Posts tagged ‘activism’

SFI12: Design is relational.

Part 5 of 5

The day’s self-described “analyst and scribe” Steven Moore was last to speak to the Structures audience on Saturday. Throughout the day, Moore tracked the topics covered using a spreadsheet, and then ranked the topics by frequency. The ones covered most were: relationships, participation, spatial justice, & organizational structure. Public interest designers are clearly a participatory, activist, and practical bunch!

Moore tracked the topics covered by panelists (and audience members) for his closing remarks

One of Moore’s major takeaways from the day’s presentations was that “outsiders, or ‘valuable strangers,’ can broker knowledge but also adapt [outside] relevant knowledge to local context.” It’s a great framework for thinking about collaboration between all the team members and beneficiaries on a project. Moore also affirmed the opportunity for the SEED Network to be an industry forum “for the accumulation of accessible knowledge,” and to become a truly disruptive platform for the industry.

On the topic of organizational structure, Moore wisely noted that “there has not yet been enough focus on new, sustainable economic models for public interest design.” I couldn’t agree more. The biggest reason I keep going to Structures is to be a part of the community that will eventually build those models.

April 8’s daily design idea is Moore noted that “opportunity” was an important but underrepresented topic at this year’s Structures. What opportunities for social change design do you see?


April 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm Leave a comment

SFI12: Beneficiaries as participants.

Part 3 of 5

The second panel focused on Participation. Architecture for Humanity‘s program coordinator, T. Luke Young, kicked off by introducing AFH and the approach they take: “We don’t call ourselves designers; we like to be thought of as catalysts… in a global village.” AFH design fellow Diego Collazos continued by discussing the SEED award winning work he is doing at the Maria Auxiliadora School in Peru. A personal highlight of the project was how Collazos and his team asked students to stick green notes on the parts of the building that are good, and red notes on the parts of the building that are bad. This struck me as such a simple but effective technique for getting feedback, especially from children.

photo of the Maria Auxiliadora School

Tulane City Center‘s SEED award winning project, Grow Dat youth farm, was presented next by Emilie Taylor and Scott Bernhard. Their team empowered the youth to study “the logic of the site,” which informed many design choices, such as situating the building in the worst spot for growing vegetables. Separately, Bernhard also shared that Tulane’s admission rates increased 400% after integrating service-oriented curricula after Hurricane Katrina, such as the projects of City Center. There was a shared feeling of hope between the panelists and audience that other institutions would notice, and follow in Tulane’s footsteps.

photo via of planting at Grow Dat youth farm

The panel wrapped up with Anne Frederick, the founding director of New York’s Hester Street Collaborative. In addition to introducing the audience to HSC’s advocacy work for the Lower East Side’s waterfront (which included a mobile scale model that residents can interact with!), Frederick also shared questions that she’s developed with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to help social change designers frame their projects. Their number one question is a critical but too often overlooked one: Is there a need for the project? (In the case of the SEED award winning projects, I’d guess that the answer is a resounding “yes!”).

Hester Street Collaborative’s “Waterfront on Wheels

April 6’s daily design idea is that “instructive failure” is pervasive in design for social good, particularly when the participant pool is large; an observation articulated by the Tulane City Center team but shared by everyone at Structures.

April 6, 2012 at 9:13 pm Leave a comment

Augmented Tweeting: Structures for Inclusion 12

I live tweeted the main day of this year’s Structures for Inclusion 12 (SFI12), hosted by UT Austin, but I also thought it would be fun to share a fuller version of those tweets here (particularly with all the vowels and grammar added back in). Hope you enjoy!

the range of social issues that could (and should) be addressed by designers

Part 1 of 5

Bryan Bell kicked off the Saturday session of Structures by talking about this year’s theme, “Design is Relational.” This theme was inspired by Sergio Palleroni’s presentation at last year’s Structures, regarding the fact that it’s often the non-physical effects of the design process that have the most lasting impact. Bell specifically noted that strengthening relationships within the industry and advancing our processes for collaboration are both essential going forward. “Creativity makes a bigger & healthier pie out of limited resources.” We can do more with less by working together better.

