Global views and experiences of ‘democracy’ are complex. In Western societies, democracy can empower citizens to exercise power – it is the belief in freedom and equality between people (Cambridge, 2017) . Taking Bonsiepe’s (2006) interpretation of democracy ‘in the sense of participation’ – Democracy gives people the opportunity to have a voice in an organisation, a situation, to take responsibility for their lives and to shape their future.

Within the postgraduate design programme at Sheffield Institute of Arts we are a diverse group of international people whose own experiences of ‘democracy’ vary wildly from each other. Collectively we bring to the discussion of ‘Design in Democracy’ a breadth of experience and a wide variety of viewpoints. Many of these viewpoints are non-western and our aim is to explore these perspectives through a range of workshops to draw up a manifesto for SIA and Design in Democracy.

We are concerned with opportunities for rethinking the past and remaking the future, projects which give ‘space’ and ‘time’’ for students to engage with global social challenges locally and globally. At Sheffield Institute of Arts we are committed to exploring design for the provision of human needs, for enhanced communication across diverse communities, for empathy and for a more egalitarian society. We believe ‘Design in Democracy’ best describes our current position.

The SIA DESIS Lab will host a three workshops:

1. A student workshop to explore Design in Democracy – The aim of this workshop is to explore collegiately, whilst acknowledging the differing cultural experiences of the group.
2. A staff workshop to discuss Design in Democracy in the curriculum – The aim of this workshop is to present the findings from workshop 1 and open debate around Design in Democracy.
3. A workshop with the public where students gather perspectives on Design in Democracy – to be held on the evening of the UK election – 8th June 2017.

Bonsiepe, G. (2006). Design and democracy. Design Issues, 22(2), 27-34.
Cambridge. (2017).

Eve Stirling

Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield, UK

Fields of Action
It refers to all the design initiatives that are particularly responsive to the goals of democracy. It may deal with the provision of basic human rights (such as access to food, shelter, health care, and education) and, more in general, with the transition towards a more resilient, fair and sustainable society.