Designing for social impact is a systems-based process that involves all aspects of design and life and requires an ability to think strategically about issues of policy and economics among others. This vital field tackles some of the biggest issues of our age: environmental solutions, poverty and disaster relief are just some of the giants that design-thinking is trying to overturn. We asked for any "projects specifically designed to directly benefit social, humanitarian, community or environmental causes," and received a great diversity of responses that addressed the deep complexities of designing for social impact. "Often we tend to look at resource-poor communities as just issue-ridden with no hope. What we forget to see is the incredible resourcefulness that these communities embody on a daily basis and that I think all designers ought to learn from," explains jury member Tabitha George. "In issues that attempt to change people's lives for the better, there are no simple answers and I think that is something we all need to understand deeply and learn from."
John Thackara, Director, The Doors of Perception, led the jury team as captain. He was joined by Tabitha George, Partner, Quicksand, Dr. Mathilda Tham, Design Professor, Linnaeus University and Gill Widman, Co-Founder and Principal, Plot. Overall, the jury was happy to see refreshing entries marked by a sense of hope. "The competition evidences really well how the field of design for social impact is maturing...I was impressed with the deep empathy coming through many of the projects," said Tham, "I think empathy is a key design skill."
The work we received was engaged with a wide variety of issues, from child mortality to climate change, and demonstrated an understanding of the many systems and layers involved in each case. Though working to solve some of the world's most complex problems, the entries retained a sense of respect and humbleness which impressed the jury team. "It was great to see people working so well with local contexts," said Widman. "When a designer's attitude is connected to the people and place, the designer has a subtly interesting role of provoking and making tangible ideas while bringing new ways of approaching things. Sometimes that includes not building the big, heroic option, but staying within a set of constraints and helping people use design to blossom and make it theirs. This can be a problem for some designers, but those who did it in this instance were visibly different and ought to be celebrated."
Say hello to the Winners, Runners-Up, and Notables of the 2015 Core77 Design Awards in the Design for Social Impact category.