Timely publications

In the past couple of days I’ve come across two new publications on the theme of design activism, and interestingly one comes from a product design perspective, Design for Social Impact, (namely IDEO with the Rockefeller Foundation) and the other comes from the architecture perspective, Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism (Metropolis books by way of Metropolis Magazine).

ideo book cover expanding architecture book cover


What makes IDEO’s handbook exciting is that it is the marks the Rockefeller Foundation’s move into the area of design as a potential contributor to social change. They say,

“With a new focus area on innovation, The Rockefeller Foundation is exploring new avenues for social change. One promising area is design and how the design industry can play a larger role in the social sector.  This How-to Guide and the accompanying Workbook are written for  design firms that are interested in joining in conversation.”

Design for Social Impact and its handbook are available to download as PDFs.  The publications are aimed at existing design firms (design consultancies) who are interested in learning how to go about doing design for social impact. The authors present a range of strategies from changing the way you work to changing the way your firm is organized. It’s great to see others arguing for a more strategic use of the economy, as I did in The Designer’s Atlas of Sustainability.

Expanding Architecture is a volume published this month (I have not yet seen it) edited by Bryan Bell, of Design Corps   (who also brought us an earlier, useful volume called Good Deeds, Good Design) and Katie Wakeford. It looks to be a useful round up of cases where architecture is doing good. They say,

“editors Bryan Bell and Katie Wakeford map an emerging geography of architectural activism that is rich in its diversity of approaches. More than thirty essays … present recent work from around the world that suggests the countless ways that design can address issues of social justice, allow individuals and communities to plan and celebrate their own lives, and serve a much larger percentage of the population than it has in the past.”

In March 2009 we can also look forward to Alastair Fuad Luke’s Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World (from Earthscan). They say,

“Design activists, who comprise a diverse range of designers, teachers and other actors, are setting new ambitions for design. They seek to fundamentally challenge how, where and when design can catalyse positive impacts to address sustainability.”

Taken together these publications suggest that design activism is coming into its own, as a recognizable strand within design practice…and none too soon.

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