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February 23, 2010 / Kuan

Week in Design 2010 #8

How can I as a design help humanity?

I have been thinking about this question for more than a week, and different thoughts collectively contribute to this week’s Week in Design 2010 post. Once a while, writing helps get ideas out, and this post is to share some design thinking.

The world we are living in now have a lot of problems, poverty, disease, genocide, corruption, etc. But it is also a wonderful world. Many have health care, enough money, a job, a family, and they are grateful of what life has given them. I know I am.

One of the internal struggle I have as a student is the desire to serve the humanity and the passion for design. When I was a freshman in college, my major-to-be is photojournalism. I felt the need to tell stories via journalists’ lenses, and to reveal what might be left untold. Then, I found graphic design. As much as I love design, I am always wondering how design can help telling stories as much as, or more than photos do.

Is graphic design merely a product of the advancement of the society?

Many may argue the answer is no. Polish poster artists have used poster design as a way to resist to Nazi-German cultural invasion. They preserved their language and culture though design. In a way, design is the cause of a social advancement.

Design should not only be something people pay attention to when they are wealth, peaceful and have nothing to worry about. Instead, design should make people think, challenge people’s perception of the world.

How can I do that? In what ways can I design for humanity?

I went to a lecture by Muhammad Yunus this evening, and was curious about the idea of social business. He said that humanity relies on our creative minds to design business models whose goal is not to profit, but to help others. The idea of social business is a selfless concept, yet work for great self-satisfaction, which in the meantime is self-interested.

Can design be part of a social business?

Think of an idea, such as to help 5 people get employed, and talk to someone to invest in your plan. It’s a social business. Hm, design can probably be part of this great idea.

Maybe designer can help build websites, or design beautiful identities for local community artists; so they can spread their work and start their business. Maybe designers can help design a publication, for which inspiring young writers and poets can contribute, and make it look beautiful. Then, maybe we can publish it somehow and sell it somewhere.

Design can and should empower others.

I bought Dr. Yunus’ book Creating a World Without Poverty, and I am curious to look into how social businesses work, and maybe I can start my little own.

“We must redesign, because human beings have unlimited capabilities and can do much better.” –Muhammad Yunus

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