What is co-design?

Co-operative design, co-design, is a methodology for conducting a user centred design process that involves the actual users and stakeholders, actively, not just being interviewees or evaluators. Their role as ‘experts’ of their own experience, is to guide, educate, and inform the designers of new technologies in their field. Where possible, design solutions should be proposed by these users to resolve specific challenges. A key challenge is in getting users to see past current constraints to envision better ways of working that still persevere whats important about their job [#Ehn1988].

Why not participatory design?

Though there is no specific need to separate terms, we use it to draw a distinction between more politically involved practises of including people in the design process versus more functional approaches. Co-design is used here to describe a process of high inclusion in the design process at all stages, but not addressing power or cultural relationships embedded in that environment. This being said, care must be taken not to over validate a individual’s conceptualisation of processes, especially those expediting their individual skill approach over others, as this could distort the proceeding design interventions [#Ehn1988].

Potential benefits? Better ideas that are sourced with user value and originality, better impression and understanding of actual users in your domain, improved innovation, improved focus on users [#Steen2011]


Pelle Ehn. 1988. Work-Oriented design of computer artifacts. Stockholm Arbetslivscentrum.

Marc Steen, Menno Manschot, and Nicole De Koning. 2011. Benefits of Co-design in Service Design Projects. International Journal of Design 5, 2: 53–60.