Design for good


A little over a week ago, I travelled to Wales to run a workshop with university students, on design for good. Specifically exploring how graphic design can contribute to positive change.

It was a rewarding day. The students were engaged, creative and humorous, and I can't wait to see what they come up with in response to the term-long brief I've set them.

Key questions explored included: 

  • Why design? Why do we designers do what we do? What can it achieve? 
  • Why design for good? What benefit to planet, profit and especially, people? What's in it for the designer him or herself?!
  • How can we design for good? Why should people care? How can we present our ideas and messages about positive action in ways that are useful and desirable to people? What tools are at our disposal for this mission?

I know I always hammer on about the significance of starting all journeys and enquiries with the self. In true form, I asked the students why they have chosen to be designers in the first place. Their responses included: "to communicate,"  "to educate," "it's challenging."

Why am I a designer? To help improve people's wellbeing. Whether that be through supporting the activities that provide their livelihood; affirming their identity and uniqueness; encouraging respect of self, community and environment or; through facilitating communication and interaction between groups for the mutual benefit of all.

That involves designing/facilitating experiences and this blog is an example of such.

At the end of the design for good day, what's key is respecting diversity. Nature demonstrates this to us every day and we designers, and people in general, can learn a lot by observing it. People are different and are driven and excited by different things. Our role as designers is to truly understand who our audiences are, what attitudes they have towards the changes we are encouraging and for us to find away to position positive change as exciting, useful and desirable. We have to inspire.

"Ultimately, it is the agenda with which we approach the making of things that must be truly diverse."
— Michael Braungart & William McDonough

And final inspiration from US President, John F. Kennedy:

"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities.We need people who can dream of things that never were."

If you're interested in exploring design for good with your students, company or organisation, please do get in touch. I'd love to help you get people excited and inspired!

Images: some great books on the subject including Do Good Design: How Design can Change our World: How Communicators can Save the World by David B. Berman, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we make Things by Michael Braungart & William McDonough, Massive Change: A Manifesto for the Future Global Design Culture by Bruce Mau

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