access to tools for the pluriverse

About

Designing Transformation

We…
…present a series of open source tools based on our experience in transformation design projects
… support communities working with these tools and developing them according to their needs
…offer workshops for groups and organizations that want to design transformations.

Concept and text by Prof. Dr. Peter Friedrich Stephan, designer, consultant and educator in Berlin,
professor for Transformation Design at Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, Germany.
Diagram graphic design by Enno Hyttrek.

Transformation is a process needed in communities, companies and society

The chance for design
Design gets more impact as innovation and interventions contribute to positive change.

The challenge for design
Transformation processes need to coordinate diverse groups of stakeholders.
Design needs to develop new tools as a common ground and »trading zone of knowledge« (Galison).

The Book

In other words, why not transform this whole business
of recalling modernity into a grand question of design?
Bruno Latour: Modes of Existence, p. 23

Wie lassen sich die Akteur-Netzwerk-Theorie und das Werk Bruno Latours auf die Gestaltung gesellschaftlicher Transformation beziehen? Peter Friedrich Stephan nimmt Latours Forderung nach einer »Revision der Moderne« als Ausgangspunkt für die Entwicklung des Concern Designs. An der Schnittstelle der Designtheorie mit den Sozial- bzw. Kulturwissenschaften werden die praktischen Folgen einer »Wunsch-Ökonomie« entwickelt, auch unter Bezug auf Deleuze/Guattari. Concerns werden dabei im Sinne der Praxeologie als »Werte in Aktion« verstanden. Diagramme wie die »Concern Canvas« und der »Hyperzyklus der Transformation« bieten Ansatzpunkte für die praktische Arbeit im Transformation Design.

»Designing Concerns – Bruno Latour und das Transformation Design« (Transcript 2024), see publisher’s site

Transformation Design

Transformation Design
… facilitates and moderates transformation processes
… anticipates future qualities and projects backwards to give orientation and direction
… initiates or cooperates in system-level change

The transformations of societies are driven by the megatrends of
– technological innovation leading to disruptive changes in culture and business models
– globalization leading to an ever more dynamic exchange of ideas, people, work and goods
– migration with new tasks of coexisting and integrating a diversity of cultures
– demographic change and the global difference in birthrates

Transformation does not wait for designers
Transformations are subject to the inherent dynamics of capitalism, technology and media. Designers however play a vital role in shaping, propagating and distributing new values and models of future lifestyle. In Transformation many competence fields work together and also against each other. What can design contribute that other disciplines can not? Designers have to prepare to cooperate with politicians and social scientists, economists, lawyers, and psychologists. Designers can be facilitators and moderators in this context, but also claim a distinct and original contribution in concept, aesthetics and functions of man – artefact – man relationships.

Transformation Design (TD) faces challenging tasks and questions that include:
– How can designers contribute to the transformations of society and organizations?
– How can TD create and advertise new values for a future civilization?
– Can TD build on the concept of „matters of concern“ (Bruno Latour)?
– What are the differences between TD and Design Thinking or Change Management?
– How can TD be established as an academic field?

Transformation and Change
Change is conceived as being pushed by the past, whereas transformation is conceived as being pulled by the future. Change takes its values and orientation from categories of the past, whereas transformation sets a cause in the future. Transformation includes an orientation to values (individual, organization, society), respect for the concerns of stakeholders (non-normative), insights into the dynamics of technological development and the importance of details.

How to become a transformation designer?
Transformation Design (TD) is an emergent field. Academic programs start to integrate it into the design curricula. The programs have subtle differences and come under names such as »Transition Design« (Carnegie Mellon University) or »Design for social innovation« (School of Visual Arts, New York).
However, it is not the formal qualification that makes the difference, but the personal experience. You become a transformation designer by doing projects in Transformation Design, according to the ConcernCanvas: Reframe your professional mind to TD.

How to get a job as a transformation designer?
You can´t expect being commissioned with a TD project from the start as we work  in an emergent field. But you might start with a traditional design project and eventually persuade partners to adopt a TD framework. The CC will help you doing so. TD emerges from new dynamics which are more bottom up than top down. You will have to be ready for self-employment, entrepreneurial thinking, and can do attitude. Your tasks will be: find a topic, develop a critical mass, search for partners, invent new models and build your own job.

