Design, When Everybody Designs

Social innovation and design for a new economy

By Ezio Manzini

In a fast and profoundly changing world everybody designs. The result of this diffuse designing is that society as a whole can be seen as a huge laboratory in which new social forms, solutions and meanings are produced. These transformative activities require unprecedented economic models and courageous design choices.


My starting point is that in a fast and profoundly changing world everybody designs. ‘Everybody’ means not only individual people, groups, communities, companies and associations, but also institutions, cities and entire regions; and ‘design’ means that, whether they like it or not, all these individual and collective entities are forced to bring all their designing capabilities into play to devise their life strategies and put them into practice.

The result of this diffuse designing is that society as a whole can be seen as a huge laboratory in which unprecedented social forms, solutions and meanings are produced and social innovation is created.1


  Please login or register to continue reading...

 About the Author

ezio-manzini-webEzio Manzini has been working in the field of design for sustainability for more than two decades. Most recently, his interests have focussed on design for social innovation. In this perspective he started DESIS: an international network of schools of design specifically active in this field.

em-book-cover-webPresently, he is Chair Professor of Design for Social Innovation at the University of the Arts London (London), Honorary Professor at the Politecnico di Milano and Guest Professor at Tongji University (Shanghai) and Jiangnan University (Wuxi).

His most recent book is Design, When Everybody Designs. An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation, MIT Press 2015.



1. This paper is largely based on the book: Ezio Manzini, Design, When Everybody Designs (MIT Press 2015)

2. A very clear statement on the nature of emerging design, and in my view of its present limits, was proposed in 2014 in a manifesto named DesignX, collaboratively authored by: Ken Friedman (Tongji University, College of Design and Innovation and Swinburne University Centre for Design Innovation), Yongqi Lou (Tongji), Don Norman (University of California, San Diego, Design Lab), Pieter Jan Stappers (Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering), Ena Voûte (Delft), and Patrick Whitney (Illinois Institute of Technology, Institute of Design). (accessed October 2015).

3. The list of authors who contributed to start this re-definition of design could be very long. My main references are: Richard Buchanan, “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking,” Design Issues 8, no. 2 (Spring 1992); Nigel Cross, Design Thinking: Understanding How Designers Think and Work (Oxford, UK: Berg, 2011); Tim Brown, Design Thinking”, Harvard Business Review (June 2008).

4. Pelle Ehn, “Participation in Design Things”, Participatory Design Conference Proceedings, (Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Sept. 30 – Oct. 4, 2008); Ezio Manzini, Francesca Rizzo, “Small Projects/Large Changes. Partecipatory Design as an Open Partecipated Process”, CoDesign, Vol. 7 no 3-4 (2011): 199-215; Pelle Ehn, Elisabeth M. Nilsson eds, Making futures(Cambridge: MIT Press 2014).

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Political Anthropologist.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here