"...the [designer's] task is to design for the individual placed in his or her immediate context." (Buchanan 1998, p. 20)
This paper about a graphic design case study discusses the positive impact of stakeholder participation during the problem-setting phase of the design process on the designer's ability to reframe the design problem and to conceptualise human-centered design solutions that add value and enrich people's everyday lives.
A participatory action research methodology was followed with the designer in dual roles of designer and researcher. Mixed methods including interviews, participatory workshops and critical reflection were employed during four distinct phases — evaluating and comparing the development of the brief, framing of the design problem and the designer's proposed solutions after each phase.
Ethically the design process benefitted from participatory action research in terms of empowering stakeholders to actively, democratically and equally participate in the identification and solving of their own problems. The strict guiding principles of participatory action research guaranteed the designer's critical evaluation of and reflection on the process and the impact of potential solutions. Lastly, rich information about user needs enabled the design of innovative, useful solutions that addresses individual user needs on a practical level rather than only the aesthetic appeal of the product.