designed with dementia offers an open approach to learning and using your latent personal creative abilities (even those you might not know you have) and making use of your personal knowledge and skills. Through workshops poeople living with dementia have becom collaborative designers in the proposing, desigining and making things. They have achieved things through the process of collaborative design (co-design), a highly sociable way of working. But, why design?
Design is, by its very intent: a means for change, a platform for proposing and acting in order to make better. Design proposes and makes objects, places, spaces, facilities and services by working with and for people. The act of designing historically has been accepted as form giving styling and clever production for commoditised economies. This is undoubtedly one of design’s roles, however the current representation of designers and the acts of design involves social, environmental and economic responsibility through the paradigm challenging ways of thinking and – most importantly – acting. Design is best represented as thoughtful actions but it is also a highly sociable, inclusive act capable of bringing together diverse points of view, unifying both simple and sophisticated thinking. There are no perfect solutions, only perfect problems and often the opportunity for intervention in such situations is more interesting and engaging than any problem could ever be.
The RSA and the Design Council have been working with communities, agencies, carers, charities and those living with dementia in order develop alternative ways of addressing the problems that are faced and to introduce more holistic routes to wellbeing. In the introduction to the Design Council’s Living Well With Dementia we are informed of the value of “social innovation [that] demonstrates design’s potential to confront a truly global problem and change real lives for the better.” (Design Council, 2012). The RSA’s Mathew Taylor proposes a largely “communitarian aspiration that public service interventions encourage and empower people to contribute to meeting their own needs” and lauds the demonstrable “impact of initiatives based on strengthening social networks on wellbeing” (Taylor, 2015Taylor, 2015). Within this discussion and the prominent work of creative practice champions there is a proven sense of the potential of design to valuably impact the situation. In respect of changing support strategies design will be increasingly applied in its multitude of guises in order to develop objects, tools, systems and services but also to engage and motivate communities and seemingly disconnected groups.
The designer offers ways to respond, to opportunities and problems, that support the most appropriate acceptable change to the stasis with the best hope of improving lives. Design is also different to most other working disciplines in that it leads to physical and visual, systematic and tangible change that enriches the world. Most of all, if designers do their job well, the results or actions should be fun, creative, productive and inclusive in ways that no other approach is capable of.