In the Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary by Dan Hill, he argues that strategic design is not about finding a solution, it is about gaining more insight into the situation for which you are designing. In order to create innovative, disruptive, lasting design, you need to design in a way that changes the infrastructure of the context in which you design. This context that is encompassed by things such as culture, structural relationships, legislative frameworks, business models, policies, etc. Hill refers to this context as dark matter. This is in reference to the theoretical physics term that is in explains the matter that can only be observed by its effects but not directly. This context of design can only really be observed by the effects that it has holistically. If you have the ability to observe this dark matter and create solutions that make it easier to see the macroscope of the situation then you have the ability to create design that is disrupts the system and effectively creating a lasting solution.
Hill refers to this wider systematic change as the meta and the design or other physical artifact as the matter. This matter can unlock the meta, meaning that design can bring awareness or more understanding of the situation and its context. In the same way meta can unlock the matter. For example, Renew Newcastle was successful because it changed the system in which people in Newcastle could occupy space in the city centre. Renew Newcastle convinced the landlords into new contracts and made it so that individuals could take out licenses instead of leases on the buildings. They saw a problem in the legal infrastructure and worked around it in order to regenerate and rehabilitate an entire area of Newcastle. This is why it is important to delve deep into the infrastructure of the problem or situation in order to fully understand it. Sometimes the problem is not easily seen from the outside and requires the investigation that is necessary with all good strategic design. Without the investigation into the leasing process in the city centre there would not have been a solution that was as appropriate for the actual situation in Newcastle.
This is why Hill suggests later in the reading that it is extremely important to work in multidisciplinary groups when working on strategic projects. In order to create solutions that will create a project that prevalent to the most people as possible it’s important to understand as many perspectives as possible. But, when working in an organization design roles can often unintentionally be taken on by people who are not designers. Decisions made by people throughout the organization often influence the solution or the product. These solutions or products design the situation in which we live. Every choice, whether intentional or not, has been designed by us as a society. That is why it is so important to delve into the dark matter of the situations. Without understanding the full context we design based on our own assumptions. We therefore design for a situation that may not actually be the macroscope of the system.