Co-creation , co-design and co-production, similarities in their definition

Co-creation , co-design and co-production, similarities in their definition

Research of user participation started back in the 70’s on Nigel Cross organized the conference called ‘Design Participation’ under the Design Research Society. Nowadays, the term design participation or participatory design refers to three different approaches, that are co-creation,co-production, and co-design.  

Definition of co-creation
The process of co-creation includes the design and management of a service or product.

The cocreation process is the active involvement of the final users of a product/service at the different phases of the production process. The concept of  is related to public participation, community involvement, and collective governance in the case of public services field. The final users, in this case the citizens, are considered as creative partners that may help into the design stages, rather to be considered as the final users, who doesn’t take part into design processes. Authors like Taco Brandsen indicated that cocreation concerns the collaborative definition of services with the users at the strategic level. Meanwhile, the co-production is associated with the intervention of the users at the service delivery. For instance, in the education service provided by the schools, co-creation is practised when the parents (or parent associations) meet the assigned tutor of their children to set the next steps. Co-production is natural and inherent in the case of class sessions. This condition is given by the fact that the subject’s program progression depends on a high degree in student capabilities/advancement. In this scenario, the student co-produces what the teacher has to conduct in the next sessions.

Some authors identified the co-creation as the composition of co-production and co-design, meanwhile others indicated that co-creation is a particular case of co-design. (Dudau 2019, Grönroos 2011, Sanders 2008).

The concept of co-design

The concept of co-design emerges from the strategy of User Centred Design(UCD). The UCD is one of the firsts methods to describe the participatory design at the industry. UCD is a concept that have been covered since the ’70s by experts like Jones 1970, that conducted a translation between the user knowledge to a formal statements after informal dialogue sessions, which the designers may interpret better. The concept of participatory approach is an area started by Nygaard 1975,  who described a set of methods because he determined that the users may have different ideas for a product/service than its creator. He indicated that those ideas are richer but unestructured and can be captured with the appropriated tools.

The conception of co-design may be different depending the area,for instance, in the IT area, the co-design methodologies try to involve as many and different people possible at the design process to get from the different designs and functionality a shared consensus of the final product/service that may fit all the cases. Meanwhile, at the area of social sciences the co-designers are generally groups of stakeholders, which will be the final product/service user, optimizing the result to fit as possible to their needs.

Co-design is where the final users are involved into the design phases of a service / product.
The co-production

In the co-production processes the role of the citizens is fundamental as they perform the task of service transformation (Lember  2018). There is no doubt that the information technology available in the current days is fundamental and meaningful to coordinate the co-production processes. Social media, crowd-sources, among the others, are example of tools enabling the initiatives the tasks distribution between citizens enabling the sustainability of a public service and becoming more productive.

Becuase this experts like Cynthia A. 2000, defined the co-production as the process of engaging the customers as participants in the organization’s work, having to main benefits: reduce the delivery and customization costs and also offering personalizing options for the users’ needs.

This reduction in the service delivery or product manufacture is due to transladate the responsibility of the final assembly and configuration to the user. This also reduces personnel and cost of transport. The task delegated are usually simple, like final trims of an article, decorations or configuration options in digital devices. This generate the perception of personalized product to the final user because he has done final setups on his product making possible choices.

In co-production a final assembly of a product or service configuration is delegated to the final user.


  1. Dudau, A., Glennon, R. and Verschuere, B. (2019). Following the yellow brick road? (dis)enchantment with co-design, co-production and value co-creation in public services, Public Management Review 21(11): 1577–1594.
  2. Grönroos, C. and Ravald, A. (2011). Service as business logic: Implications for value creation and marketing, Journal of Service Management 22: 5–22.
  3. Sanders, E. and Stappers, P. J. (2008). Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, CoDesign 4: 5–18.
  4. Jones, J. (1970). Design Methods Wiley.
  5. Nygaard, K. (1975). Kunnskaps-strategi for fagbevegelsen, Nordisk Forum, Vol. 10, pp. 15–27.
  6. Lember, V. and Nurkse, R. (2018). The role of new technologies in co production and co-creation
  7. A., L. C., (Cindy), C. V. and W., I. L. (2000). From recipient to contributor: examining customer roles and experienced outcomes, European Journal of Marketing 34(3/4): 359–383.

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