Creators mobilize for social change

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In 2014, Fast business presented a design award to Everytown for Gun Safety, a new nonprofit founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to fight gun violence. It was two years after the horrific tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the imperative to build a movement had never been more urgent.

Everytown tapped design studio Purpose to develop a powerful branding campaign that used graphics to highlight shocking statistics, such as “Americans are 20 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than locals. other developed countries “and” trafficking in firearms into the United States is punishable by the same penalty as trafficking in chickens or cattle. Three months after the deployment, Everytown had added nearly a million new supporters.

[Image: Fast Company]

Designers have long used their persuasive skills to effect social change. This has often taken the form of communication design: Logos, posters and other visuals are the hallmarks of almost every major social movement, from LGBT rights to Black Lives Matter. But since Fast business launched the Innovation by Design Awards 10 years ago, we’ve seen even more ambitious advocacy efforts. Today, as many companies embrace progressive causes, the fight for social justice crosses design disciplines, from architecture to graphic design and user experience.

Sometimes the effort is educational. Studio Artefact won an Innovation by Design award this year for developing a platform that teaches children about prejudice in AI. Experience design studio Local Projects also won multiple awards for Greenwood Rising, a museum dedicated to the forgotten history of the Tulsa Racing Massacre. Both projects are meant to raise awareness or, as Jake Barton, founder of Local Projects says, to use “design as a lightning rod” for difficult conversations.

Other projects solve specific problems. Jaden Smith’s 501CThree nonprofit won an Innovation by Design award in 2019 for the Water Box, a mobile filtration device that delivers thousands of gallons of clean water to residents affected by the water crisis by Flint. Architectural firm Overland Partners won an award the following year for ChildSafe San Antonio, a building designed to help heal abused children. And this year, Chase was recognized for partnering with local organizations, including the LeBron James Family Foundation in Akron, Ohio, to build community centers that fight racism in banking. Although very different projects, they have one common goal: to use design to right historical wrongs.

This applies to the design process itself, which is usually rooted in Eurocentric ideals. “As more designers work on social change – by addressing inequalities in housing, health care and education – we need to recognize that systemic racism is the root cause of all of these disparities. Says Sara Cantor, co-founder of the social-minded design company. Greater Good Studio, in a special Fast business report on the most pressing issues facing designers today. “While I don’t think designers should try to become DCI (diversity, equity and inclusion) consultants, we need to work to understand and undermine the ways in which racism manifests itself, including at the internalized, interpersonal, organizational and structural. “

See more Fast business’s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards. Our new book, Rapid business innovation by design: creative ideas that transform the way we live and work (Abrams, 2021), is on sale now.


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