As I write this blog post, I’m reminded of the reason why I got into design. I had to spend some time thinking, but then I figured out my “why.” Every time I come across an interesting resource, article, or project about the impact design has made, I get excited. I find it so fascinating to see the different ways in which design has been leveraged for the greater good.
If someone were to ask you the question:
Why did you go into design?
What would you say? Let me know in the comments.
What’s Been Sparking My Interest Lately
There are a few neat projects I came across recently that inspired me to write this article:
- Food by Design from IDEO: Aims to uncover how we can design a better food system for everyone. The accompanying podcast was created by Sarah Codraro and Sandeep Pahuja and is hosted by Sandeep.
- A Holistic, Human-Centered Approach to Managing Diabetes Care (IDEO case study): A digital solution that helps individuals manage Type 2 Diabetes through the power of habit.
- Climate Designers: Using design to spark climate action, because whether you accept it or not, we’re experiencing a climate crisis.
- Health Design Thinking by Ellen Lupton and Bon Ku: Applying the principles of human-centered design to solve complex challenges in the health care industry.
- The Biden-Harris Design Team: Regardless of political views, design has been leveraged here to make a prominent impact.
IDEO’s Food by Design
Food is a key component of various cultures around the globe. Simply put, it brings people together.
Have you ever thought about where our food comes from though?
It’s completely fine to say no. In fact, I gather it’s something commonly overlooked in society. This is why IDEO’s podcast intrigued me. They’re uncovering where our food comes from and where there might be opportunities for design to change our food system for the better.
In the Food by Design podcast, you’ll not only discover why we need to design a better food system but how the processes we put in place now will shape our future.
“…how we grow, distribute, and access food will shape the future of our communities, businesses, and planet.”
— from the Food by Design website
Furthermore, this project is making an impact because it’s unearthing opportunities for people to start thinking about what’s in their food. At best, this can be exciting. At worst, it’s overwhelming.
I never used to think about what’s in my food until I discovered a YouTube channel called FlavCity. It’s truly eye-opening and directly correlates with the Food by Design project.
One problem: It can be expensive to buy whole, unprocessed foods.
I’m more than willing to reevaluate my food decisions if it means benefitting the planet and my health, but it’s clear that changes have to be made to make healthy food more accessible and affordable.
So, how might we design better food systems?
Managing Diabetes Care Through Human-Centered Design
I was intrigued by this case study from Ascensia Diabetes Care (in partnership with IDEO) because I’ve seen first-hand from several family members how diabetes affects lives. The fact that someone somewhere is doing something about it makes me happy. According to Ascensia:
“As little as 15% of people with diabetes receive adequate education from their healthcare providers on managing their disease and making recommended lifestyle changes.”
What stands out to me is how this project is backed by habit-forming. There is so much opportunity for folks to completely transform their lives through this concept. Check out these resources if you’re interested.👇
Resources for Forming Habits
Online Courses by Matt D'Avella | Slow Growth Academy
Get your weekly dose of motivation. Sign up to get Matt's weekly newsletter for inspo on productivity, creativity…
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
Buy the book from your favorite bookseller, then forward your purchase receipt to [email protected] to receive the…
All in all, I absolutely love how Ascensia and IDEO saw an opportunity to leverage design to build something that could drastically help people.
“One recently widowed 70-year-old woman emerged from depression, returned to swimming, and started having regular blood sugar readings.”
As you can see, the final result ended up creating an extraordinary impact.
Another cool initiative in the design community is Climate Designers. What intrigues me about Climate Designers is how passionate they are. On their site, they have dedicated sections for connecting with other climate designers around the world, a variety of resources, job postings, and to top it all off, a podcast.
If you’re serious about contributing your design skills for the greater good, this is the place for you!
Health Design Thinking
Ellen Lupton (author of Design is Storytelling) and Bon Ku’s book recently came out and I haven’t read too much into it, but I’m confident this book will make an impact on society. According to the Health Design Lab:
“Health Design Thinking specifically addresses the unique challenges surrounding the healthcare space, such as reducing medical errors, reimagining hospital waiting areas, and creating innovative products that improve comfort and efficiency.”
The Biden-Harris Design Team
The impact design has had on political campaigns in recent years has been extraordinary. I always think back to Mina Markham’s work on Pantsuit (the Hillary Clinton UI pattern library).
In these current (and crazy) times, let’s turn to the Biden-Harris campaign to highlight just how amazing design can be.
Hunter Schwarz published a great breakdown of the Biden-Harris visual brand. He highlights how the team used bright colors and gradients to evoke optimism and faith, especially on election night. I was particularly inspired by the design team's trust in exploring and experimenting. Schwarz states:
“The campaign’s visual identity was loose with brand guidelines, it tried new things, and it imagined a new political visual language that draws from sources like popular music and culture as much if not more than politics.”
This is refreshing to hear because as designers, I feel like we’re always worried about what’s right and what people will like. I’m specifically referring to the skepticism and backlash on Twitter recently from some notable brand/logo redesigns. The truth is, not everyone is going to like your work (that you probably spent A LOT of time on). To that I say, so what?
Be creative, inventive, and as free as you want to be in the design process.
Onto the Biden-Harris presidential transition site. Transition46, as they’re known on Twitter, built a site that outlines priorities and resources for the Biden-Harris transition. The site is a stellar example of prioritizing digital accessibility at the forefront. Subtle interactions make it pleasing to use and the typography, layout, and spacing hit the mark. Great job, Transition46! 👏
Design for Impact
As you’ve witnessed in this article, design can truly make an impact on society. I’m so excited to come across more inspiring projects that help people, shape communities, and spark action.
If you’re passionate about leveraging design for the greater good, let’s chat!