I recently had a conversation with The Business of Giving host Denver Frederick. We discussed the Measured.Design conference at SVA, Foossa’s approach to community-centered design, the Awesome Foundation, and more.
How do we design transformative museum experiences that bridge the gap between empathy and action?
Students and job seekers frequently ask me about the skills that they need to succeed at Foossa, the community-centered design and strategy consultancy that I cofounded, or in a related career path. I came up with this list as a starting point for anyone interested in using design as a tool for social innovation.
1. Write Well
Being a strong writer goes a long way. Clear writing signals that you can think clearly and communicate effectively.
Craft compelling stories. Appeal to the heart and to the head. Be persuasive. Be concise. Be memorable.
Prototyping could mean making something out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners to coding the minimum viable version of an app. You don’t necessary need high tech prototyping skills, but you do have a bias toward action.
You learn by doing. You learn by making. You prototype to learn. You can think visually and sketch out maps, diagrams, and charts to help inform your thinking. Your sketches could be doodles on Post-Its rather than museum-worthy masterpieces, although strong drawing skills are certainly a plus.
3. Code Switch
You speak the language of business. You speak the language of your clients and of your customers. You speak the language of social innovation. You understand how to define a theory of change.
You know how to reinterpret a creative brief to get down to the essence of what the needs really are.
You can get by in the language of designers and technologists enough to be able to collaborate with them effectively and to manage multi-disciplinary teams. You understand the basics of visual language, from hierarchy to typography. Bonus points if you can code in a programming language.
4. Make Stuff Happen
You know how to manage projects from inspiration to implementation. You break down difficult and complex tasks into manageable steps. You find the courage to put stuff out in the world to see what happens. You iterate until you get it right. Then you iterate some more.
You make community happen. Bring people together and get them involved in collaboration and co-creation. This could mean hosting an event, facilitating a meeting/workshop, or community-managing an online discussion forum.
5. Give and Receive Feedback
You know how to conduct a design critique. Help your teammates improve by giving critical insights and new perspectives into their work. You can give and get feedback without making it personal.
You make it about the creative brief and shared goals rather than just your personal opinions and preferences.
You learn how to filter the feedback that you get into “advice to implement” and “advice to take with a grain of salt.”
6. Document, Document, Document
My professors really drove this point home in my masters program. Make sure you document your work, whether it is through blogging, journaling, photos, videos, or a combination of the above. You will need it one day in the future, whether it is for a portfolio or for another project. Pictures, or it didn’t really happen.
This list is a work in progress. What skills would you add? Let me know in the comments.
P.S. If you are considering grad school to help you acquire some of theses skills, check out the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I teach there.
Lucy Chesters from Ethos Magazine recently interviewed me about Foossa’s work with Wisdom Hackers, UX for Good, and the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Read the interview here.
An advertising billboard becomes a space for socially-conscious art and then transforms into sustainable bags and accessories.
This is the story of a three-way collaboration between Lamar Advertising Company, the largest out-of-home advertising company in the United States,RAREFORM, a Santa Monica-based producer of bags and accessories repurposed from billboards, and Milton Glaser, the legendary artist and designer famous for creating the I ❤ NY logo.
Last year, Glaser launched the “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying” campaign to create new urgency around the issue of climate change and to shift the language and narrative away from benign terms like “global warming.”
This year, Lamar Advertising has provided a billboard in Los Angeles at Crenshaw Boulevard and West 59th Place to showcase Glaser’s “It’s Dying” campaign. The billboard with Glaser’s artwork will remain on display until the end of October. After the billboard comes down, RAREFORM will repurpose Glaser’s artwork into approximately 300 limited-edition backpacks and accessories.
Designers and artists like Glaser looking to make a statement about environmental sustainability have the challenge of walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Campaign collateral like buttons, stickers, posters, and billboards all require natural resources to produce and often turn into waste after they have served their purpose. This collaboration between Glaser, RAREFORM, and Lamar provides a system for the sustainable reuse of these materials.
For designers working to be more sustainable, the lesson here is to think beyond creating collections for a single season, and instead design systems for reuse and transformation across the lifecycle of a product.
At the end of November, RAREFORM will host a gallery show in Los Angeles. The exhibit will feature exclusive videos, photos, and products from the collaboration, as well as some of Glaser’s other work.
Learn more at igg.me/at/art-lives.