Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Social Design

I've spent a good few hours reading this blog, which nowadays is virtually unheard of with our heavily image reliant, skim-reading tendencies when browsing the internet.

Andy Chen is a young (really, who am I calling young ><), insightful graphic designer interested in social design that writes remarkably well about his experiences, understandings and questions on design. If you're starting out in the design industry, I would recommend you read this insert on his internship at Pentagram. The feelings of inadequacy, realisation of learning and moments of joy when seeing your designs in public all ring a bell to what I have been through and sometimes still am going through. 

This article on Design Observer written by Andy is also an interesting read: The Value of Empathy.

Gordon, Age 88

Social design has always been important to me, and I believe there is not enough focus on social design in Perth - through education or practice. Could it be because design is not as highly regarded or 'developed' in Perth, as compared to say, London?

Only when I studied for six months in London did I really understand the power of design - that design can change the way we behave (for the better), and bring attention to minority groups. Visiting places such as The Design Museum and learning of initiatives such as Design Out Crime made me realise how design as a practice could influence the world - rather than just how design could be used to increase brand equity.

The design briefs we received were a mix of difficult briefs tackling social issues as well as the typical graphic design briefs. I took one of these briefs back to Australia with me and completed it in my graphic design elective at Curtin. The brief required students to design a piece of communication to benefit older people experience, or vulnerable to, social isolation and loneliness.

My solution was a book of answers to the question; "What do you want to do in the future?" to raise awareness of the aspirations older people have.

I asked older people (aged over 60) and children (aged 7 - 12) to write down their answers, and found similarities between the two. I typographically arranged each aspiration and alternately placed the aspiration of older and younger people, in hope to highlight the similarities between the two and signify life as one passage, that each stage of life is not more important or less important than the next.
Valerie, Age 67

Anastasia, Age 8
Excerpts from 'Action for Age' project, 2008.

Although I am happy with the type executions and enjoyed exploring different media, in hindsight the solution was heavily dominated by aesthetics and lacked a unified message or call to action. That's not to say it's wrong - just that I would do it differently now.

Designing for change is something I've neglected in the past year or so, having been too absorbed in work, littlemiso and other commitments. It's something I would like to pick up again - because if tomorrow was my last day in on Earth, I would want to make a genuine difference in somebody's life.


  1. awesome stuff!
    I'm not a designer, (far from creative...) but am interested in change - for the better - so this is a great concept :)
    your work in this area will be so powerful.

  2. thanks janice! i really appreciate your encouragement. i strongly believe in social design, and that every little bit can contribute to change if you genuinely believe in it.