Ux Magazine: Participatory Design in Practice

Originally posted on

As organizations embrace design-led innovation, they can struggle to reap the full value of human-centered design. A design team’s interactions with customers may often be limited to only the early research and late evaluation phases of the design process, while the work in between – when ideas are being generated – is left to the internal team alone. When this is the case, we miss the opportunity to discover some of the most valuable and customer-centered solutions.

Cue participatory design.

Participatory design is an approach to design strategy that brings customers into the heart of the design process. Also known as “co-creation”, “co-design”, or “cooperative design”, it emcompasses techniques useful to both initial discovery and subsequent ideation phases of a project, where the end-users of a product, service, or experience take an active role in co-designing solutions for themselves.

Understanding how someone would solve a challenge they face directly often surfaces new insights about their experiences. This new information better informs how designers focus their efforts, and the ideas users propose serve as actionable inspiration for the solutions created. Whether designing for consumers, employees, service providers, or other audiences, when we move past the challenge of designing for them and begin designing with them, we find the outcomes are more innovative and customer-centered.

What is Participatory Design?
What it is:
An approach to design that invites all stakeholders (e.g. customers, employees, partners, citizens, consumers) into the design process as a means of better understanding, meeting, and sometimes preempting their needs.

What it is not:

A way to “make your users do your job for you”
A single prescriptive method or tool
A rigidly defined process
A holy grail
Let’s take a look at a few ways participatory design can be valuable in practice.

Participatory Design in Practice
Finding deeper nuance for a large health insurance network
An health insurance insurance provider sought to design a new member portal that provides a highly personalized and anticipatory digital experience for all members. The design process was supported by participatory design sessions that helped drive designers toward a more anticipatory experience.

Role of Participatory Design:

Read the full article on


By: Jen Briselli, Jennifer Smerdel, Olga Elizarova, Kim Dowd

Want to offer your customers a better experience?

Let's work together: Contact Us Today

Contributed by:
Jen Briselli Managing Director, Experience Strategy & Design   Contact Jen
Jennifer Smerdel Experience Strategist
Olga Elizarova Senior Behavior Change Analyst   Contact Olga
Kim Dowd Experience Research Director

Newsletter Sign Up

Mad*Pow HQ

27 Congress Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Office: 603.436.7177
Fax: 603.386.6608


179 Lincoln Street
Boston, MA 02111

Office: 617.426.7177


Complete Sale Inquiry Form


Sales: solutions
Press: communications

Get in Touch