How you gonna change the world?

Lots on this topic of late amongst designers. Here are some of my thoughts. A working list. To any graphic designer who is interested in changing the world with design:

  1. Do no harm. If you are working on projects for big oil, big pharma, or any known quantity of companies that pollute, oppress, lie, or exclude, then stop. 
  2. Again, no harm. No work for any brands who amplify a world that makes racism, sexism, ageism, militarism, mindless consumerism, or any other system of oppression seem acceptable.
  3. Check your privilege and standup for universal values: transparency, fairness, open-mindedness, creativity, and thinking critically.
  4. Infuse high standards into your day-to-day work. Use your voice. Be an outspoken advocate for equity and inclusion. 

And then:

  1. Make your own cause-focused design project. Poster, postcard, infographic, share graphic. Everything counts, everything matters. We see thousands of messages each day and we need more than the ones just asking us to buy something.
  2. Take on projects for organizations who need help. Start with the issues you care about. Find the people who are working on those issues. Reach out. Ask how you can help. 
  3. Teach your skills. To underserved youth, to older people changing careers, or anyone who doesn’t know what you know.
  4. Partner with a cause. Become the designer within a group of agitators. Be a part of the movement. Listen, help, design, etc.
  5. Make any number of these things, and whatever else you think fits into your mission to change the world, your thing. Full time.

Some good places to start. Some action-items to work through. Feel free to use, add to, or share.

On Scarcity

Fear of sharing power leads to a halting of progress. If I allow someone else to gain, then I don’t lose. Not at all. There is enough to go around, trust me. Working to improve your community comes with sharing your power where it can actually be utilized. It starts with you, and then it connects with others. Systemic problems have all been designed, and they can be redesigned to be more equitable. And we can design what the redesign is, together. 

Workshopping the Workshop

What makes a good workshop experience? I’ve participated in some solid workshops. I’ve helped facilitate ones as well. Thinking about how to appropriately structure a workshop is an interesting design problem. As of now, I feel like I can get behind the following items as positive aspects of a workshop:

  • The facilitator establishes the tone. And holds it.
  • With the tone set, everyone can then start together from a common understanding of the problem the participants are trying to solve.
  • Time is used in a variety of ways. There is listening and talking, sitting and standing. We work together and we work alone. We discuss, present, and get feedback.
  • There is a diversity of attendees. (race, gender, age, sexuality, background, occupation, and so on) 
  • Approaches are arrived at together.
  • Everyone leaves with clearly defined action items.

I haven’t formally been trained in facilitation. I’ve dabbled. But it is something I’m becoming more interested in and see as part of a secondary set of skills I would like to continue to hone. To me, it fits nicely into the tools needed to be a graphic designer today. I would say more so than learning to code. To make ideas happen, from concept through to execution, knowing you’ll most likely need collaborators along the way, anything you can do to enhance your skills as a communicator of ideas is a good thing.

Do Not Think You Know Best

Because you don’t. A topic in a couple places of Michael Bierut’s presentation last week was a challenge to the notion that designers always know best. They know the best type, the best visual, and the best overall solution to the problem. This can be the case, but not always. Michael Bierut has experienced this. I’ve experienced this. Many times. The client or another collaborator brings the solution. It’s not uncommon. And you, the designer, need to be listening enough to recognize and grab hold as needed.

Everything Needs Effort

A big push. A heave. A dig-in-your-heals-and-muster-your-will effort to move the idea up the mountain. The execution. There is no shortage of ideas. No shortage of good ideas even. There is, however, a shortage of people putting in the time needed to make good ideas happen. This has been said before. I just want to say it again here. 

To go further, ideas need collaborators. Rarely do great ideas become reality by the force of one person alone. And sometimes you need a way to prioritize what you’re working on. I know I use this method. It goes as follows:

Of the array of projects moving forward, there are always potentials on the backburner. The things that could get worked on. To help prioritize which ones do get worked on, when there’s a lack of collaborators, that can be a signal that says your time is better spent elsewhere. A project where others are involved and on it gets the love. A project that’s alone in the wilderness, starts and then stalls, or goes through periods of radio silence does not. Don’t sweat it and keep the focus on the things that stand the best chance of becoming reality. 

This isn’t a 100% black and white approach to execution. Few things are. But it can be a helpful guide.

daOMA at 10

In 10 years Design Alliance Omaha (daOMA) has brought some of the world’s best architects and designers to the city. Last night it was Michael Bierut. Before that Enrique Norten, Austin Howe, Jeanne Gang, Michael Rock, Yves Behar, Fritz Haeg, Paola Antonelli, Majora Carter, Craig Dykers, Walter Hood, Hani Rashid, Karim Rashid, Linda Loudermilk, Thom Mayne, and Bruce Mau. Inspiring, motivating, challenging, illuminating, and on and on. Here's to the next 10.

Visit daOMA »

Antionette Carroll: Designing Inclusion & Equity

AIGA Nebraska has a couple great events coming up this week. Founder of the Creative Reaction Lab Antionette Carroll is visiting Omaha to talk inclusion and equity. She started AIGA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative and will help further our local chapter’s mission to Embrace, Engage, and Empower the community. I’m very excited to learn more.

Lecture: Antionette Carroll
Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 7:30 pm
The Omaha Community Playhouse

Workshop: Designing Inclusion & Equity
Saturday, April 15, 2017 @ 8 am
Malcolm X Center