From here. What is policy design?
Public policies are the results of efforts made by governments to alter aspects of their own or social behaviour to carry out different and wide-ranging ends or purposes. Should all of these efforts be thought of as embodying a conscious ‘design’? In most cases the answer is ‘yes’. Policy design extends to both the means or mechanisms through which goals are given effect, and to the goals themselves, since goal articulation inevitably involves considerations of feasibility, or what is practical or possible to achieve in given circumstances (Huitt 1968; Majone 1975; Ingraham 1987).
In their many works on the subject in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Stephen H. Linder and B. Guy Peters argued that the actual process of public policy decision-making could, in an analytical sense, be divorced from the abstract concept of policy design, in the same way that an abstract architectural concept can be divorced from its engineering manifestation. In this sense, policy designs can be thought of as ideal configurations of sets of policy elements which within a specific context can reasonably be expected to deliver a specific outcome.