Process Lab: Citizen Design is an exhibition running at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum from September 30th 2016 to September 17th 2017.

Through a series of props and tools, the exhibition takes participants through a design process in which they are asked to respond to a future-shaping challenge.

The exhibition space is designed to invite visitors to engage with numbered subsequent stations, that take them through the design journey.
Forms and props help to clarify the questions and provide suggestions on possible tactics and approaches to use for solving the design challenge.

At the beginning of the process participants are asked to chose a value that is particularly important to them. Then, they are asked to choose a question to tackle (e.g. “How might we encourage people to explore their communities”). Finally, participants are asked to use some of the design tactics to answer the challenge by making their value tangible through a design solution.


The process is recorded through analogue as well as digital means:

  • the postcards that are used to sketch and annotate choices during the development of design ideas are collected and exhibited on a wall in the exhibition room.
  • participants are also asked to record the answer to the questions along the design process using the museum’s “Pen”. The results of these choices are visualised in real time on screens in the room as well as online.


These screens show a snapshot of the values and challenges that are important to participants visiting the museum, while the wall collecting the postcards works more like an invitation to explore impressions, notes, comments, interpretations, and quirk design ideas.

Process Lab: Citizen Design is inspired by the GRAY AREA project and developed in partnership with ISA-Interface Studio Architects.

More information here:

Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum:

Cooper Hewitt Labs, Citizen Design Case Study (blog post):