Hover Effect


    On Design / Policy, and being in the pursuit of good.

The etymology of Design derives from Latin’s designare, “to intend, to shape.”

Policy derives from Greek’s politeia, “way of community.”

To be at the intersection of the two is to work at scales that shape communities. This roots itself in design’s original etymology of intentionality, translating to a process that deeply understands pain points, activates communities, and facilitates tangible impact. In other words, a means to navigate broad social problems and find effective solutions.

On the same side of the token, policy is an inherent response to human collectivism. As society organizes into governments and institutions, policies are how organizations solve problems or accomplish goals. Policy guides behavior, allocates resources, and introduces systems – all of which have long-term implications for the well-being of any given community.

Design and policy, then, are a natural segue into meaningful change – drivers combatting our world’s most urgent, wicked problems. The kinds of problems that determine whether a family has food on the table, the rate at which our climate temperatures rise, or if an individual has access to the healthcare they need. 

Meaningful change demands time, patience, and relentless optimism.

Our most pressing problems are governed more by nuance than clear-cut clarity. Daunting at first, time has proven ambiguity opens more pathways for impact. Meaningful change cannot be achieved through oversimplification or universality. However, it can be defined by time, patience, and relentless optimism that there is potential for better. An unwavering hope that our world can, and deserves to, be better. To do so takes time, and while extensive timelines in these kinds of problem spaces are often discouraging, they are also a method of accountability and sustainability. Resilient systems do not happen overnight, rather they are the long premeditation of an enduring, adaptive future. 

Meaningful change may veer its course, but it always has its compass.

The process of bringing about meaningful change will always have tradeoffs. Do I impact many people widely, or few people deeply? Which user group demands more attention? Do we tackle the system or the symptom? A bias to action often means honing focus, juxtaposing an idealistic future with what is feasible, viable, and desirable. Design and policy, as dynamic practices, will always have precedents and successors. Routes may be ill-defined or become muddy, but it is up to individual practitioners to define their north star, imagine the world they hope for, and find people working towards the same future. Navigating tradeoffs can mean compromising the path, but the magnetism of the north star will always hold steadfast.

Meaningful change is grounded in lived experiences, iteratively.

When policies fail, the blame is often shifted to civil servants. Yet, attention is rarely ever given to the process in which the policy was designed. The practice of design and policy must always be rooted in the lived experiences of the people who are impacted – not just the people who receive, but also the people who deliver. Any assortment of tools can help think through impact potential (user research, journey mapping, service blueprinting – the list is extensive), but tools are solely a means for qualified iteration. Meaningful change is iterative, and communities must be continuously engaged in the development process. The goal, then, becomes providing a model for communities to ultimately tackle solutions for themselves, diffusing a capacity for meaningful change at local scales.

At the intersection of design and policy lies a boundless vehicle to advance a future that is more galvanized, democratized, and collaborative. To me, and I hope for you too, this is undeniably worth pursuing. 

Select References

All Party Parliamentary, Thinking, Testing, Making: A Manifesto for Design

Interaction Design Foundation, Wicked Problems

Lighthouse, The Policy Design Framework

MIT D-Lab, Design For / Design With / Design By

M. Lazier, A Personal Design Manifesto

O. Tangen, DPI / September 2022 [Discussion]

United States Digital Service, Mission


This living manifesto was last edited on July 3, 2024. If it provokes a thought, resonance, or critique, feel free to reach out.