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Shortly before he passed away in 1999, Tibor Kalman, the iconic
(and iconoclastic) designer and visionary, said to me, “Ric, designers have a
special gift. Make sure AIGA implores them to use it in meaningful ways.”
Designers do have a special gift, one of creativity, empathy
and a unique eye for novel solutions. Recently, many have also shown a deep interest in using
their talents to improve the human experience—no imploring necessary. Tibor would be proud.
Now, AIGA’s role must expand to not only excite and engage designers through inspiration but also support those who want to make a difference.
AIGA is launching Design for Good to provide ways for
designers to engage with concerned citizens
across a spectrum of interests and professions to tackle the challenges facing us all in the 21st century. AIGA will offer channels to connect interested
designers with national programs, regional events and local initiatives
championed by AIGA chapters; resources to reach like-minded designers who want
to start their own projects; and tools for individual designers who simply want to make an impact on their own.
Design for Good will also develop a community of designers, examples
of how to manage community groups eager to solve
local problems, case studies of others’ successes and ideas for new engagement.
Through its various facets, this initiative—a repositioning of AIGA—will
help designers demonstrate their worth well beyond visual design of
materials; it will seek to move creative professionals from the margins of
their communities toward the center; it will help designers become deeply
involved in solving important problems; and it will demonstrate the value of design with contributions that are appreciated outside the profession.
AIGA is neither the first nor the only design organization
committed to this arena. However, it does have an unusual strength: 66 chapters
and more than 200 student groups and 22,000 members across the continent. We
want current and future generations of members to be able to take advantage of
this network to make a noticeable difference—individually or collectively.
Ideally, we hope that in addition to helping designers
become engaged with projects of social impact, that there will be several marks
of success: that eventually, more designers will be joining AIGA because it
allows them the opportunity to be involved with meaningful projects; and that
communities will begin to approach AIGA chapters as connectors when they want help developing
interdisciplinary teams of community leaders, businesses and experts to address
AIGA has adopted professional standards that
call for all designers to contribute five percent of their time to projects
with positive social impact, the highest percentage of any profession. These
projects are described as pro bono,
with an emphasis on the literal translation “for good.”
Nonprofits should be involved in Design for Good not because
design services might be free, but because these services are extremely
valuable. Many designers will indeed offer to contribute their time, but AIGA’s
priority is to educate clients about the value of design to social change—regardless
of pay. The ultimate goal is that when nonprofits and community leaders fully
realize what designers can contribute, they will budget funds to support them from the outset.
Looking even beyond that, business thought leaders Michael
Porter and Michael Kramer recently argued that addressing societal issues is now
integral to increasing profits at any company—a concept called “shared value.”
If that’s the case, then designers’ work in the social-change sphere could also
prove key to the profession’s future.
Design for Good will always be a work in progress. There are no limits and each day presents new needs. We encourage every designer to
become involved, whether by sharing a success story, offering advice, taking on
a project—or, better yet, all of the above.
Richard Grefé is the executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design. While guiding all of AIGA’s activities, his most significant contributions are in strategy, formulating new initiatives to enhance the competitive success of designers
and advocating the value of design to business, government and the public.
Looking for additional ways to design for good? This list of organizations and programs is a great place to start. There are many more opportunities out there—so if you know of a resource we should add here let us know!
Design for Good
Design is increasingly recognized as a powerful approach to crafting more effective public services. MindLab, a studio inside the Danish government, assists senior decision-makers in designing better solutions to complex public problems, using methods such as ethnography, user journeys, system maps, service prototypes and design games.
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, design research, design thinking, government, in-house design, strategy
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