Harnessing technology to re-engage citizens with social issues

About us

The Design+Democracy Project is a research unit at Massey University’s College of Creative Arts, New Zealand. We are exploring the role that design and ‘design thinking’ can play in advancing 21st century citizenship. These days, technology has made it easier than ever to access information, connect, build networks and communicate ideas. But technology alone does not mean young people will engage in political conversations. We think design is the missing ingredient. Through design, we can harness technology to build a vibrant democracy.

This year we’re focused on improving voter turnout at local body elections in New Zealand. Our past initiatives include the award-winning online youth voter facilitation web tools, On the Fence and Ask Away. During the 2014 New Zealand General Elections, independent research showed our work to be the most successful in engaging young electors. We’re proud of that. Recently we sought to enrich and draw lessons from the New Zealand Flag Consideration Process through Flagpost.

We believe in collaboration and work in partnership with industry, Government, and the social sector.

The Team

Karl Kane

Project Leader, Research Director
BA, BDes (Hons), MDes
Lecturer, School of Design, College of Creative Arts

Karl is a design educator, researcher and practitioner at Massey University. His academic work surveys emergent design practices, with focus on service, experience and social design, civic participation and brand communication. He leads and facilitates the brand communication and experience design suite of papers as part of Massey University’s BDes (Hons) degree, and specialises in contextual-studio and work-integrated teaching and learning modes. His research explores 21st century citizenship through a user-centred design lens, with the establishment of the Design+Democracy Project central to that work.

Tim Parkin

Senior Design Researcher
BDes (Hons), MDes
Lecturer, School of Design, College of Creative Arts

Tim is the Subject Director of Visual Communication and Senior Lecturer in Experience Design at Massey University. He has over 25 years experience working across a range of communication platforms in both the corporate and arts sector, and for community groups and social enterprises. His research investigates the use of human-centred design processes to develop improved user experiences and solutions for social innovation and civic participation.

Thomas Le Bas

Junior Research Officer
BDes (Hons), MDes

Thomas completed a Master of Design project that asked the question of how to facilitate a democratic design process, and was explored through New Zealand’s Flag Consideration Process. While Thomas sees himself as an information designer at his core, he has a wide variety of design and technical skills. He has worked in Wellington and Berlin for a number of years, and brings with him a unique perspective and set of experiences.

Kieran Stowers

BDes (Hons), MDes

Kieran is an award-winning graphic designer and valued Master of Design graduate. As an afakasi of Dutch and Samoan ancestry, Kieran’s cross-cultural life and design experience has led him to investigate the emerging intersections of national identity, civic engagement and visual communication design. His interests lie in the capability of design to develop innovative new modes of community dialogue and civic participation in the 21st Century.

Meg Howie

BDes (Hons), MDes

Meg Howie, Ngai Tahu, is a designer and thinker whose practice emphasises human-centred and transformational design. She has worked within the public sector, social enterprise and the technology start-up environment. Her project, Ask Away, involved the creation of an online question and answer platform designed to facilitate youth political participation in the lead up to the 2014 New Zealand General Election.

Prof. Claire Robinson

Project Mentor
BA (Hons), BDes, PhD

Claire’s research interest is the visual communication of political messages in the context of election campaigning and political leadership. Her research has been disseminated through international peer reviewed journal articles, book chapters, international conferences and designs. She is also frequent media commentator on New Zealand politics.