The first student-led Designers Accord Town Hall took place on Friday, March 12th, at California College of Arts in San Francisco. It was the perfect setting for this rainy evening, and the hangar-like space filled quickly with over one hundred design students and community leaders ready to engage and discuss their thoughts surrounding the timely topic of design for social change. Thanks to Stacy Barrett and Mike Funk and for the detailed recap and photos by Faraz Shah.
Mike Funk, a first-year graduate student in CCA's Design Strategy MBA (dMBA) program, emceed the event and set the stage by communicating how this unique program is taking a new approach to developing future business leaders. He stated, "By combining the domains of design strategy, research, innovation, sustainability and finance, the program is helping to define a new framework for problem solving within a business context."
Designers Accord Town Hall Coordinator and first year dMBA student Elysa Soffer followed with an introduction to the Designers Accord mission and a brief description of several upcoming initiatives including the Biommimicry Challenge and the School: By Design youth mentoring program. Fellow dMBA student Ahmed Riaz concluded the introductions with a quick discussion about what it means to "design for social change" and the importance of continuing the conversation through Twitter by using #designchange.
Krista Donaldson, CEO of Design Revolution (D-REV), took center stage as the evening's keynote speaker. D-Rev's mission is to create economic growth for the impoverished by developing products and services that are reliable and cost-effective, simple, scalable and sustainable. She began by asking the audience for examples of bad design and followed quickly with "Bad design is unsustainable design and rarely, if ever, has the power to create positive long-term impact." Krista went on to say, "In order for a design to be effective there needs to be market opportunity, design, integration into the market, and scale." One of D-Rev's latest projects involves a collection of phototherapy devices for children suffering from jaundice. In impoverished countries, newborn children are dying soon after birth because of jaundice typically brought on by insufficient nourishment in breast milk. Treatable through the use of phototherapy, Krista and her team at D-REV have designed LED prototypes that emit blue light used to break down bilirubin. Different conditions require unique solutions and Krista showed off three different ideas for delivering this healing light. She also touched on an interesting ethical dilemma, experienced when a junior designer was required to use one of the prototypes in the field. The D-REV team adheres to a strict no testing policy when children are involved but the situation called for immediate action. Thankfully, the prototype worked and was able to save the child's life. The message was powerful, inspiring and a fitting way to start the evening.
The event then shifted to the Town Hall format where five speakers had five minutes to discuss their ideas and thoughts on topics surrounding social change. The first to speak was Rupa Chaturvedi, founder and CEO of Raaya Design and Raaya Foundation, who presented one of her latest projects, the Art Toothbrush. The toothbrush has a removable head, a stand that also doubles as a cover, and recycled bristles. According to Chatuvedi, the goal of the brush is to "create an ecosystem." Customers can ship back both the packaging and the used bristles directly to a manufacture that will then recycle and re-use all of the discarded components. Chaturvedi urged designers to "go beyond the product and look at the ecosystem."
Second-year dMBA graduate student Erica Frye opened up her talk by stating her "goal in life is to be an unreasonable person." The statement, inspired by the quote from George Bernard Shaw, was followed by an original list titled, "Five Ways Designers are Unreasonable." The list highlighted the cycle of a designer's thought-process to show how "rejecting common wisdom" allows designers to create innovative and sustainable products. Frye's list:
1. Pushing back against parameters
2. Just say no."
3. Commit to believing that only you can solve this problem.
4. Find profit in an unprofitable venture.
5. Sell out
Kam Redlawsk, a BFA graduate from CCS led a moving discussion about her work as pro-bono designer for Advancement Research for Myopathies, or ARM. ARM aims to cure Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy (HIBM), an orphan disease Redlawsk herself suffers from. Her work at ARM included designing an awareness campaign to bring attention to this rare condition. Redlawsk inspired the audience through her stories about "creatively adjusting to daily life." She went on to urge the audience to recognize the design potential in all life experiences, and intends to use that framework as she plans to work on designing for mobility.
Second-year dMBA graduate student and design researcher Adam Dole, along with his co-worker Tutti Taygerly, Senior Director of User Experience at Method Inc, spoke about a recent case study for Viewchange.org, a division of LinkTV. Viewchange.org is "a digital media hub that highlights progress in reducing hunger, poverty, and disease in developing nations." The product hopes to create an "alternative cable network" that brings to life "the stories of the people who are moved and shaken, not the movers and shakers and policy makers." The purpose is to create both buzz and action in the world of social change.
Lastly, Senior Product Designer at IDEO Tiffany Card spoke about her recent Social Innovation externship in Kenya with KOMAZA. KOMAZA is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the standard of living in impoverished communities by advancing sustainable development. Card worked with the organization on their Micro forestry initiative to empower farmers to create crops that produce lumber that they can sell for a significant profit. The program also creates a delivery model where local Kenyans bring the ideas out into the fields to interact with their community, supervise field officers and facilitators, and create a growing network of farmers. The goal is to "design channels of communication to make change."
The event ended with closing remarks from Funk who reminded the audience, "When we talk about design there's a natural tension between short-term and long-term gain. Tonight, the short-term gain is great discussion, insights learned and perhaps a few new friends. However, the long-term gain can only be facilitated through an ongoing conversation and further inspiration. To continue with this momentum, please use the #designchange tag on Twitter and send your thoughts and ideas out into the community so we can keep this conversation going."
Please continue the conversation.