Academic journal article International Journal of Design

The Role of Designers in Integrating Societal Value in the Product and Service Development Processes

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

The Role of Designers in Integrating Societal Value in the Product and Service Development Processes

Article excerpt

Introduction

In recent years, along with the ever-strengthening regulations around the world, the term corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a buzzword in the business world. However, its practical meaning and application are still unclear. Since the 1970s, there have been continuous attempts by designers to enhance the environmental and social impact of the products they create. Many studies argue that designers have an opportunity to influence the development of socially responsible products by virtue of their role in the early stage of the product development process. It is in this early stage where the most crucial decisions are made with respect to cost, appearance, material use, the manufacturing method, performance and quality are made. Simultaneously, these are the factors that directly influence the impact that products and services have on our society and the environment (Esslinger, 2009; Fiksel, 2009; Morelli, 2007; Shedroff, 2009; Van Hemel, 1998; Whiteley, 1993). Indeed, the field of design (and all of its subsidiary or associated professions: architecture, industrial design, interaction design, engineering design, etc.) have increasingly become a major focal point for CSR, which is not surprising since poorly designed industrial systems, products, and buildings can greatly contribute to environmental and social degradation (Stegall, 2006).

While we argue that it is crucial for social and environmental concerns to gain much more attention when establishing strategy and designing products we note that relatively few companies display this capability and build CSR thinking at an early stage of product development. In fact, currently, the societal aspects of design are seldom addressed in design briefs in organisations (Dewberry, 2000; Lofthous, Bhamra, & Sares, 2001), and designers are, therefore, rarely allowed to engage with environmentally and socially responsible decision-making and design practices in an organisational context (Bhamra & Lofthouse, 2007). While commercially driven, client-led design is most suited to incremental changes, the idea of responsible design thinking attempts to account for the often radical ways in which design is now being used as a form of direct action, to transform society and the ways in which we live, both now and for the future (Chick & Micklethwaite, 2011). For this reason, people in organisations might think its goals often run counter to the dominant and sometimes all-encompassing commercial priorities of market-led design. Indeed, there exist a number of challenges to developing socially responsible design in organisations. In our research we analysed the experience with the integration of SRD made by corporate designers in order to investigate how best to incorporate CSR thinking into design and use it to deliver CSR philosophy in organisations. This article, however, does not seek to determine precisely what a socially responsible design approach will be, but rather, to understand what it could be and develop steps to move toward that possibility.

The purpose of this paper is to propose a new typology of designers' SRD decision-making behaviours based on our analysis of their underlying motivation dimensions. Thus, this study presents three types of approaches for SRD decision-making and subsequently illustrates how the underlying motivation of individuals serves as an impetus for CSR-expressed design decision-making within an organisation. The article is structured as follows. First, a background to the study is provided, and this study's arguments are developed by exploring the literature of socially responsible design (SRD) and CSR management; next this study's research analytical framework and method are explained. Subsequently, this paper describes the findings in terms of the relationship between the SRD decisions, designers' underlying motivations and the implications of their decisions, as evidenced through a number of socially and environmentally conscious design practices in the two selected companies. …

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