Design and the Social Imagination

Mathew DelSesto

Bloomsbury

Effective action and thoughtful reflection are crucial to our survival. It is increasingly common however that we are either primarily focused on action, where we experience burnout and lose our sense of purpose or are absorbed so deeply into reflection that we become immobilized to the suffering and complexity of the world.

Presenting a unique transdisciplinary approach to design and social sciences, this book attempts to bridge this gap. Tracing a particular lineage of action-oriented social research in the work of three social thinkers as activists— Patrick Geddes, Jane Addams and W.E.B. Du Bois—the book shows how it is possible to combine the reflective, analytical capacities of the social sciences with the creative, action-oriented sensibility of design.

By sketching a re-framing of the relation between social sciences and design, it shows how thought can be more connected to action than is typically presumed in today’s professional practices. The intent here is to contribute to a new language about social thought and action that belongs to neither design nor social sciences alone.

Translating and inter-relating the insights of both social thinkers and designers in an accessible format that is relevant to the present, Design and the Social Imagination offers models, ideas and strategies for those who are interested in taking reflective and effective action today.

In a world of global economic inequality, racism, and environmental degradation, this book shows how we can cultivate our capacity to face social reality, imagine different worlds, and work together to shape the future.

Matthew DelSesto is coordinator of the Initiative for Community Justice & Engaged Pedagogy and doctoral candidate in Sociology at Boston College, where his research practice focuses on social-ecological interventions and public engagement towards equity and sustainability. He previously studied urban design at Parsons School of Design. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, The Hearst Foundations, and the Center for Human Rights and International Justice.