives with similar ethos, and useful links/books or resources, please get in touch and support our mission to democratise design. 

Co-design is more than a process. It is a social movement focused on challenging and changing inequitable power structures. Designing with, not for people.

Kelly Ann McKercher