How to Define Your Path in Social Impact Design

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Stefan Sagmeister querying the What Design Can Do audience on levels of happiness

This question continues to pop-up from people who are interested in working and participating in the field, yet there aren’t too many resources on how to do this. Part of the issue is social impact design doesn’t have the same structure and clear career path as other design professions like architecture and design. It’s nascent and this is both exciting and daunting.

Based on my nine years working within the field, here are a few pieces of advice on how to begin to define your own path.Continue Reading

Get to Know the Design Affects Community

thomas lamadieu_montreal 2014

Three weeks ago I sent a survey to get a better sense of your relationship with the field of social impact design. I was blown away by the responses from each of you. Your honesty, heartfeltness and commitment to improving your skills and knowledge confirmed to me that this is the group where I want to dedicate more time.

The responses are far too valuable to keep locked away on my hard drive so here are the highlights from the results for you to peruse.Continue Reading

It All Comes Back to the Audience


Today marks the two-year anniversary of Design Affects. Fifty nine posts later and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. Ila Glass’s well-known speech on “The Gap” has been playing in my mind.

Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

This quest to become better and get closer to that “taste” that I envision but haven’t yet reached keeps me going.

But it’s also the audience—you—who keep pushing me ahead. The people who are interested in, working in, and leading social impact design make this all worth it for me.

Over the past five months, I’ve been working on other projects and with each of them I return to the questions, “Who is this for? What am I providing? Why does this matter?” I’m constantly reminded of the importance of audience engagement when listening to Fizzle podcasts, reading It Starts With, and taking Acumen courses. The Theory of Change has now become my tool of choice to map, explore and test these ideas and assumptions for different audiences and projects.

However, the one project where I still have not addressed these questions is here. And you deserve the platform to help me define it.

In honor of Design Affects making the two-year mark, I want to hear from you about why you are practicing social impact design and what you need to do your work better. Whether you are just getting started, leading a multi-national organization, or looking for your “second” career, there are reasons why you found this site and continue to show up–and I’d love to hear it.

Here are eight questions for you to respond to over the next week (two three are really easy, I promise.) Deadline is Tuesday May 5th. I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who participated in the survey! It is now closed.

Are You Really Behind?

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The months are flying by. You look up at the calendar and ask yourself, “Where did the time go? Has it really been that long?”

That’s what I asked myself when I looked at the date of the most recent post here on Design Affects. November 3rd? Sheesh.Continue Reading

Take Stock of Your Narrative with This 30 Minute Activity

Turn your view upside down. 'Miner on the Moon' installation by artist Alex Chinneck

“I’m too busy.” “I don’t have time.” “I’m tired.” How many times do you say this, feel this, express this every week? What are these phrases really masking? I’ve been using these phrases to excuse myself of writing a post for the past two months while burying myself in other work. “I’m too busy” is code word for “I’m not going to address questions I need to ask myself about this blog.” All the procrastination has built up. The questions continue to knock at the door, getting louder every day. Enough is enough. I’m kicking procrastination aside and getting into it.Continue Reading