In 1961, Ken Garland and a group of design professionals published the First Things First manifesto, about changing priorities, and refocusing the efforts of designers. But in practice, only a few designers are so successful that they can pick and choose their clients. So many channel their altruism into voluntary projects for charities and good causes.
In the USA, especially, this is now well organised, and the AIGA’s Design for Good website lists a range of different schemes.
“Established in 1998, AIGA Design for Democracy applies design tools and thinking to increase civic participation by making interactions between the U.S. government and its citizens more understandable, efficient and trustworthy. Independent, pragmatic and committed to the public good, Design for Democracy collaborates with researchers, designers and policy-makers in service of public sector clients and AIGA’s goal of “demonstrating the value of design by doing valuable things”.
“Designers Without Borders is a consortium of designers and design educators working to assist institutions of the developing world with their communication needs. Our volunteers provide instruction, consultation, and varieties of development advice and assistance in both community and educational environments.”
“DtM has structured our collaborative design process such that participants are motivated by self-interest as much as altruism. For academic partners, like MIT and Stanford, DtM “design challenges” serve as curriculum materials in existing university courses, engaging students in real-world problems, while helping faculty to meet recent university accreditation requirements for experiential-learning courses. With corporate design partners, like IDEO and Optikos, DtM works with management to convert staff “whitespace” (paid, but un-billable hours) into collaboration opportunities for their best staff, boosting retention and building skills through exposure to what we call “minimum resource design”.
The Center for Urban Pedagogy in New York act as matchmaker between advocacy groups and designers – the resulting posters include some great visual explanations of complex issues.
“Once a year, CUP issues a call for groups working to explain complex policy issues to a particular constituency. A jury of design and policy leaders selects four projects that would benefit from a visual explanation, and that would contribute to a positive social justice impact. CUP then issues a call for designers who would like to collaborate on these topics, and the jury selects the final teams.”
From the leading product design and innovation agency.
“After a challenge is posted at OpenIDEO.com, the three development phases – inspiration, concepting, and evaluation – are put into motion. Community members can contribute in a variety of different ways, from inspirational observations and photos, sketches of ideas, to business models and snippets of code. Sometimes this can be in the form of a comment; other times, it’s building off a previous person’s work.
People participating in OpenIDEO can provide feedback every step of the way. Between each development phase, IDEO helps shape the journey through framing the challenge, prototyping, and encouraging the conversation.
At the end, the strongest concepts are chosen. All concepts generated are shareable, remix-able, and reusable in a similar way to ‘creative commons’. The hope is that some of these concepts will become reality outside of OpenIDEO.com.”