DESIGN AND IMPACT
I was recently talking to a friend who was in the same dilemma as I often find myself in, “What am I changing? Is my work impacting anyone?”. Design is often a misunderstood and undermined career choice. It was no surprise to me when people gave me a “Meh” reaction when I declared that I wanted to pursue design as a career. The first question that I am asked every time I mention that I am in art & design school is, “Can you draw me?”. Anyone who is pursuing Industrial Design is going to give you a death glare and is probably cursing you out in their mind. Being born a female in an Indian Society meant that anything that didn’t resonate with Engineering, IT or Doctor meant that your career choice was going to be looked down on. This made me want to do something that would have a big impact. I had something to prove and I often doubted if design would be the best way to do it.
It’s often assumed that designers just make things look pretty. They are god’s gift to humanity, people who are graced with extremely good aesthetic talent. So, going back to the conversation, we are problem solvers. We love helping people and like to think that what we do makes a big impact. It is easy to lose this belief and confidence after you spend hours drawing and trying to make a faucet. It makes me wonder if it’s worth it. This is where the real dilemma came in, WE LOVE DESIGN! I love what I do, it gives me a certain kind of thrill when I am in a huge jumbled mess trying to figure out a solution to a problem, I start off with not knowing any set direction I would go in or what I would end up with but then I end up with this beautiful design that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also works well. There is this moment where the fog clears out and you end up with a solution. This is where it becomes important to gear projects towards design that encourages social change and is evident in the results.
For a design to be validated it must have good form and function both. It is, “How it works”. Innovation and creating impact is an integral part of design. In a not so perfect world, it is easy to miss the impact that even tiny objects have on our lives. Too often, humans being the adaptive creatures they are, fail to notice the frustrations that are caused by bad design and blame themselves. Good design is designed to meet the user’s needs. Understanding people, how they live and how they interact with objects is an important part of good design. Service design, Design for social change and many other sectors of design create a huge social impact. Design is a way of thinking and it is this way of thinking and understanding how people behave and think is what helps designers solve problems.
Design creates different kinds and amount of impact in different cultures. Having a multi-cultural background and being passionate about helping people and now being a resident advisor while pursuing a career in Industrial design has helped me connect with a lot of diverse people. My boss always starts off our meetings with a famous quote from Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said and people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This sums up design in its essence. It’s about creating experiences and these experiences no matter how small change the world for better. New and upcoming designers understand the value of design and put in effort to measure this impact by doing research, analyzing and post-testing. It is necessary to measure this impact but sometimes big social impacts come in waves and not immediately and could be as small as impacting just one family and can also vary per different cultures. So, while there is a constant effort to build tools that can measure this, it is also necessary to remember that impact is not something that can always be measured, it is something that is felt, something empowering and beautiful. As Mariana Prieto stated in her ted talk, “Design is that little piece that has empathy, creativity and practicality all in one. And it’s only this piece together with all of the other pieces that we can really have a chance to change the world”.