During my sophomore year at The University of the Arts, a group of us were given a task to design a tool for patients in the hospital who suffer from aphasia. This condition often robs the ability to communicate, and makes it difficult to understand both written and verbal language. In hospitals, the patient often struggles to remember the medical team and their roles.
After being presented with this problem, it was our job to think of a solution. Our team designed a card system that would be given to the patient and remain attached to their bedside. We understood that the user needed the information on the card to be clear and concise. As the designers, there was a sensitivity around the choice of type, color and image to achieve ultimate simplicity. To be considerate of the user was the top priority.
This new approach to my process was a complete shift of focus, because up until then, everything I created was for me and other designers to enjoy. We critiqued and produced beautiful things, but none of it was actually functional, or possessed a real purpose. I had to relearn the meaning of design.
We then put our design to the test and drove up to the nearest hospital and sat down with real-life people with the condition. Soon after hearing their positive response to the work, I realized what good design can do FOR the world. I then became aware that design was not just for aesthetic pleasure, but a vehicle to assist people and alter what we experience in the world. Design became real to me, as I saw the immediate effects. The experience shifted my entire perspective and how I could be apart of the design world.
I wanted to do more.
As I began to look around, I realized that this idea of social impact and design had become a trend. Programs at universities, seminars and talks were popping up all around the world and they were all speaking about "Social Design". It made me excited that more people were realizing the true potential of design.
I believe the best is yet to come. Designers, strategists, architects, videographers and many more are sitting down to creatively resolve functional and social issues and are looking for an improved future. To me, this is exciting, and it is truly changing the world.