Democratic Design

Marcus Engman, Design Manager of IKEA, says that democratic design covers these elements: form, function, quality, and a low price. Despite design’s reputation of being elitist, many designers have been intentionally thinking about how to make their products more accessible since the worldwide economic turn down in 2008. Even legendary designer Phillipe Starck has been designing his products in less expensive materials like Perspex and plastic, partly to make them more affordable.

Democratic design aims to put a well designed product down at a more affordable price appealing and being useful to many, if not all, people. In a sense it is easier to design with luxury in mind - bigger, better, more - than to design an economy class seat on an airplane, for example. How would one go about designing a service or a product that needs to appeal to many different people giving them all a good experience? How do we design a lamp that is still beautiful, made from responsible materials i.e. recycled or recyclable, from renewable resources, responsibly sourced and so on, without it either lapsing in quality or becoming simply too expensive?

The sad, and embarrassing, truth of design is that a large volume of what is being designed with real care and attention is simply too expensive for the average person to afford. And why design something that is irresponsible and wasteful even if it is beautiful anyway?

The world has changed dramatically in the last few years and design has to respond to the new needs and demands of a more socially aware and budget constrained user and not just to sell more products - simply because it is the right thing to do.