In high school, I watched this video about a group of employees at a design firm called IDEO and their process for brainstorming and creating new products. The team of designers go through a series of phases through which they develop prototypes and test them with real members of communities. Integral in their design and mode of thinking is the participation of the consumer and the integration of consumer wants and desires into creating a better product. The concept of including the consumer perspective when designing products makes sense in that the more the consumer is thought of at the design level, the more appealing the final product will be.
In his TED talk, current CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, discusses design thinking and processes as a model for thinking about more than just products but about larger world issues. Brown argues that participatory design thinking can be used to solve or work on larger questions and problems. If a group can produce more prototypes to be tested in a community, then the community can participate more in the creation of a product that suits their needs. In the context of greater social problems, these “prototypes” could be ideas for systems and infrastructure that address issues. In this way, participatory design has applications outside of business and in government and society.