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In August 2012, AIGA and PepsiCo Nutrition
Ventures convened at the School for Visual Arts in New York City for two-day
summit to explore the role of design in social change as it applies to the
interrelated issues of nutrition, so-called “lifestyle diseases” such as
hypertension and obesity, and community health systems. Participants included
designers, community advocates, physicians and health specialists, who focused
on using creative methods to identify and address environmental and community
factors that affect nutrition and promote chronic diseases.
the intensive two-day event, participants collaborated to address the following
questions, which were presented in an issue statement co-crafted by the summit leaders:
Why are programs and interventions not resonating enough with at-risk demographic populations? What are the triggers that lead to healthy behavior changes? How can support programs, knowledge and information be better translated into empowering and motivating messaging that mobilizes positive changes?
frog design’s vice president of creative, Robert Fabricant, introduced the summit program,
framing it as a series of interconnected activities:
Powell, co-founder of Schwartz Powell Design and national president of AIGA, spoke
next, situating the summit as a direct response to the changing needs of AIGA
members. More than ever, he noted, members are seeking “cause-driven,
change-driven” work. Ric
Grefé, AIGA’s executive director, expanded on the idea, calling attention to
the inbuilt limitations of design activities centered on a two-day event. “We
want to craft an approach to the problem,” Grefé said, emphasizing creative
exploration and the need to search for starting points along a path toward
sustainable, systems-based change.
first day also included talks from Dondeena Bradley, vice president Global
R&D Nutrition and Nutrition Ventures at PepsiCo; J. Robin Moon, senior
health policy advisor for the City of New York’s Office of the Mayor; and Wendy
Suzuki, professor of neural science and psychology at NYU’s Center for Neural
began by acknowledging her company’s place in the global food industry—PepsiCo
is the second-largest food company in the world, and operates in all but two
countries—but her talk focused primarily on practical nutritional realities.
She encouraged summit participants to think not in terms of individual food
choices but in terms of systems: food availability systems, health systems and
especially the “system of the home.” (Women, she noted, are usually the “chief
health officer” of the home, and also the chief procurer of food.) Nutritional
change efforts are most likely to succeed, Bradley explained, when they directly
relate to “crisis” events that create new interest in the relationship between
food and health—events like the arrival of a new baby, the diagnosis of a
chronic disease such as diabetes or the sudden illness or death of a family
introduce the public policy dimension of community nutrition, J. Robin Moon,
senior health policy advisor from the City of New York’s Office of the Mayor,
offered a presentation packed with data on youth and adult obesity trends and
the progress to date of the Mayor’s Obesity Task Force. The information she presented proved to be a vital element to the summit, as it gave participants a clear picture of city programs and initiatives, both those that had already been implemented and those that were in the works. It provided inspiration and potential jumping-off points for creative problem-solving, while also helping participants avoid spending their time replicating ideas.
prepare summit participants for the work that lay ahead, Dr. Wendy Suzuki spoke
about her transformative experience studying the connections between aerobic
exercise and cognitive performance before leading the group in an enthusiastic
session of Intensati, a practice that combines vigorous aerobic exercise with
mindfulness training and affirmations.
Under the guidance of Frog designers, summit participants worked through a series of
small-group exercises that channeled the nutritional and health issues that
were raised during the morning session into more constrained forms. Using
persona templates prepared by the Frog team, each group developed a detailed
design persona for a member of a fictional New York City family dealing with a
range of health problems, giving consideration to the following questions:
a group read-out and discussion about the different personas they had created, each group began developing
a Health Journey Map and an accompanying set of “needs and opportunities” that
further explored their fictional family’s catalysts for positive change as well
as their major obstacles to improved health.
imaginative design stories grounded in the realities faced by their personas,
groups explored how significant life events such as the birth of a baby, discussion about family nutrition
sparked by kids worried about sick parents, participation in community gardens
and acute medical crises led to a desire for specific nutritional and health
by Frog’s methods and tools, each group’s story gradually evolved from awareness of a needed health or
nutritional change needed to engagement
and, more crucially, follow-through.
The groups worked though several environmental spheres of influence—including messaging,
social environment and physical environment—to consider a wide range of
influences and opportunities for intervention, and to push beyond the idea of a
single “campaign” as a catalyst. Instead, they focused on supporting the
catalysts for change that arose within their fictional families’ lives.
presenting and discussing the Health Journey Maps they’d created, participants
came together to prepare for the second day of the summit, namely the
exploration of New York City’s neighborhoods and food landscapes—an activity
that was intended to act as both a reality check for their preliminary work and
an inspiration for the final studio work to be completed before the close of
Early the next morning, summit participants formed new groups and scattered
throughout various New York City neighborhoods. Some spent their time touring a
tofu factory in Chinatown, while others visited neighborhood shops, markets and
bodegas. Some explored the pedestrian zones created by the city’s Summer
Streets program; others browsed a farmer’s market with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program. One
group even visited an urban farm—built on the empty lot of a stalled
building development—that provides vegetables to an adjacent restaurant. After taking photographs and collecting field notes, the groups arrived back at SVA ready to begin
their final studio session.
with a combination of design materials developed during the first day of the
summit and new knowledge and insights acquired during the morning field trips,
summit participants worked through a final set of exercises designed to offer entry points into and potential pilot
programs within urban health and nutrition systems. Reconsidering the
personas and Health Journey Maps from the first session, participants once
again broke into small groups to brainstorm specific interventions that
addressed a single phase in the Health Journey in one particular environment
(messaging, social or physical),incorporating
elements from their field encounter with the city’s food systems and the
related community’s health needs.
their final presentations, the groups proposed a diverse array of seed projects—potential
campaigns or community actions designed to address the health and nutrition
questions central to the summit, such as:
each group presented their seed project, Dondeena Bradley offered a series of
questions to help participants reframe and refine their ideas, laying the
groundwork for successful implementation in the future:
After a round of applause for the
organizers and speakers, clusters of participants remained in the space, discussing where they might direct their energy and ideas after
the summit’s formal activities concluded, and brainstorming about how future summits might be structured more effectively.
Download a PDF of the summit program booklet to learn more about the issue statement and see a full list of participants.
Listen to an interview conducted at the NYC Design Summit with participant Erica Heinz, founder and creative consultant at Energy7.
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!
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