Design For Social Change – Class 1

Designing Without a Shared Language?
February 22 was our first class for Design For Social Change. Kara Pecknold started off the class by challenging us with the question: How can you design if you don’t have a shared language? We were paired up and one student had to describe a visual design using only words while the other student had to attempt to draw the design based on the first student’s verbal description. The first example was easy because the design was composed of objects for which we all had a common language to describe, such as, square, circle, line, arrow, etc. The second object was not so easy because there were no easy words to describe the look of the design.

Design For Social Change - brainstorming

Design For Social Change - brainstorming

Start Thinking Big!
We watched Tim Brown on Ted Talks. He encourages a focus on design thinking and not just the design itself quoting Roger Martin who said “The ability to exploit opposing ideas and opposing constraints to create new solutions.“ An underlying theme by Tim was the need and movement towards thinking big when it comes to design thinking; thinking beyond just the product or subject. Design starts with humans, not just the end result or solution.

Design For Social Change - brainstorming twist ties

Design For Social Change - brainstorming twist ties

Brainstorming Design
We were given a chance to “exploit opposing ideas to create new solutions” by participating in a brainstorming exercise in class. We were divided into 3 groups and each given an object. We were assigned the task of brainstorming new ideas around the use of a common object. The 3 objects we were given were a plastic re-sealable plastic bag, twist ties and a pair of chopsticks. After each group had had a chance to brainstorm each item we were given the task of selecting one new idea for each object and creating a pitch for it as a real product with scenario story to support it.

Chopsticks brainstorm

Chopsticks brainstorm

Chopsticks For The Homeless
Our group’s chopsticks became key ring holders and a custom key chain accessory with the first name of the owner and community center address on it. The design was to solve the problem of the homeless who were continually losing their keys for their rooms in the homeless shelters. The key ring holders were mounted in the community centers behind the counter with the staff so the homeless could enjoy their time at the community center without the fear of losing their keys. The key chain accessory provided a way for the keys to be returned to their owners through the community center.

Storyboard for chopsticks

Storyboard for chopsticks

Beyond The Limits
Perhaps it would’ve seemed unlikely if not impossible at the beginning had we been challenged to help the homeless with chopsticks, but using those opposing ideas and constraints to create new solutions helped our creative muscles to expand beyond the limits of expectations. Curious to see what week 2 will bring.

- Mike Priebe

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