Design for Complex Situations: Navigating ‘Matters of Concern’
Nicholas Spencer, Mark Bailey


Design is increasingly being deployed within complex situations where networks of diverse organisations and actors seek to navigate contested futures that are subject to organisational, social, political and economic debate. Here, design supports collaborative exploration resulting in creative compromise that develops actionable, designed, opportunities. Using a case study from 2015-2019 in the context of careers guidance public policy and the practices in UK Secondary Schools, this paper reviews the participatory design practices and the challenges that came from working in a complex and contested space. Analysis highlights that design practices and artefacts can act as a mechanism that enables a public to identify and grapple with issues that matter to them while also navigating controversies that produce their own policy position. A design-content model is discussed and extended in the context of the case study’s finding leading to a contribution about the different roles that may be offered by design in complex situations as contributing to a matter of concern.

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