Videos

A series of videos as an introduction to tools for Transformation Design.
Season 1 – Introduction: 9 episodes, total running time ca. 36 min

 

#01 Five Stages of Design

Most models of design stack activity levels starting with graphics and product, followed by interaction and service, and ending up with process and system. Recently there have been extensions in the directions of meta-materials (what materials can we construct/grow?) on the one hand and transformation design on the other (how will we live tomorrow?) These staged models have been citicized because systems thinking and transformation cut through all levels of design activity instead of being separate layers. Therefore we introduce the »Hypercycle of Transformation« in episode #2.

Stage model inspired by Richard Buchanan and GK van Patter, questions by Dirk Baecker and Henk Oosterling. Diagram concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, design: Enno Hyttrek.

#02 Hypercycle of Transformation

Interdependent innovation cycles add up to a Hypercycle of Transformation. Developments in interaction, symbols, organization, products, and meta-materials lead to turbulences in evolutionary transformations. These cannot completely be anticipated, planned or controlled. As a tool in strategic design, the hypercycle can help to find the best time and situation for interventions. The  model of the hypercycle should substitute the traditional stage model of design, see The Five Stages of Design (Transformation Design #1).

The concept of a hypercycle is based on ideas developed by Manfred Eigen and Ruthild Winkler (1975). Diagram concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, design: Enno Hyttrek.

#03 Transformation & Participation

Designers in transformation design projects wear two hats:
1. They keep the position as design professionals where they cooperate with other fields of expertise like engineering and marketing
2. They additionally take on a new role as they ignite, facilitate and moderate transformation. Here they work with users and the general audience.
In most projects these two roles will not be separated clearly, but we think it is important to remember which hat you wear. From the two roles potential conflicts of interests might develop and the different roles should be reflected in the choice of methods.

Inspired by »Mapping Controversies« (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapping_controversies), a project by french sociologist Bruno Latour and the exhibition »Disobedient Objects« in the Victoria & Albert Museum London.

#04 Cultural Formats

Designers work on »Cultural Formats« that link facts and values, experiences and meaning, aesthetics and ethics. The concept of »Cultural Formats« is an extention of the famous Bauhaus concept 100 years later. The Bauhaus’ goal was social innovation but it failed to integrate it in their famous circular diagram showing its concept. We extend this diagram and integrate socio-psychological aspects, ethics and services that are based on universal experiences in space, time, materials, and atmosphere.

The notions of facts and concerns is inspired by Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford (2005). Diagram concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, design: Enno Hyttrek.

#05 Two Frames of Scenography

The position and the tasks of designers are discussed using the metaphor of scenography: Designers stage products and provide context, interaction for »matter of fact« which otherwise would remain fictional. We learn that matters of facts have always been matters of concern that link to the concerns of an audience. The »scenography« is produced by the »machinery of a theatre«, which are the tools of design and remain intransparent to the public.

For more details please refer to the paper: Peter Friedrich Stephan: Designing matters of concern (Latour) – A future design task?“ an answer to by Bruno Latour: A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk)

#06 Concern Canvas

The ConcernCanvas is a tool for transformation design connecting values and facts, concerns and issues.
The Concern Canvas …

… is a diagram that helps to analyze complex socio-psychological dynamics
… makes you understand what drives stakeholder’s minds and actions
… helps to find the best starting points for intervention, innovation and design
… builds a common ground for teams of designers and non-designers
… creates a »trading zone of knowledge«

more details and download
For a more dynamic view of values and facts, concerns and issues see the model of the moebius strip (Transformation Design #7).

The notion of »concerns« is inspired by Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford (2005). Diagram concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, design: Enno Hyttrek.

#07 Moebius Strip

The moebius strip is used to model the dynamic relations of values and facts, concerns and issues as introduced by the ConcernCanvas (see above). As a moebius strip has only one surface to navigate on, there is no more dichotomy of superficial vs. deep dimensions. In the model of the moebius strip all events can be observed only in their dynamic interdependency as opposed to the ontology of static location.

