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Design for/by All: Empowerment through AI-Assisted Participatory Design

How can artificial intelligence (AI) make the stages of participatory design more inclusive, accessible and equitable?


Advances in AI are having a huge impact on many aspects of our daily lives, making it possible to automate repetitive, laborious or dangerous tasks, and to analyze large quantities of data. This is leading to a better understanding of users' needs, and more justified and legitimate decisions in areas such as healthcare, transport and finance.

AI refers to the ability of a machine to reproduce human-related behaviors, such as reasoning, planning and creativity. ( European Parliament )

What's more, these advances also have important consequences for the design profession, as the emergence and proliferation of AI-based design tools make the creative process more accessible to a wider range of people. It is therefore crucial to ask fundamental and ethical questions about the consequences of this new technology on the design professions, and how to integrate it responsibly and effectively to make it an allied, collaborative and collaborative tool.


Indeed, AI also makes it possible to propose more tailored and personalized solutions for users, reduce human error, optimize processes, and save time and money. It is therefore important to ask about the accountability and transparency of decisions made by AI, and the ethical, economic and social impacts. It is also important to ensure that the use of AI does not marginalize certain populations or create bias in the results obtained. It is therefore crucial to continue exploring the possibilities of AI in design, while ensuring that these technological advances are used responsibly and ethically to improve the quality of life for all users.



A study by McKinsey showed that companies using AI in their design process saw their efficiency increase by 10-20% and their design time reduce by 50-60%.


The enthusiasm for AI-assisted design tools comes from the ease of access and efficiency of creation. With a few commands and a few clicks, we can generate hundreds of iterations in just a few minutes. While the exploration of aesthetics is fascinating, it risks making us forget about design challenges such as ergonomics or user needs. Fascination with AI-generated content, which will flood social media, risks focusing the debate on AI instead of on how to integrate AI into design processes. At the same time, this accessibility of design tools may lead to an increased focus on efficiency and cost-effectiveness, to the detriment of other important considerations such as sustainability and social impact.



While we can observe a democratization of design tools, we can't help but notice a lack of design methods. Tools are important, but the methods used to design and create answers to complex problems are decisive. The design process is not just about using a tool, but also about understanding the problem, considering the user and the context.


We believe that the efficiency and accessibility brought about by AI offers an opportunity to develop a new creative process, one that welcomes the participation and contribution of everyone involved in making a design project more inclusive, equitable and fair.


 

Participatory design is an existing approach: non-designer and designer work together to create a relevant solution. There are several levels of collaboration:


In consultation and concertation, Designer exchanges with users to understand their needs, and then creates a corresponding solution. The designer therefore plays a decisive and determining role, having the say in choosing and defining the solution, based on his or her skills, experience and interpretation.


Co-creation is a more collaborative and democratic process. Designers, experts, stakeholders and interested parties work as a group, sharing their vision and creative power, to collectively develop a more inclusive and equitable outcome.



In reality, in the co-creation process, the designer assumes the role of interpreter and creator of the result, drawing on his or her skills and experience. This situation stems mainly from two major factors. Firstly, participants may lack adequate means to fully express their ideas, making the designer the interpreter of the artifacts produced by the participants, with the risk that the final result may not be inclusive or equitable. Secondly, the absence of adequate design methods among participants can lead to unpredictability in the maturity and temporality of the result. As a result, the application of participatory design remains limited to certain areas and stages of the design process.


 

How could AI-assisted creative processes improve design methods and practices?


We think it's up to us to reimagine the relationship we want to have with this new tool and how to use it for a better design practice, a design that is more ethical and up to the challenges of our time :


Accessible design:

By making design tools more accessible through AI, more diverse groups of people can contribute their perspectives and ideas. But to empower design for all, especially underrepresented groups, simple access to design tools is not enough if systemic barriers persist in their participation in the design process. Methods need to be transparent, understandable and easily reproducible.


Inclusive design:

By involving users and other stakeholders in the design process, designers can gain a deeper understanding of user needs and preferences, and create solutions that are more likely to be used and accepted by a wide range of people. By using AI-based tools and methods, designers should ensure that the final solution is more inclusive, taking into account considerations such as accessibility and cultural diversity.


Fair design:

By analyzing large amounts of data, AI-assisted design tools can identify patterns and ideas that would be difficult for humans to discern. This can help identify user needs and preferences that might be overlooked by traditional design methods, and ensure that the final design is fair and equitable for all users.



We are convinced that AI-assisted participatory design is a key approach for tomorrow's design, where users collaborate closely with designers and are actively involved in the design process, such as research, co-creation, prototyping and evaluation. Thanks to accessible AI tools and adaptive design methods, users can play a more active and constructive role, leading to "design for & by all", as more voices and experiences are taken into account.


In order to put our approach into practice, two major questions require in-depth answers:

  • How can design methods be adapted to AI tools and made partially accessible to all?

  • What is the designer's new mission in this collaborative creative process?


These complex questions inspire us to transform them into an ambitious research project, exploring the synergies between design methods, AI tools and the emerging role of the designer in the constantly evolving context of collaborative creation. We are currently looking for collaborations.



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