Anna Whicher: “Design is an approach to problem-solving that puts the user at the heart of the development process”

Head of Design Policy of the International Design and Research Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University, explains why design is a way to involve people in overcoming societal challenges and how different design models should work in Ukrainian realities.

- What economic and social benefits can design bring to Ukraine?

Design is an approach to problem-solving that puts the user at the heart of the development process. As such, it can be applied to developing user-friendly products and services in the private sector as well as effective public services.

Research has demonstrated that companies that invest in design and use design strategically tend to grow faster. The Government in Ukraine could establish a programme to support companies to use design effectively. Design is also a way to involve citizens effectively in designing their own public services. The Ukrainian Government could experiment with design approaches as a way to involve people in improving public services, overcoming societal challenges and enhancing wellbeing. 

- What design models can work and be successful in Ukrainian realities? And how we can implement them?

To understand what design models might be successful in Ukraine it is important to understand user needs, develop concepts with users and test concepts with users. For example, if the Government want to develop a programme to enable Ukrainian companies to use design, it should involve businesses in developing the concept for the programme. For example, is a Design Voucher or is design mentoring or is it a Design Lab? We can use design methods to explore the best models for Ukraine.

- Can you give us 3 successful examples of design/design thinking projects?


Evaluating the Northern Ireland Innovation Lab

Customer Experience Mapping


Head and Neck Reconstruction

As Head of Design Policy, Anna Whicher is the lead researcher on policies and programmes for design and innovation at PDR, the International Design and Research Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Anna currently leads the Design4Innovation project funded by INTERREG Europe with eight partners with the aim to integrate design into financial and non-financial business support programmes and to support governments to develop Design Action Plans.

From 2009 to 2015, she coordinated the SEE network of 11 European partners sharing international best practice to accelerate the take-up of design in innovation policies and programmes. SEE delivered 112 hands-on workshops to over 1,000 policy-makers across Europe and as a result, the partners integrated design into 18 policies and 48 programmes.

She is also a board member of the Bureau of European Design Associations. Previously, she has worked in UK Parliament, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for Siemens in Paris.

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