The moebius strip as a model for the »libidinious body« was introduced by Jean-François Lyotard: Économie libidinale Paris (1974).

#08 Draw a Distinction

play video

Drawing a distinction is a basic operation of design and any conceptual activity. Drawing distinctions can change the way we think about ideas, objects and relations. It opens possibilities to question existing categories and create new ones by focusing on relations, not definitions. Simple ontologies (»this is that«) are substituted by  relational ones (»this relates to that in a specific way«). The design process may start with questions like: What distinctions are implicitly present in your environment? Can you change them and introduce alternatives?

The basic operation of »drawing a distinction« was first described by George Spencer-Brown in his book »Laws of form« (1969). Also see Dirk Baecker: Kulturkalkül, Berlin (2014) and Bruno Latour: We have never been modern Harvard (1993).

#09 The 12th camel

In the story of the 12 camels a logical problem is solved elegantly by introducing a new element. It is used here as a metaphor to explain what design can do on a conceptual level. It is a narrative version for thinking »out of the box«. The solution comes about by reformulating the problem. The new view makes the solution obvious.

The story was adopted by german sociologist Niklas Luhmann and is related to design by Dirk Baecker: Die Welt des Designs, in: Wozu Systeme? Berlin (2002), p. 126-169.

The Five Stages of Design

Five Stages of Design…

… sets design fields in relation
… raises questions for each stage

… expands to new design fields such as transformation design and meta-materials

 

Most models of design stack activity levels starting with graphics and product, followed by interaction and service, and ending up with process and system. Recently there have been extensions to meta-materials (what materials can we construct/grow) on the one hand and transformation design on the other (how will we live tomorrow?) These staged models have been criticized because systems thinking and transformation cut through all levels of design activity instead of being separate layers. Therefore we introduce the »Hypercycle of Transformation«.

Stage model inspired by Richard Buchanan and GK van Patter, questions by Dirk Baecker and Henk Oosterling. Diagram Concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, Design: Enno Hyttrek

see video #1   download as pdf

The five stages:

5 Transformation
strategies and interventions for complex socio-technical environments

– Where will we go tomorrow?
– What are the driving forces of the »Next Society«?

4 Organization/System
– How does it work between us?
– Who/What is not integrated?

3 Interaction/Dialogue
– What does it mean?
– What is not communicated?

2 Products/Graphics
– How does it look?
– What is missing?

1 Meta-Materials
new smart and ecological materials

– Which Materials can we construct/grow?

The Hypercycle of Transformation

The Hypercycle of Transformation

… models the dynamics of socio-technical systems
… gives a comprehensive view of interdependent aspects
… helps to find the best approach for design interventions

Interdependent innovation cycles add up to a Hypercycle of Transformation. Developments in interaction, symbols, organization, products, and meta-materials lead to turbulences in evolutionary transformations. These cannot completely be anticipated, planned or controlled. However, the hypercycle can help to find the best chance for interventions. The hypercycle can substitute the traditional stage model of design, see The Five Stages of Design.

The concept of a hypercycle is based on ideas developed by Manfred Eigen and Ruthild Winkler (1975), Diagram Concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, Design: Enno Hyttrek.

see video #2.    download as pdf

Transformation and Participation

Designers in transformation design projects wear two hats:
1. They are design professionals and cooperate with other experts like engineering and marketing
2. They additionally take on a new role as they ignite, facilitate and moderate transformation.
Here they work with users and the general audience.

In most projects these two roles will not be separated clearly, but we think it is important to remember which hat you wear. Conflicts of interests might develop from the two roles. These have to be reflected in the posture of the designer and his or her business model.

Inspired by »Mapping Controversies«, a project by french sociologist Bruno Latour and the exhibition »Disobedient Objects« in the Victoria & Albert Museum London.


1. Traditional role of designers
The audience experiences and debates a scenography that is produced
by the assembly of producers hidden below. The designer is an invisible
part of this group together with engineers and marketing.


