International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts: Special Issue of CoDesign and the Public Realm

Guest editors: Liesbeth Huybrechts, Jon Geib, Hilde Heynen, Henric Benesch, Jessica Schoffelen

NCDNCo-design’s engagement with the public realm is rooted in an activist tradition aspiring to increase democratic participation of diverse societal groups in design activities related to public space, services, systems or policy. This is partly due to its historical relationship with the tradition of Scandinavian Participatory Design (PD) that developed in the 1970s and shared concerns and values with labour unions in emancipating workers at the workplace (Bannon & Ehn, 2012, p. 39; Lenskjold, Olander, Halse, 2015). However, since the rise of the Post-Fordist era, the engagement of co-design with the public realm has changed: it has been influenced by increasing globalisation, flexibility, rapid technological developments, a highly diverse and competitive market and accordingly changing social conditions (Boudry et al, 2003, 43). Many aspects that were traditionally part of the public domain – such as mobility or communication infrastructure – shifted to the private domain, resulting in progressively more complex relations with governance and regulation (Graham & Marvin, 1994; Davis, 1990; Harvey, 1994, Christopherson, 1994). In short, in a Post-Fordist context, designing takes place across previously delineated contrasting pillars (or economic sectors, socio-political families, and discourses), such as public/private, work/leisure, local/global, the boundaries between which become increasingly blurred.

In Design for The Real World (1971), Papanek saw engaging with activism and the market as antithetical. Post-fordism has eradicated prior distinctions, whereby today co-design is being simultaneously applied to improving labour relations, consumption and political activism, by bringing a wide range of actors together to identify and develop that which is to come. In this context, it is not unusual that participation and co-design act as a conduit for market forces and other forms of private interest. This has again – but in different ways than in the 1970s – intensified the discourse in co-design on the political and public sphere.

Authors are invited to submit research papers in relation to one or more of the questions below:

  • What are the consequences, tensions and challenges of co-design engaging with the public realm when that realm is increasingly entangled with private forces?
  • What concepts, frameworks, tools, methods are used and what values are pursued to answer these challenges?
  • In an era of growing social, ecological and economic injustice, is the answer found in the mobilisation of all possible forces, including design, in order to challenge the marketisation of the political?
  • Or, on the contrary, is the answer to pull back and rethink co-design in this era of blurred boundaries?
  • Additionally, are divisions between public and private productive; or are there other alternatives?

Fieldwork can be used to enrich the discussion on the above questions and to allow to revisit co-design addressing the public realm in a Post-Fordist era.

Deadline for paper submission 30th of September 2016.

Expressions of interest and any questions about this special issue should be addressed to

For more information about the call, other important deadlines and submission guidance please visit the Journal website.