“Design can take what may seem impossible or unimaginable and turn it into something that people can relate to. Through design, we can both imagine and realize alternatives for the way our society is structured, and the way people experience the world.” 

As a design researcher and social designer, Shay Raviv is no stranger to the role that design can play in building a more inclusive society. Having grown up in Israel, Raviv moved to Europe when she was in her 20s in order to connect with other cultures, before she eventually settled in the Netherlands. A graduate of the Design Academy Eindhoven, Raviv’s approach to design is one that centers around people’s experiences, ensuring that whatever she puts out into the world will have a real and discernible impact. “I always liked combining a very analytical view of the world with a more creative one. I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to be a designer, but I knew I was looking for something that was both applied and artistic.”

Having worked at various design studios in Amsterdam, including Studio Irene Fortuyn and STBY, Raviv co-founded De Voorkamer in 2016, an inclusive meeting space in Utrecht’s multicultural neighbourhood, Lombok. Through a variety of workshops and events, the project offers participants – a mix of newly arrived refugees and local inhabitants – a place where they can come to establish new connections, harness their creativity and exchange ideas, stories and experiences.

Participants at the De Voorkamer space in Utrecht. Credit: Shay Raviv

Indeed, much of Raviv’s work is informed by this idea of community-building. She notes that much of her inspiration is drawn from “the people she works with – those conversations, interactions, exchanges of ideas and building off of each other’s experiences.” As a social designer, she is also keenly aware how individual experiences can shape design outcomes and has worked to ensure that the projects she develops are embedded within the context in which she is working. “Beyond concept and experimentation, designers must reflect on their positionality. What is your background, can you identify your blindspots and how they relate to the topic at hand?”

Raviv during a book presentation for A Place to Stay in Veenhuizen. Credit: Design Academy Eindhoven

In 2021, Raviv co-authored the book A Place to Stay: Practising Embedded Design, which further explores the importance of embedded design by presenting the process and results of designers who worked in and around the former penal colony of Veenhuizen (Netherlands). Weaving together diverse interviews and conversations, the book analyzes how designers can aim to foster enduring and successful collaborations with local communities.

Exhibition by the Embassy of Inclusive Society at Dutch Design Week 2022. Credit: Tommy Köhlbrug

As the field of social design expands, there is no doubt that Raviv’s body of work will continue to impact not only those within her community, but also other designers looking to enact positive change. Ultimately, the goal is really to ensure design projects that are both contextually relevant and have some sense of continuity within a community. “I am very curious to see how we move further towards design initiatives that address societal questions or issues in which the notion of maintenance is brought forward. Designers must think about their initiatives not so much as something they leave behind, but as a body or system that requires ongoing maintenance and care.”

To learn more about Shay and her work, visit: https://www.shayraviv.com/

Quick Fire Questionnaire

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Analytical. Go-Getter. Extroverted.

What are you currently reading?

Designing Cities for All by Pakhuis de Zwijger

Favourite word? 

Nieuwsgierig, a Dutch word that translates to curious. When I was learning Dutch and was first taught this word, my teacher said it could be seen as a combination of News and Gier (vulture in Dutch). I imagined a bird that is craving news, or hunting for news, and this metaphor has stuck with me ever since.

Design for the present or design for the future? 

I don’t really feel like these two need to be in opposition. Design is about phases and continuity, rather than the constraints of today or tomorrow. We should design for the future, but practice and position it in the present.