touching the state

"How and where do we ‘touch the State’? When do we become citizens rather than members of the general public? And when we encounter the State as citizens, how does the nature of that interaction – the way it is choreographed, communicated, shaped, scripted, designed – affect our sense of citizenship?"

from "Touching the State" UK Design Council report
available as a .pdf (5.5mb) here.

The UK Design Council through their unit RED is taking "a proactive approach to solving problems and developing new concepts and processes for change... to provoke, stimulate, surprise and deliver, within a context that puts people first and is based in the real world."

One of their projects is Touching the State which looks "at the role of design in mediating and defining the relationship between the State and citizens." They ask "can these encounters be designed differently to increase engagement and a sense of citizenship?"

Essentially they are employing the tools of design (i.e. -looking through the eyes of the user; making the invisible visible and the intangible tangible; rapid prototyping and modeling) to rethink the way we interact with the State -even the processes of the state.

I am a firm believer in benefits of good design (and I am not referring the to glossy magazine conception of aesthetics and style -i mean it as a discipline and a way of thinking.) It would be interesting if we could have a similar project back home. If anything we Filipinos stand out in the region for our creativity -we could design (and redesign) some very innovative approaches to government and governance.

Image credit: Japan Today


ed said...

designing our way to a better government. hmm. i'm obviously picking your brain here,sorry, but do provide examples of such an approach as applied to the philippine context. can novel european ideas find some application here?

my other question is: is it possible that there are strategies for improving our state of affairs that are too sophisticated for countries like ours?

Anonymous said...

You know, you could be on to something there...good design (functional, attractive, convenient, etc.) means the state cares about its citizens. The citizens in turn will respond to this. It's just common courtesy. Based on personal experience, you show the man next to you in a jeepney or a crowded MRT train a little courtesy and he will show you the same.

Also, travelling to other cities around the world where design and plain cleanliness of the environs always made me feel good about being in that city and wanting to return. Wouldn't it be nice if visitors felt that way about our cities?

I assume we don't need Madame Marcos back as MM Governor to get us going.

Urbano dela Cruz said...


it's less about "european ideas" as it is the approach. i.e. -using design to figure out what will work at home. (it's totally contrary to the design process to simply import a process).

the genius of the design process is that it starts from the user's point of view/experience. if you come up with something that's "too sophisticated" then the design process failed because it didn't account for the user's needs and experiences.

Design's aim is to make it simple, easy to understand, easy to use. And the solutions, to paraphrase Albert E. "should be a simple as possible and no simpler."

Urbano dela Cruz said...


I agree. Design is courtesy made tangible.

In urban design terms, it is courtesy to the pedestrian who is provided a sidewalk -or a tree shade -or landmarks and sight lines so it's easy to figure out where they are in the city and where they want to go.

It's the courtesy of parks to make a city livable.

In design process terms, it's the courtesy to the "customer" applying for a driver's license - to make the process easy to understand and easy to accomplish so you don't waste a person's time.

The Imeldific had some good notions (dare I say 'intentions') for her so called "city of Man' -except these were corrupted by self-aggrandizement and by vested interest.

Anonymous said...

Well, first thing that crossed my mind is we need to review how we actually use public and personal spaces, possibly using works like Edward Hall's Hidden Dimension as starting point.

citizen frank

Urbano dela Cruz said...

citizen frank,

i like Hall's studies in proxemics -although his views of the city ("behavioral sinks") is a little dated.

I prefer William H. Whyte's investigations into the use of public space.

Also the work of IDEO (on improving clinics) is exciting. (See their investigation into approriate technologies).

ex: i'm sure pinoy designers coming up with a better (cardboard) voting booth that will be just as cheap and as easy to ship.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

egad! my grammar took a vacation in that last post:


>pinoy designers CAN come up

(my apologies)

Anonymous said...

Here's something from Demos along these lines, People Make Places: Growing the Public Life of Cities. The book, http://www.demos.co.uk/catalogue/
peoplemakeplacesbook/, and the press release,

citizen frank

Urbano dela Cruz said...

good sites, citizen frank.

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