2. New role of designers
Designers make the assembly of producers transparent to the public
e.g. by using visualizations or leaking materials. Designer wear two hats:
They becomes visible as moderators while staying a part of the group of
producers. (Illustrations: PFS)

For more information see my paper Designing ‘matters of concern’ (Latour ): A future design task ?
in: Wolfgang Jonas, Sarah Zerwas, Kristof von Anshelm (Eds.):
Transformation Design – Perspectives on a New Design Attitude, Basel 2015

Cultural Formats

Cultural Formats

… bridge the gap between universal experiences and values/concerns
… link ethics and aesthetics
… define the comprehensive field transformation designers work in

Designers work on »Cultural Formats« that link facts and values, experiences and meaning, aesthetics and ethics. The concept of »Cultural Formats« is an extention of the famous Bauhaus concept 100 years later. The Bauhaus’ goal was social innovation but it failed to integrate it in their famous circular diagram showing its concept. We extend this diagram and integrate socio-psychological aspects, ethics and services that are based on universal experiences in space, time, materials, and atmosphere.
The notions of facts and concerns is inspired by Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford (2005). Diagram Concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, Design: Enno Hyttrek

watch video    Download as pdf

Two Frames of Scenography

The position and tasks of designers are discussed using the metaphor of scenography: Designers stage products and provide context and interaction for »matters of fact« which otherwise would remain fictional. We learn that matters of facts have always been matters of concern that link to the concerns of an audience. The »scenography« is produced by the »machinery of a theatre« (Latour), which are the tools of design and remain intransparent to the public.

For more details please refer to the paper: Peter Friedrich Stephan: “Designing »matters of concern« (Latour) – A future design task?“
as an answer to Bruno Latour: A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design (with Special Attention to Peter Sloterdijk)


1. A ‘matter of fact’ as a clear-cut entity but without context and therefore fictional,
only virtually possible, as in CAD-Systems.

2. The »matter of fact« with a scenography that makes it a »matter of concern«
with context, interaction, and meaning.

3. The ‘scenography’ is everything that addresses the audience and thus is subject
to debate.
It is produced by the »machinery of a theatre«, which remains intransparent.
(Illustrations: PFS)

The ConcernCanvas

The Concern Canvas

… is a tool for transformation design
… is a diagram that helps to analyze complex socio-psychological dynamics
… makes you understand what drives stakeholder‘s minds and actions
… helps to find the best starting points for intervention, innovation and design
… builds a common ground for teams of designers and non-designers
… creates a »trading zone of knowledge«
… is based on experience from projects in transformation design

watch video    Download as pdf

How does the ConcernCanvas work?

The ConcernCanvas is centred around events and frames and organizes their context.
It fills the gaps between values and facts, concerns and issues. These categories are conceived as:

Values
Everything you believe in (knowingly or not): god, love, happiness, health, trust, security…
Values are influenced by family, neighborhood and culture as well a personal growth.

Concerns
Concerns are values in action. They drive people´s minds, preferences and decisions. The value health might drive different concerns for different stakeholders: Having access to clean water, being able to pay for healthcare or simply not eating too much. Concerns are not normative. They do not follow a hierarchy like Maslow’s pyramid of needs. People´s minds are specific sets of concerns of different scale: A loss of the local soccer team might be more important than a distant war.

Events/Frames
Interactions in daily life and the way you interpret them. The same situation will be experienced differently by different persons. Frames are influenced by concerns and issues.

Issues
Topics you deal with on a daily basis, most of them influenced by media. Priorities may be on personal life, family and work, but the impact of media might also construct more abstract issues.

Facts
Facts are the material conditions of life: billions of artifacts, some of them might be helpful and neccessary, others are obstacles, superflus and junk.

 

10 Questions and Answers

1 What is it?
The ConcernCanvas (CC) is a tool for Transformation Design. It can help to identify crucial issues and find the best starting points for intervention, innovation and design.

2 How does it work?
The transformation of complex socio-technical systems brings together teams from diverse backgrounds. The CC is a tool to find out what drives people´s minds and behaviour. It helps to build a common ground for teams and organize trading zones of knowledge. Thus a shared understanding of the stakeholders mindsets emerges and agreements on the process for intervention, innovation and design can be created.

3 Where does it come from?
The CC is based on empirical data from Transformation Design projects and reflects experiences from the design process.

