2–5 February 2021


Long Paper

Designing to facilitate and enrich human relationships for complex societal challenges


Presenting Author(s): Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer
04 February 2021

Please be aware that multiple presentations will take place during this session commencing at 05:00PM AEDT and share the same zoom link. Check how presentations are clustered in the program spreadsheet when adding the calendar.

Service designers increasingly tackle complex societal challenges, also referred to as social innovation. To address such challenges, a growing group of designers has started to combine their design practices with systems thinking practices. Systems thinking is about zooming out, considering things in relation to a larger system, or indivisible whole, of which they are part. For example, complex adaptive systems theory explains how relational processes of self-organisation lead to new emergent behaviour of the whole, thereby adapting to its environment. While systems thinking zooms out, service design zooms in on human experiences and increasingly focuses on human relationships. In social innovation, it becomes relevant for service designers to examine the impact that human relationships have on the emergent behaviour – and in particular adaptation - of the system as a whole, such as healthcare or education systems. This paper connects service design to complex systems thinking, and shows how designing for certain experiential qualities of human relationships has the potential to contribute to enabling adaptive social systems. This is illustrated by four social innovation project case studies which each addressed particular patterns of qualities of relationships, including learning, motivation, and care and support. The author speculates when and how those qualities have the potential to enable an adaptive social system, and argues that service design is well-positioned to design conditions that facilitate and enrich human relationships with such qualities. This position is supported by service designers' ability to design for the intangible and focus on human experiences, and their potential to impact people’s mental models of relationships.

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Yang Huan
Yang Huan
Hangzhou Normal University

Ph.D. in Design, Yang Huan is an assistant professor in Design at the School of Fine Arts of Hangzhou Normal University in China and is responsible for the direction of interaction design and service design at the school. She used to work as an interaction designer at Tencent Technology (Shenzhen) Co., LTD and Arcsoft Multimedia Technology (Hangzhou) Co., LTD. Her research area covers interaction design, experience design, service design and inclusive design, with a particular focus on data-driven experience design and inclusive service design for urban residential areas in China. She is currently the director of media and experience design laboratory at the school and has been conducted and lectured at interaction design, service design and digital media design courses at the university.

Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer
Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer
Delft University of Technology

Dr. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology, and Associate Fellow at the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney. Her main research interests are the practices, skills and attitudes that are required to address complex societal challenges, often referred to as social innovation. Her expertise includes human-centred design, problem framing and systemic design, which she has gained, applied and shared as researcher, designer and educator. In her day-to-day work she studies the social innovation practices of professionals working in the public and social sector, contributes to the development of new innovation methods and practices, and shares this knowledge through publications, presentations and education. Mieke holds a Master of Science in Industrial Design Engineering from Delft University of Technology (cum laude), and a PhD in User-Centred Design from the University of Twente, the Netherlands (cum laude).