Political Debate As Design Process: A Frame Analysis

Darren Umney, Peter Lloyd, Stephen Potter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Using data from the historical record of a major nineteenth century infrastructure project, this paper shows how controversial national debates can be seen as processes of design. Central to the idea of political debate as design is the concept of framing, where different ways of understanding a developing artefact are played out through conflict and resolution. The paper begins by setting the governmental context of infrastructure development before undertaking a detailed textual analysis of a specific meeting to draw out elements of a design-like discourse. The meeting participants construct a sequence of frames through which they explore their problem and with which they refine a strategy for moving forward in the process. The paper concludes that viewing political debate as a process of design can shift emphasis away from it being considered a ‘simple’ decision- making to more complex ideas about how our common future is shaped.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesign Research Society (DRS) 2014 Conference: Design's Big Debates
Place of PublicationUmea, Sweden
PublisherUmea Institute of Design, Umea University
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9789176010686
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2014
EventDesign Research Society (DRS) 2014 Conference: Design's Big Debates - Umea, Sweden, 16-19 June
Duration: 16 Jun 2014 → …


ConferenceDesign Research Society (DRS) 2014 Conference: Design's Big Debates
Period16/06/14 → …

Bibliographical note

© 2014 by the Design Research Society, Umeå Institute of Design, and the authors


  • Political debate
  • design process
  • frames
  • design discourse
  • infrastructure


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