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New Design Value Framework measures the environmental, social and economic impact of design

Hands holding a mobile phone showing an interactive sculpture on screen and the word 'Explore', against a parquet floor
  • Written byCat Cooper
  • Published date 11 May 2022
Hands holding a mobile phone showing an interactive sculpture on screen and the word 'Explore', against a parquet floor
Phoebe Kirkland, Mobile Phone, BA (Hons) Product and Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins, UAL

Design Council has launched The Design Value Framework: a ground-breaking conceptual tool that designers, clients, partners and commissioners of design can use to measure and evaluate the value of their work. Developed with UAL Social Design Institute and BOP Consulting, it’s the first time a single framework covers all design sectors, and goes beyond economics to include the social, environmental and democratic impact of design.

The framework is part of Design Council’s flagship Design Economy: an interactive resource for policy makers, business leaders, public sector professionals, architects and designers. Assessing the current state of design in the UK, it also explores the role that design can play to ‘build back better’ and create a more just, healthy and regenerative world with an ongoing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Working with Design Council and BOP Consulting between 2021 and 2022, the Social Design Institute team helped synthesise the extensive research base in social design and design for sustainability and proposed evaluation and research methods for the Design Council to underpin their Design Economy programme.

The methodology, including the Design Value Framework, offers a structured way of mapping and assessing the impact of design across inter-connected domains of value to capture the holistic contribution of design to the UK. It was tested in 4 workshops that BOP and UAL ran.

Get the Design Value Framework

All frameworks are tools for thinking, not representations of reality. The Design Value Framework for the first time integrates the social, environmental and democratic consequences of designing into the Design Council’s Design Economy work. By using it in different ways as part of data-gathering and sector engagement, the Design Council can shift towards asking new and important questions about the role of design in society.

— Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, UAL Social Design Institute
Covid-19, Black Lives Matter and the climate crisis have highlighted the need to value environmental and social benefits as much as economic ones. By measuring and making these values visible, we hope to highlight the positive role design can play in urgent issues like the climate crisis, social justice and promoting diversity and prompt an industry shift to Design for Planet.

— Bernard Hay, Lead Programme Manager, Design Council
A graphic showing a colour wheel and 4 arrows pointing North, South, East and West and the words Social, Democratic, Planet and Financial
Design Value Framework graphic

The UAL project team who worked in collaboration with BOP Consulting

Professor Lucy Kimbell is Director of the Social Design Institute, and Professor of Contemporary Design Practices at UAL. Her research looks at the emergence and development of ‘design thinking’ and the use of design expertise to address organisational, social and public policy issues.

Dr Patrycja Kaszynska is Senior Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute where she leads the team’s innovative work on value. Her interests are at the cross section of critical theory, pragmatic philosophy, cultural studies and design with the key focus on the theory of value and valuation studies.

Jocelyn Bailey is a Research Fellow at the Social Design Institute where she has been leading projects around childhood obesity, youth violence, and visualising systems/ policy. Her interests lie at the intersection of policy, governance and design practice.

Dr Christian Nold was a Research Fellow in the Social Design Institute in 2020-21. Both designer and academic researcher, Christian’s focus is on building participatory technologies for collective representation, creating numerous innovative large-scale public projects that have been staged with thousands of participants across sixteen countries.

Dr Francesco Mazzarella is a Research Fellow in Fashion and Design for Social Change at Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London College of Fashion His research spans the fields of fashion activism, craftsmanship, social innovation, sustainability, and place-making.

Leading in social and sustainable design

Championing research and practice in social design and design for sustainability, UAL Social Design Institute develops and uses research insights to inform and change how designers and organisations design. Its mission is to make a positive social and environmental difference.

The Institute focus areas are: value and valuation through design, systems and design, and policy contexts and implications. It works closely with colleagues across UAL including the Centre for Circular Design, Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Design Against Crime Research Centre and recently launched its first short course, Introduction to Social Design.

For more information about this work, contact Lucy Kimbell.

Social Design Institute Practice Research Symposium 19-20 May

A small number of online and in-person places are available for Social Design Institute’s hybrid Symposium on Practice Research in Social Design: Definitions, Contexts, Futures, taking place online and in person at UAL’s Chelsea College of Arts on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 May 2022.  

The line-up features 6 international speaker panels, an online showcase and digital interactions, plus lunch, networking and drinks for those attending in person. Discussions will also focus on a new working paper defining practice research in design: find out more.