The rise of social design, inspiring the need for social movement

By Chang Chi-Yi


FROM consumerism to society, design has long been a means to stimulate and satisfy material desires. The rise of social design comes from the introspections of the paradigms, and from people’s criticism of the market economy and consumerist design concepts.

In social design, ‘society’ should be the core subject and not just ‘design for society’.

Social design has aroused heated discussions in the recent years. This phenomenon reflects a change in the attitude of design. In the past, designers were focused on enhancing product value. Today, people are concerned about how good design creates a good life.

In recent years, many social issues have come to the attention of the Taiwanese design circles through award-winning works. Besides works that are focused on designs show social concern; if we extend our understanding of design, our thriving civil society can enact action strategies that will enrich our understanding of social design.

Guide Book of Marine Debris, which was produced by Rethink and won Golden Pin Design Award 2019, the Best Design Award of the Year, is the first marine debris encyclopedia in Taiwan
The Golden Pin Design Award-winning 2019 work Rainbow in the Dark is an outdoor temporary installation co-designed by the Sunpride Foundation and Mori Art Museum


This growing trend of social design is a social movement of “design for people, design belonging to people, and design by people.”

In this new paradigm, design is no longer just the business of professional designers – it is open to public participation and unites all stakeholders in a common vision. It encourages cross-domain collaborative dialogue and makes up for blind spots arising from a single perspective.

With regard to the current development of social design, Taiwanese people are full of enthusiasm and creativity. With diverse cultures in a free and open society, people can look at problems and come up with ideas for solutions. However, these social design cases can improve on further integration and organisation.

Contemporary social design can easily emphasise many touching stories, but these touching stories can sometimes brush aside the rough edges behind them. We should discuss certain things more rationally than emotionally.

In addition to thinking about using design to solve social problems, we need to be more vigilant in the course of practice. – Jan 15, 2021


Chang Chi-Yi is the president of Taiwan Design Research Institute

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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