Ever since the beginning of industrialisation, the discipline of design has viewed the concept of democracy as a target-oriented approach to answering social questions. This concept has been interpreted and applied in many different ways within the design discourse, as well as in practice. The highly fragmented understanding of democracy in design has resulted in the fact that, while democracy has been viewed as an important factor in shaping the social, it has not to date been further consolidated into a model of social design.

Through an overview of current perspectives, interpretations and applications of democracy in design and its association with the three fundamental democratic ideals of our culture (equality, freedom and control), together with with the three most relevant models for shaping democracy (deliberative democracy, social democracy and participatory democracy), this dissertation develops a system of democratic criteria for a social model of design. It provides the prerequisites for design researchers, design educators and design practitioners to reflect social issues in their own research, teaching or practice using a targeted categorisation within the discourse on democratic design and thus to relate them more strongly to the existing contributions that deal with questions of democracy.

In order to provide a practically-oriented framework for the theoretical considerations regarding the design of democracy, especially within teaching and practice, a Five-step Model for Developing Democratic Design Strategies has been developed which supports the development of democratic design strategies in order to implement and evaluate them in actual projects. 

In this model, democracy is treated as an independent, conceptual thinking space for designing the social, in which ideas can be developed, experimented with and varied in order to speculate on the interrelationships between aspects of democratic design, and the associated design decisions.

The resulting design solutions can be evaluated in the last step of the process using a tool, the Democracy Checklist Tool, to test whether and how the corresponding designs contribute to democratic value creation in the social. Based on a case study from the health care sector, which serves as an empirical basis for and as an example of the application of the use of democratic design strategies for future product designs, the development of democratic design options for medical devices is demonstrated.

These design solutions are subsequently evaluated, exploring the relationships between different actors in the area of care by empowering them through democratic design actions, such as sharing, towards increased autonomy or active participation in care processes, in order to present future possibilities for socially constructive design in the area of health care.

Dissertation //

The PhD was supervised by:
Prof. Dr. Bettina Möllring, Muthesius Academy of Arts and Design, Kiel, Germany
Prof. Dr. Rosan Chow, OTH University Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr.-Med. Steffen Leonhardt, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

In Cooperation with the Philips Chair for Medical Information Technology (MedIT), Helmholtz-Institute for Biomedical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University