I was filled with both hope and despair after reading about the Audi Design Foundation’s latest venture into the trendy waters of social innovation and service design (DW 16 April).
I was hopeful that this project might mean more designers channelling their fresh thinking into challenges that matter, rather than just looking to fill their portfolio with work for sexy brands. Any initiative that encourages responsible design can only be a good thing, can’t it?
However, the article frustrated me intensely, as it delivered yet another message about how designers alone can change the world, further inflating old-school egos and potentially misleading naive and malleable young minds too.
I share the belief that design can help make a difference, but when you take on challenges like new financial models, healthcare and crime, you have to respect the fact that a large number of talented individuals are already working on these challenges every day.
Not only do they work in these industries, they specialise in fields other than design and already make change in these areas happen.
They are scientists, civil servants, sociologists, doctors, engineers and politicians, to name but a few.
Positioning design as the solution to social problems is very dangerous and potentially extends our remit a little too far.
Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe these designers will have the initiative to get out into the world and observe these people, engage with the experts, understand the barriers, see what’s been tried before, see why alternatives failed and listen intently. Collaboration has to be key. Then they can visualise the problem and translate ideas into illustrations, potential products or services.
That’s where design really helps – after all, a problem well understood is one almost solved. Let’s hope this happens
Jason Mesut, Experience director, The Team, London SE1