Civic Design

Carl DiSalvo
Carl DiSalvo
SLS FEWS Fellow
Associate Professor, School of Literature, Media and Communication Co-Director, SLS Fellows Programs

How would you define this Big Idea?

Civic design is the use of design inquiry and making to address societal issues and contribute to our communal lives. The methods are open and participatory and strive to foster and sustain direct democracy and radical pluralism. Civic design spans formal and informal contexts and practices, and includes organizations, systems, environments, media and communications. 
Common concerns of civic design include:

  • How might we care for one another?
  • How might we act collectively, rather than individually?
  • How might we care and act beyond humans, to recognize and respect nonhumans?
  • How might we transform our governments, institutions, and economies to be equitable, just, and sustainable? 
  • How might we address environmental, social, and economic injustice and develop new forms of reparative or restorative design? 
  • How might we make our communities resilient to environmental, social, and economic crises? 
  • How might we conduct formative, process-oriented, and diagnostic assessment of design projects to improve our capacities for and expressions of direct democracy and radical pluralism?

How is this Big Idea included in your work?

I direct the Public Design Workshop at Georgia Tech. I am in the process of starting a Vertically Integrated Project on civic design and collaborating with SLS to launch a Civic Design Lab offering methods, techniques, and materials for:

  • Civic design thinking and making
  • Collaborative innovation
  • Developing technological literacy within organizations and communities
  • Developing design literacy within organizations and communities
  • Engaging in productive debate over contentious issues of concern 
  • Prototyping technologies and services
  • Conducting formative, process-oriented, and diagnostic assessment of projects 

Learn more:

Public Design Workshop: projects and publications

Big Idea: