Applying design in public administration: a literature review to explore the state of the art

Margot Hermus, Arwin van Buuren, Victor Bekkers


The attention for applying design-oriented approaches in public administration has increased significantly. Applying design is seen as a promising way to deal with wicked problems and create more responsive policies and services. We aim to contribute to the debate on the value of design for public administration and the development of the latter into a design science by conducting a systematic literature review into the empirical applications of design. We analyse the goals, processes and outcomes of 92 empirical studies. Based upon this we distil six design approaches, varying from traditional scientific and informational approaches to innovative, user-driven and thus more ‘inspirational’ approaches. The more traditional (science-driven) approaches still dominate the field. The impact of these types of studies is correspondingly low. We argue that further developing and refining the whole range of design approaches can foster both the scientific rigour and the societal relevance of a design-oriented public administration.


policy design, design thinking

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@Annual Review of Policy Design ISSN: ISSN 2291-6989