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Reflections: do I design for trust?

An installation that challenges designers and public professionals to develop a critical attitude and design practises for design for trust.

Design offers a methodology for citizens and governments to work together. Collaboration however requires mutual trust. If designers want to play a serious role in tackling the big issues The Netherlands faces, we should ask ourselves and our clients the question: are we designing for trust?

Design has a societal responsibility

We live in a world that faces big challenges. Citizens and governments increasingly need to work together and trust each other in the process. The necessary mutual trust for collaboration however proves difficult. People and the government often perceive themselves as adversaries. Not a very productive starting point to say the least.

The field of (Social) Design offers principles, methods and tools that are well suited for tackling complex issues and getting people to collaborate and build trust. Therefore, designers are well equipped (and in our opinion obliged) to play an active role in society, both as a creative and facilitator of change.

Three principles of designing for trust

A prerequisite for collaboration is trust. If there’s no (mutual) trust between the people working together, there won’t be a creative process nor a shared solution. Not handled well, things can turn really sour resulting in a terminated collaboration process, lower levels of trust or even animosity. Through many years working on societal challenges (including some failures) we learned that as designers we need to create design processes with trust in mind. Designing for trust should be an integral part of our practice as designers and the way projects are commissioned.

In our work we have identified three fundamental principles for designing for trust:
1. Mutual understanding: foster awareness for and insight in different perspectives and experiences
2. Level playing field: creating a process that is fair and equally accessible for all
3. Impact: ensuring that the process results in measurable and tangible positive effects for all participants

Create you personalised designing for trust cue card

Though mutual trust might be difficult to achieve, it’s fairly simple to start designing for trust. In our experience it all starts with asking yourself the right critical questions. For the Dutch Design Week Zeewaardig built a mirror that helps you reflect on your own practice by asking the question: ‘Do I design for trust?'. In the installation designers and public professionals create their own ‘Design for Trust Cue Card’. The result is a personalised tool containing a series of reflective questions that help create self-awareness and start building trust between the people and organisations you work with.

About Zeewaardig

We are a Dutch design agency that uses service design to help citizens and large public organisations to collaborate in solving complex challenges.

Our designers love working in education, healthcare, sustainable development and energy transition, public housing, spatial development and social policy making.

Working with us means that you will (have to) learn. We believe a fair and sustainable planet is only possible when public organisations learn to think and act like designers.

Strijp-S area, Ketelhuisplein, Ketelhuisplein , Map No. B2
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