How Design Education Can Use Generative Play to Innovate for Social Change: A Case Study on the Design of South African Children’s Health Education Toolkits
Audrey Grace Bennett, Fatima Cassim, Marguerite van der Merwe


There’s been a paradigm shift in design from focusing on aesthetic worth to focusing more on the interplay of form and function to assume social responsibility and to pursue social change through innovation. As a result, the discipline needs models for how to educate responsible designers who see design not only as a commercial enterprise but more importantly as a catalyst for social change, and are able to innovate visual technologies that address social problems that are wicked by nature, and are far more complex and interdisciplinary than merely problem-solving how to aestheticize a client’s content. This paper introduces such a model called generative play that integrates psychology, game theory, and economics with design. Specifically, generative play takes root at the intersection of activity theory, generative research, flow, play, and generative justice. It offers an interdisciplinary methodology that addresses wicked problems in health through social innovation and instills cognizance of social responsibility in design students. In a case study of the wicked problem of children’s health education in South Africa, 40 fourth-year design students used generative play; and, through an analysis of their logbook entries and design outcomes, we found that generative play does engender cognizance of social responsibility and pleasure and does facilitate social innovation.

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