Until one is forced to believe that Art is Dead does one find resonance in the truth that Real Art Never Dies.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Design for Social Change

A few weeks ago, I finished up a short course I had been eyeing for quite some time, called Design for Social Change with Kara Pecknold. Although it was pretty intense and fast paced, which left me feeling frustrated at times, (Kara adamantly forewarned us we would! We only had 6 classes.) it was definitely a good challenge and it took me out of my comfort zone and made me broaden my design thinking.

Our mini version of Dinner with a Side of Design
photo courtesy of Kara Pecknold at Olivelife

Springboarding from IDEO's Human Centered Design Toolkit, we began digging through the concepts and methods for designing with social aspects in mind. I learned that social change is not the same as raising awareness - social change has to be measurable, with units in social metrics (like job creation, training, improved health) as opposed to just dollars.

One team's concept and research shown with candy!

By the third class, we were split into groups that chose three different sectors. From there we learned and executed multiple design research methods. My group, which focused on the sector of health, tried a unique text prompting method where we texted participants the same question twice a day, for two days to get an immediate, in-the-moment-type of response.

Research Method: Text Prompting
photo courtesy of Kara Pecknold at Olivelife

My group ended up concentrating on health within the workplace, while another group
researched systems for socially responsible procurement methods with businesses in the DTES. Another group chose to rethink the transient space at Georgia Street and Granville.

Rethinking the space at Georgia and Granville
photo courtesy of Kara Pecknold at Olivelife

Our last class ended with a mini version of Dinner with a Side of Design, where we ate and brainstormed about a city of the future amongst fellow classmates and guest designers. During this last class, we also pitched our final prototypes to the guest panel.

Hunchback Bob before the wonderful posture improving product, SitFit
photo courtesy of Kara Pecknold at Olivelife

My group (we had a student industrial designer, Ben, in our group, yay!) prototyped a product that encouraged better health in the workplace, by creating a Wii-like device that could monitor posture and prompt one to drink water or take a break. It was pretty silly but thankfully it was the idea, the journey and the execution that mattered. We presented a story of Hunchback Bob who demonstrated the benefits of this product. I wrote and illustrated the story while Sue super powerpointed the research to bring it all together.

Not all designs for social change is a physical product. One group came up with a procurement system, executed on a website.

Another group conceptualized a community space and structure.
I think I would have enjoyed having more time to read case studies and examples of design that worked for social change, and learned more about the execution methods, funding options or where one goes after the pitch, but alas that's a lot to cover.

All in all, it was a very challenging course, but it gave me something to think about in regards to how my animation can incorporate aspects of social change. I'm not exactly sure how just yet, but it's always refreshing when animation can be more than mere entertainment.

I took a lot away from this one quote, which I like very much:
"Fail often to succeed sooner." - IDEO

Here's how the giraffe on SitFit topples over if your posture is next to dismal
photo courtesy of Kara Pecknold at Olivelife