I love that it felt like we were all a bunch of experts in different fields that together worked on a real issue and a real problem. I think that the most positive thing was the fact that our teachers were true experts and they were both engaging and inspiring.
CoDesign – Design, Participation and Democracy
SummaryThrough activities in class and by engaging in a project with external stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, citizens, public authorities), students will learn how to design and carry out collaborative and participatory processes to explore complex societal issues by involving stakeholders with different interests.
The co-design field is an interdisciplinary field that combines theories and approaches from several different disciplines. Co-design closely relates to ideas such as co-creation, user-driven innovation, Living Labs, social innovation, citizens’ dialogue and citizens’ engagement, co-production, place making.
Students will acquire hands-on approaches to collaboratively explore and address societal issues. They will develop an understanding of theoretical concepts and framings that are relevant for reflecting on and dealing with questions of power, democracy and representation in collaborative and participative processes.
In the practical project, students will plan and carry out co-design activities, like workshops, collaborative prototyping, co-design events, speculative interventions. An important approach is that of the “Design Thing”, a format that brings together participants to explore their different stakes on a specific issue. By using designerly approaches, the “Design Thing” supports democratic dialogues and decision “making”.
The course aims to attract international students and students with different disciplinary and professional backgrounds. This per se represents a unique opportunity to train skills for collaborating across cultural and professional domains.
General entry requirements + English B + At least 120 university credits
What is co-design/participatory design?
Co-design engages users and other stakeholders in the design process and strives towards making design processes more democratic. Co-design enriches the design process with experiences, perspectives and knowledge that otherwise might be difficult to include. It also aims at providing users and other stakeholders with the possibility to directly influence the design of technologies, services and products.
Traditionally this field has focused on the design of technologies. However, in the last few years, co-design researchers have been engaging with issues of participation and democracy in diverse areas, like social innovation, media and cultural production, manufacturing, and urban planning. Particularly the course will focus on exploring issues in Malmö together with local stakeholders. These issues are related to the challenges that arise when aiming for social, ecological and economic sustainability in an urban context.
The course is aimed at students from different backgrounds and disciplines interested in design and social issues. The course intertwines more traditional lectures and seminars with practical project work. The course requires students to work both in interdisplicinary groups as well as on their own. Previous classes have had the chance to present their projects in an interactive presentation format called A Design Thing.
One example of the student work presented during the course:
Understanding the complexity of our society through design
Simon Toremalm is a final year student of the Swedish-taught Product Design programme who applied for Co-design as an elective course.
“I thought it would be interesting to explore a new field where design could be applied. I think the course provided me with an understanding of the complexity of our society through design.
“It taught me to have patience with the design process. Not jumping to a conclusion, but to actually listen and understand the real issue - it might not always be what you would expect.”
Working with true experts
Simon is currently working on his thesis project in Product Design and says the course has affected his work and ultimately, the products he designs.
“The thing I found most interesting about the course was the group assignment. Apart from myself, the group consisted of a Korean engineer, an animator from India and a Swedish UX designer.
“I love that it felt like we were all a bunch of experts in different fields that together worked on a real issue and a real problem. I think that the most positive thing was the fact that our teachers were true experts and they were both engaging and inspiring.”
Syllabus for students autumn 2020, autumn 2019
- Course Code:
- KD335D revision 1
- Swedish name:
- CoDesign – Design, deltagande och demokrati
- Level of specialisation
- Main fields of study:
- No main fields
- Date of ratification:
- 01 March 2019
- Decision-making body:
- Faculty of Culture and Society
- Enforcement date:
- 02 September 2019
General entry requirements + English B + At least 120 university credits
Specialisation and progression relative to the degree regulations
The course can normally be included as a part of a general degree at basic level.
The course aims at educating skillful and reflective co-designers. Students will learn how to design and carry out collaborative and participatory processes to explore complex societal issues by involving stakeholders with different interests. They will also be able to critically reflect on opportunities and challenges of these processes.
The course combines a theoretical stream with a practical one.
In the theoretical stream, students will learn about concepts and practical approaches through lectures and workshops. Here the focus will be both on core topics (e.g. co-design history, mutual learning, materiality and participation) and consolidated approaches (e.g. ethnographic methods, collaborative mapping, workshops); as well as more contemporary topics (f.ex. sustainability, commons, speculations, city making, co-production) and experimental approaches (e.g. collective prototyping, design events, critical/speculative interventions).
In the practical stream, students will carry out a co-design project together with external stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, citizens, public authorities). Through the project, students will learn how to master diverse approaches with the support of experienced teachers. The hands-on experience gained from the project will be used a starting point for further reflection and learning in class.
After ending the course, the student should be able to:
- account for core theories, contemporary perspectives and key examples within the area of co-design/participatory design (PD); especially in relation to design, participation and democracy 
- employ a repertoire of consolidated and experimental co-design approaches 
- select and adapt relevant co-design approaches to plan and stage a series of co-design activities 
- initiate and manage relationships with external stakeholders in a co-design project .
- critically analyze and evaluate their own co-design activities using provided theoretical notions and ethical frameworks 
- critically relate co-design to their own main area of study or practice 
- communicate co-design theories, experiences and key insights verbally, visually and in writing for different audiences; as well as constructively discuss and comment on the work of others 
The course combines lectures, workshops, a practical co-design project, and seminars.
The lectures relate to learning outcomes 1,2.
The workshops relate to learning outcomes 2, 3.
With the practical co-design project, students will engage in a “real” co-design project together with external stakeholders. It relates to learning outcomes 2,3,4,7.
The seminars relate to learning outcomes 1,2,5,6,7
The course is assessed through three examinations:
1) Co-design process portfolio. It presents the co-design project process, outcomes and learnings. The following learning outcomes are assessed: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 (12 credits)
2) Staging and documenting the final “Design Thing”.The following learning outcomes are assessed: 2, 3, 5, 7 (12 credits)
3) An individual written reflection. The following learning outcomes are assessed: 1, 5, 6, 7 (6 credits)
Fail (U) or Pass (G).
Course literature and other teaching materials
- Agger Eriksen M. (2012) Materials matter in Co-design. PhD dissertation. Malmö University.
- Commission for a Socially Sustainable Malmö. (2013). Malmo’s Path Towards a Sustainable Future: Health, Welfare and Justice.
- DiSalvo, B., Yip, J., Bonsignore, E., & DiSalvo, C. (2017). Participatory Design for Learning. Routledge.
- Lury, C. and Wakeford, N. (Eds.). (2012). Inventive methods: The happening of the social. Routledge.
- Simonsen, J., & Robertson, T. (Eds.) (2013). International Handbook of Participatory Design. Routledge.
- Weibel, P., & Latour, B. (2005). Making things public. ZKM.
The University provides all students who are participating in, or have completed, a course to express their experiences and views on the course through a course evaluation which is organized at the end of the course. The university will collate the course evaluations and provide information about their results and any actions prompted by them. The results shall be made available to the students. (HF 1:14).
When a course is no longer given, or the contents have been radically changed, the student has the right to re-take the examination, which will be given twice during a one-year period, according to the syllabus which was valid at the time of registration.
This is the English version of a Swedish syllabus.