In the midst of a global conversation about change, many designers are pondering their own impact in the world. How does our experience in software interfaces, web sites, and physical products prepare us to address the profound issues humanity is facing? These issues involve many complex systems, systems too big to fit into the scope of any single company or institution. Design methods are potent at large scale and scope, but what does it take to be effective as a practitioner, as a team, as a company? What is it like to actually achieve a meaningful, sustainable, positive difference in life?
In this talk Marc Rettig offers insights into that question, drawing lessons from a number of serious, heartfelt attempts to affect change. The work we have all done in recent decades has prepared us to take on much bigger challenges. The foundations of design remain powerfully effective. That said, there are ways in which “designing for change” requires additions to our inventory of methods, and transformations in the way we plan and conduct our work.
These new ways of working can also benefit the design projects most of us tackle every day – challenges less grand in scale than shifting to sustainable transportation or raising the quality of a nation’s schools. The grand projects force us to consider the social situation we work within, the social systems we affect, the ripple effects of our actions, the nested web of parts and wholes, and the personal journey of our team. Attention to these things can improve the effectiveness of any effort to accomplish meaningful change.