4 How to use it?
For each category the CC asks a question, e.g. What concerns determine the stakeholders behaviour? Try to answer the question by observation, interviews or speculation.

5 Is it just another design thinking tool?
The CC takes Design Thinking to the next level as it is more comprehensive and helps to find hidden agendas.

6 Is it a substitute for other methods?
The CC is a framework for other methods like cultural probes, personas and customer journeys.

7 Where can I get it?
The CC can be downloaded together with helpful casestudies that will be added continuously.

8 Is it free to use?
The use of the CC is free under the creative commons license.

9 Where can I get help for using the CC?
We offer introductions and workshops and there will be a growing community online that will be happy to exchange experience.

10 What’s next?
The CC is the first of a series of tools that we develop and  publish online. The method tool box will be in continous development by a community. We also work on a stack of method cards and welcome cooperation, please get in touch.

For a more dynamic view of values and facts, concerns and issues see the model of the moebius strip. The notion of »concerns« is inspired by Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Social – An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, Oxford (2005). Diagram Concept: Peter Friedrich Stephan, Design: Enno Hyttrek

Projects

The  tools for Transformation Design were presented and used at
Restarting Development Aid Berlin/Germany
– Development of a Corporate Mission Statement for DEG Invest Cologne, Gemany
– Design Education for the 21st century, Beijing Institute of Fashion and Technology Beijing, China
– Parsons School of Design New York City, USA
– more projects are under way



»Restarting Development Aid«
Weizenbaum Institute Berlin, Germany


Development of a Corporate Mission Statement
DEG Invest Cologne, Gemany


»Design Education for the 21st century«
Beijing Institute of Fashion and Technology, Beijing, China


Introduction to the toolset for Designing Transformation
Parsons School of Design Strategies New York City, USA


Workshop Designing Transformation
at Central Academy of Fine Arts – CAFA, Beijing



 

Community

We build a community of Transformation Designers so share tools and insights.
You can join in a number of ways
– use the presented tools in your projects and share your experience
– become a co-developer for new tools or articulate wishes for new functions
– we started to work on a stack of method cards and welcome cooperation
– invite us to help in workshops
– subscribe to the newsletter

We will be happy to share our insights and help you getting started working with the tools
We will introduce you to the mindset that guides the development of the tools
In lectures and workshops you will experience how to use the tools
We would like to initiate and host communities of practise in Transformation Design.
If you want to use the tools in your projects, we will be happy to help you, please get in touch.

Background/Papers

Design Research
The presented tools are based on design research, empirical study and academic reflection in Transformation Design. The academic research is documented in papers by Prof. Peter Friedrich Stephan and published in international journals. A comprehensive book will be published in spring 2023: Designing Concerns – Bruno Latour und das Transformation Design (Transcript Verlag, in german)

check out these papers
Designing ‘matters of concern’ (Latour ): A future design task ?
in book: Wolfgang Jonas, Sarah Zerwas, Kristof von Anshelm (Eds.) 2015: Transformation Design – Perspectives on a New Design Attitude, Basel: Birkhäuser, Edition: BIRD – Board of International Researchers in Design

You say you want a revolution? Non-normative foundations of Transformation Design
April 2017, Design Journal, The 20(sup1), S3630-S3642, Conference: Design for Next – European Academy of Design 12 at Sapienza University Rome

Here is more genral reflection on the Corona Crisis, Design and Transformation
Corona Redesign — A Pre-Manifesto

more papers available at Academia and Researchgate see also Google Scholar

Inspiration and History
The notion of »concerns« is an inspiration from Bruno Latours work on Actor Network Theory. Additional insights comes from research in perception, creativity and behavioural economics (e.g. nudging). A concern based approach is not new to design. Parts of it have been used by designers earlier under different names such as radical design, participatory design and social design. Also Richard Buckminster Fuller´s Anticipatory Comprehensive Design Science can be considered to be an ancestor of a concern based approach. The presented diagrams however form a comprehensive toolset that can be used by designers and non-designers alike.

Contact

Prof. Dr. Peter Friedrich Stephan

Academy of Media Arts
Peter Welter Platz 2
50676 Köln
www.peterstephan.org
info[at]peterstephan.org

 

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