Measuring Social Values of Design

Measuring Social Values of Design in the Commercial Sector

The DME Award strives to develop further knowledge and understanding of Design Management. An understanding of how Corporate Social Responsibility currently fits with businesses’ Design Management agendas, and the potential for how this might develop in future is of great interest to the DME Award. Hence, the DME Award supported the research project “Measuring Social Values of Design in the Commercial Sector”.

Measuring Social Values of Design is an exploratory research project conducted by Brunel University London and Cardiff Metropolitan University, funded by the AHRC, to understand the social values of design and explore contextual issues, value and the means of measuring the social impact of design.

Click on the picture to download the full report

Click on the picture to download the full report


Project Overview

The aim of this exploratory research is to understand the meaning of social value, especially in CSR practices, and to explore contextual issues, value and means of measuring the social impact of design. SMEs are the main focus, with a view to expanding the applications to cover other types of organisations in the future.

The project consisted of two main phases.

Phase 1 attempted to understand the contextual issues surrounding social value, CSR and social design. This exploratory phase focused on identifying the theoretical and practical interpretation of social values and how design benefits social value creation. A literature review was followed by Exploratory Workshop 1, Workshop 1, and SME interviews were conducted.

Phase 2, investigated current measurement tools in both business and social contexts, and in design, to create an agenda for developing a possible future tool to measure the social values of design. This phase also had two workshops: Exploratory Workshop 2 and Workshop 2, and supporting desktop research ensured that a balanced view of the topic was covered.

The following working definition of social value was created for the research: financial/emotional appreciation by the users or potential users of products/services/brands (PSB) which address social issues for the individual, company, community and/or environment in order to create a good society whilst meeting the needs of an organisation. As a result the subsequent categorisation of social value emerged:

  • Individual Ethics
  • Company Ethics
  • Community Ethos
  • Responsibility for the Natural Environment.

The elements which create social values in PSB were also identified. These elements should be able to reach the masses with a good understanding of the culture and, should thus encourage improved behavioural and system changes. The social value categories were used to create an overview of possible social value areas where design can have a beneficial impact.Both the literature review and the series of workshops revealed that design influences all areas of the identified social value categories. Moreover, when design is fully integrated in a system it can make a real impact on society. Analysis of the workshops also identified the importance of balance in the measurement tool, i.e. the tool should be in-depth yet simple to use, which may be difficult to achieve.

The idea of a measurement tool for the social values of design was well received, and it is anticipated that it could amplify the ability of design to tackle social issues, both for companies and in the design community. It was also seen as a possible tool for designers to use, as a checklist to design better products and services which take societal benefits into consideration. The measurement tool can also be a competitive advantage for both design consultancies and businesses because it is expected to provide evidential documentation of the value of design work. However, issues which may arise from such a tool include difficulty in measuring design contribution and quality, the danger of being subjective, reliance on individual companies to take action, the complex nature of the social value to be covered by a single tool, and the need for continuous evaluation. Reliability (objectivity), measurability, adoptability and acceptability were identified as the key elements to consider in the development of a tool to measure the social values of design.

For more information visit the project webpage: Social Value of Design
Return to Top