As part of a new interview series on the Autodesk Foundation's new blog, ImpactDesignHub.org, Allan Chochinov, Editor at Large of Core77 and Chair of the MFA Products of Design program at SVA discusses impact design and the role of designers in social change with Robert Fabricant, Co-Founder and Principal of the Design Impact Group (DIG) at Dalberg Global Development Advisors. The series, hosted by Core77, will investigate the intersection of design and social innovation. Here, Robert Fabricant shares three of the most vital things to understand about the field of social design. Read the full interview on ImpactDesignHub.org
Avoid the "Big Idea" trap: We are missing the boat if our partners think design is only good for the next cool invention that tries to change the world. The only path to impact is through deep engagement with systems, applying the design lens to participants at every level. Single product strategies fail consistently as I saw on a recent trip to India.
Respect the practical bits: Social impact takes patience, discipline and follow-through. Failure happens between concept and implementation. As my dear friend Fabio Sergio from frog recently put it, we need to be investing in small things that can "tip the system into a slightly different state." On a personal level, I have spent five years trying to get right a simple piece of packaging and instructional design (for an HIV self-test kit), working with an amazing partner in South Africa to "tip the system" with the support of the design team at frog. The concept (of self-testing) is more relevant than ever, but success will be determined by the littlest things as we prepare to enter the market.
A "fresh perspective" will only get you so far: Designers are used to playing the "outsider" card, emphasizing our unique perspective. This capacity is critical to our value in highly competitive markets like chat applications. But it can backfire when designers give the impression that we invented user research or prototyping. We have a lot to learn from fields like community organizing and behavorial economics. I like learning :-)