The J-Frame is a model that we use to guide our design work and to choose approaches that are appropriate for the ‘social space’ (context) into which we are designing.
The complete J-Frame is built-up of four main components:
TWO DESIGN SPACES
In Total Design all elements reflect a single vision. This started with the Bauhaus movement, encompassing everything from buildings and typefaces to electronic goods and kitchen appliances. Complete control of all elements of a design can make for elegance – given the right designer – but it is totally exclusive. We are invited to consume the end product that is a total vision of the designer, not to participate in the vision.
Social Design goes beyond “design for good outcomes”. It is consciousness about how our interactions shape the world around us. We can choose to change the sum of our individual actions to shape the world around us in a more positive way. Social Design is collaboration about collaboration.
There are two primary domains into which we can work: the political world and the operational world. Each requires different skills and attributes to be successful. Just as in an hourglass, content from either domain needs to filter down to the other domain, and the model can be inverted. So neither domain is on top of the other and both domains feed into their opposites. We must elevate the skills, mindset and knowledge that are required at the most appropriate time.
The operational domain can be best addressed through co- or user-based design, both enlightened forms of Total Design. These are inadequate for the political domain, which requires Social Design approaches.
Four pairs of counter-perspectives help to contextualise the nature of the two spaces and two domains.
The Political Realm addresses the question of what could be. It benefits from being addressed by people with holistic perspectives. Most essentially, the political realm is about shaping the space in which people can collaborate and live. This creates an intersection with architecture.
The Operational Realm addresses the question of what should be. It is best addressed with the specialised knowledge needed to fill identified gaps.
Five progressively sophisticated levels of capability define the abilities of practitioners within each domain. These range from the physical to the metaphysical. Each capability recognises a transecting range of understanding, from the scientific application of that capability to the philosophical understanding of its root.
Both pyramids culminate in variants of meaning and identity. The creation of public space is ultimately imbued with historical and cultural meaning, which needs to be understood and can be shaped. The occupation of private space can create intuitive familiarity and a sense of inevitability by deep references to themes that are meaningful to users.