From Transformation Design to Translation Design

Lucy Kimbell

All designing is already about systems, even if the object-focus of traditional design practices has obscured this. With recent developments in the field such as service design, design for social innovation and design for policy, the need for designers to engage more seriously with the systemic nature of designing is acute.

This talk explores the issues arising when contemporary designerly approaches attempt to address systemic challenges. While such approaches offer some potential benefits, they also bring with them assumptions and elisions which are worrying. A shift to designing for translations between worlds, rather than transformations of worlds, may help address these weaknesses.


Lucy is an experienced researcher, postgraduate educator, and strategic design consultant. She has spent much of her career on design’s fringes, intersecting with other disciplines and contexts including social innovation and policy. Lucy has been involved in research, teaching and assessment within leading international universities for over a decade, with a particular focus on the role of design in society, services and innovation. Her leadership and facilitation skills are complemented by research in design thinking and service design and art experiments in visualising data.

Before joining UAL Lucy was AHRC research fellow in Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office (2014-15) and principal research fellow at the University of Brighton where in addition she jointly led projects for the AHRC around social design. Previously Lucy was a Clark fellow in design leadership at Said Business School, the University of Oxford for five years, where she remains an associate fellow. Lucy co-founded one of the UK’s first digital arts groups and went on to work in digital innovation consultancy before joining academia.

As an educator, she has been involved in developing the joint MBA between CSM and Birkbeck College and UAL’s executive training offer. She’s taught an MBA elective on design innovation at Said Business School, University of Oxford, since 2005. Lucy also designs and delivers training in people-centred design for the UK Civil Service.


Olivetti Makes – Design. Industry. Society.

Olivetti Makes – Design. Industry. Society.

The design approach and tools used by companies and practitioners are discussed. The book is of interest to professionals working in design, industry, government, NGO, and researchers.

Policy Design and Decision Making

Policy Design and Decision Making

RSD7 Keynote. Chelsea Mauldin: I propose that designers engaged in policy and systems change design new, adjacent policy systems, recognize the primacy and requirements of the human body, and more consciously identify and address imbalances in power in the systems in which we intercede.

Re-designing the Framework: Think natural, think local

Re-designing the Framework: Think natural, think local

RSD7 Keynote. Gunter Pauli: From energy production to soil analysis, we have to change the dogmas we are working with, we have to change the business models and the hypothesis we are believing. What can we do better? How can we design a better way forward?

Systemic Design Approaches in the Public Sector: Are we ready?

Systemic Design Approaches in the Public Sector: Are we ready?

RSD6 Keynote. Sabine Junginger: So overwhelming is the intricate web of laws, rules, and regulations in a highly hierarchical and political landscape that those working under intense time pressure rarely get time to reflect on their design approaches.

RSD 10 Call for Papers

RSD10 offers a platform for discussing ongoing work with peers and presents the state-of-the-art in the systemic design field. This year there are two paper tracks: short papers for ongoing work, and long papers for finished work.

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