From there, Barbara Brown Wilson took the stage and reflected on past links between social change and physical space. Wilson highlighted the Disabilities Movement as a highly successful effort to transform standards for the built environment, and pointed out that we are currently in a relatively undefined proto-movement (which has yet to create that same level of disruptive impact). The SEED Network, which Wilson helped found, is certainly a step in the right direction. While the network has evolved into a platform for “knowledge brokering,” it was originally conceived as a “bat signal” for communities to reach out to when they needed design services. Providing services to these communities is obviously still the ultimate goal.

This year’s featured speaker, the amazing Coleman Coker, followed. He primarily focused on designing ethically, in response to the earth (something he’s been doing for over 30 years), in contrast to designing based on aesthetic judgment or taste. I found it incredibly inspiring to hear Coker speak about the social and environmental elements of his work, especially as the two are so integrated for him.

April 4’s daily design idea is Coleman Coker’s concluding thought: “if architecture is done well, it brings us closer to the world.”

April 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm 3 comments

Replay: Commitment Required – The Social Design Job Market

Last night’s panel about the semi-ambiguous industry of social design, hosted by SVA’s 6-week summer intensive “Impact! Design for Social Change,” was appropriately titled “Commitment Required.” The panelists included:

  • Martin Kace, founder of many things, including Empax, an impact-based communications design consultancy
  • David Gibson, a major player in the field of public information design and the co-founder and managing principal of Two Twelve
  • Jason Rzepka, the VP of public affairs at MTV (including their “pro-social” programs) and one of the best panelists I’ve ever seen/heard at a social impact event
  • Lara Galinsky, the SVP of Echoing Green, one of the leading incubators for social change start-ups

The panel went something like this:

In the 1960’s, there was much social unrest, and therefore a lot of creative energy put into social change. We are currently experiencing this type of unrest again, so it’s no surprise that many people (especially young people) are moving towards jobs and careers that will create positive social impact.

Unfortunately, many impact-oriented organizations lack well-designed communication systems; and this likely weakens their impact! The organizations that do have well-designed materials generally only have them because of a few passionate and committed people.

Beyond being passionate and committed, anyone aspiring to be a successful socially-minded designer needs to have a range of talents. The best problem solvers are the ones with multiple well-developed perspectives.

The good news is that if you do decide to jump into the field, and especially if you decide to start your own business for social change, you’ll be greeted by a supportive and energetic community.

March 2’s daily design idea is me paraphrasing Galinsky: designing simple, high impact solutions requires empathy, patience, and commitment.

More coverage on Twitter with #impactdesign

March 2, 2012 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Poor little trees.

In the spirit of avoiding climate change and protecting nature, here’s a graphic design by Steven Burke (discovered on Graphic Safari):

March 5’s daily design idea is the activist’s intention and the action’s context are key factors in determining whether or not an action is activist or not (in my opinion). But the presence of an audience might be just as important. In other words, if an activist action happens and no one is around to witness it, does it make an impact?

March 5, 2011 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

Bruce Mau wants us to do better.

Bruce Mau, designer and agent of Massive Change, has condescendingly charged all architects to stop complaining, get a broader perspective, and generally do better. Throughout the piece (in the January 2011 issue of ARCHITECT), Mau’s tone is both highly critical and highly instigating, leaving no room for anyone to ask “but what about the obstacles?” :

If you are an architect and are thinking any thought other than, “Hey, this is awesome! This is the craziest, coolest, most beautiful time in human history to be alive and working;” if you aren’t saying, “Wow! I get to constantly learn new things, and everything is uncertain. I want everyone on the planet to get in on the action and be part of this new world of invention and beauty!”— I don’t want to hear it.

After reading the article for the first time, his intense tone made me feel like a scolded child – even though I agree that this is a crazy cool time to be in the design industry. But while I wish that Mau had taken a less harsh approach as well as avoided comparing the problems of his readers with, say, orphaned children whose parents and grandparents have all died from HIV/AIDS… I do appreciate the core message. Architects have great resources “to shape the world, to create beauty, to produce wealth, to reach people with new ideas,” and I agree with Mau that these goals should get higher priority than maintaining elite status or fighting to protect the reputation of design-as-art rather than design-as-solution.

promotional poster for the Leningrad State Publishing House by productivist and constructivist artist Aleksandr Rodchenko

February 21’s daily design idea is a piece of encouraging advice from Mau, directed at those who are disappointed to be in the portion of the industry that isn’t designing for a better word: “If you realize your colleagues have been so busy policing the fence of exclusivity that they forgot to open the door of possibility, then get in the game.”


February 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm Leave a comment

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