Design truly can make a difference.
Human-centered design confronts a range of social problems, from distributing clean drinking water to developing new medical technology. And as aid and supplies continue to be mobilized to relieve earthquake-stricken Haiti, I’m reminded of design’s potential and the many, many ways design can make a difference.
In light of Haiti’s recent tragedy, an article by Ernest Beck on designobserver.com, State of Shelter, examines one of the many prongs on the wheel of human-centered design: temporary housing. Beck shows a number of conceptual developments and prototypes for emergency shelters intended to replace the old tents and tarps often used in the wake of a natural disaster.
Although the examples shown in this article (I’m sure many, many more exist, including a few here) have great potential for providing emergency shelter, none have been implemented on a large scale. Whether due to issues with production, distribution, affordability or simply timing, these ideas are still just that.
Reading Beck’s article—which again, points to a small piece of a rather large picture—I was both filled with optimism at the positive social impact design can have and confronted with questions about the implementation of new solutions (and how many more disasters may occur between now and then).
Obviously these issues are far too large to be dealt with in a single blog post, but the article did prompt me to dig a little deeper into human-centered design, not only in the context of emergency relief and disaster preparedness, but generally as well.
This is barely skimming the surface, but if you’re looking to stimulate more thoughts and ideas on making a difference through design, here are a few organizations and resources to get you started. Please feel free to comment and add to this list of links—it’s by no means all inclusive!
Design for the Other 90%
Through partnerships both local and global, individuals and organizations are finding unique ways to address the basic challenges of survival and progress faced by the world’s poor and marginalized.
Design that Matters
Design that Matters (DtM), a 501c3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, creates new products that allow social enterprises in developing countries to offer improved services and scale more quickly.
Institute for Human Centered Design [Adaptive Environments]
The Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD). . . is an international non-governmental educational organization (NGO) committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experience for people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design.
Creating positive change in communities, through design.
GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward.
Article: Greater Good
Adam Mack and Aaron Sklar of IDEO discuss the three tools that will make the strongest contribution when designing for social impact.
Resource: Human Centered Design Toolkit
For years, organizations have used Human-Centered Design (HCD) to arrive at innovative business solutions. In collaboration with the Gates Foundation and non-profit groups IDE, ICRW, and Heifer International, IDEO has specially adapted this process for NGOs and social enterprises that work with impoverished communities around the world. The resulting HCD Toolkit helps organizations understand people’s needs in new ways, find innovative solutions to meet these needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind.
Book: Designing for the Greater Good: The Best in Cause-Related Marketing and Nonprofit Design
This first-ever book of its kind, Designing for the Greater Good, features hundreds of illustrated examples of the best nonprofit and cause-related design worldwide, plus 24 inspiring case studies and insights into great nonprofit branding campaigns.