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Design and Governance

In Mexico City, design is a common practice that has only recently developed its self-awareness as a means for social and economic transformation. The design industry has much untapped potential and has yet to cultivate its capacity as a major economic driver of the city. There has been an unfortunate lack of initiatives that generate statistical information related to the design industry, making it difficult for administrative bodies to develop a broad image of the national and international design ecosystems. Major actors of the design industry in Mexico City have garnered an interest in formalizing design as a valuable transversal profession, and presently rely on their independent networks of designers to diagnose the current state of the industry. However, it is important to create an institutional support structure for designers so that we may elucidate and articulate the link between design and government. Cities must ask themselves the following questions when reflecting upon a discipline with such a transformative potential in the urban space; how can design be incorporated into public policies that respond to the diverse needs of the city? How is design and its inherent creativity recognized by the government? How do we encourage the guild of designers to become involved in addressing the social needs of their city? Design can give a voice to marginalized demographics and can help immerse citizens in their local, cultural urban context.

The transition from a merely aesthetic comprehension of design to one that understands its social and economical significance opens up the definition of design to accommodate for the concepts of systems design as well as the design of experiences. It is important for us to collectively recognize the origins of design as the designation of a meaning in order for us to understand the power of design as the creation of stories, images, products and services.1 Design is in the business of questioning as much as it is in that of problem-solving.

One of the challenges in the paradigm of modern governance is how democratic systems address representation in their cities. For years, the rhetoric around political reform held that a more direct democracy and a smaller-scale governance structure could lead to better representation of citizens.2 However, contemporary analyses have suggested that “citizenship” statuses do not necessarily respond to the needs of the groups and individuals categorized as “citizens”; some argue that governments are systems that provide assessment, legislative measures and policy papers only as they are needed.3 Design can become part of this framework by acting as a bridge between political professionals and members of civil society in a collaborative process that creates forward-thinking—as opposed to strictly responsive—models of policy-making.

There are two priorities a government should have for administering its design industry. The first is the formulation and support of creative policies that can adapt to the evolutionary nature of the design profession. The other is the ability to construct said creative policies through a creative process; this would entail a participatory approach to policy design where the design guild can take direct action in shaping their professional environment. With Mexico City’s recent designations as a “City of Design” and as “World Design Capital 2018”, designers have been given a great of opportunity to become deeply involved in directing the future of their creative field.

De esta manera, hay un objetivo que se representa de dos modos: uno en que el gobierno alcanza la formulación y el apoyo de políticas de creatividad, y otro que es capaz de construirlos mediante un proceso creativo. Por supuesto, esto requiere que el gremio del diseño asuma la responsabilidad de la parte que le da a su entorno. Los diseñadores tienen una ventana de oportunidad importante y pueden involucrarse a profundidad como proponentes activos de experimentación reconociendo su profesión como un servicio para la sociedad siendo los representantes del conocimiento de cierto tipo que pueda ponerse en práctica.

  1. Simon Herbert, Las Ciencias de lo Artificial, 2 edición, MIT Press, 1982, p.129.
  2. Wittes Benjamin and Jonathan Rauch, More professionalism, less populism: How voting makes us stupid, and what to do about it, Center for Effective Public Management, Brookings Institute, May 2017.
  3. Ibid