Social Change at the Hands of Creativity

15 June 2021

The social impact of design in the contemporary world


It’s not only about making something look “pretty,” I heard somebody say when asked “what
is the point of design? It doesn’t contribute to the larger picture.”


Looking back at the ruthless Paris Attack, when everyone was fearful and the whole
environment was filled with the wisps of sadness, one artist chose to spread the message of
peace. Jean Julien, designed the ‘Peace for Paris’ symbol and uploaded it on his social media
account. The whole world embraced this symbol and used it to communicate one single and
strong message of peace. By designing this symbol, Julien used design as a lens to see and
represent the emotions and feelings of people all over the globe.
It may be undeniable that the field of design contributes to the colourful posts you see on
Instagram or how aesthetically appealing your company’s website looks for you to gain client
traction and your sales to increase. However, this vibrant lens has more depth.
Design is now becoming a tool that visionaries across the world are using to create social
impact and bring positive change in life – physically, politically and through many other
spheres. There’s not one part of our everyday lives that design doesn’t touch, from the
products we purchase to the spaces where we work. It is now becoming increasingly essential
to improve lifestyle, create opportunities, and bring people together.
The power of design allows people to take steps towards transforming the world into how
they envision it – the power to create a more compassionate, empathetic world. Kat Holmes,
director of UX design at Google, says, “Design needs to move away from the idea of ‘a
mythical average’ of human traits and instead embrace specificity to understand real-world
problems and to create life-changing solutions.
In the 21st century, design exists beyond our smartphones, wardrobes, living room furniture
and wall decor. It is about the intentional development of the environment – public and
private spaces where people live, work and interact; or about innovations that improve the
things people use every day. It is the way we think, react, and live.
Inventions and creations in recent times are proving how design is factored in to bring
positive change. The story of 15-year-old Jayakumar is an example of innovation stemming
from empathy. He wanted to focus on preventing mishaps and subduing fires before they
spread, ever since his mother, a daily labourer at a fireworks factory, suffered serious burns
during an accident. This teenager then developed an inexpensive extinguisher that triggers a
water motor when it senses heat.
Design is becoming an integral part of politics and policymaking as well. Politics is where
design switches from research to action. The way designers think and express their thoughts
and actions can influence and potentially change decisions and opinions. Designers today are
seeing problems and social issues as an opportunity to intervene and imagine it differently,
rather than accepting it as it is.
A project tackling racial justice, called “All Hands On Deck”, was created by artist Damon
Davis and activist Michael Skolnik in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown in the
United States. The pair decided to tackle the issue of police violence through art, uplifting
those on the frontlines of activism and calling impacted communities to action.
This art form is hence emerging as a way of thinking as designers mentally “surround” a
problem, exploring it from all angles, rather than just head-on. Design can be an approach to
problem-solving that integrates the understanding that the best response may not be the most
obvious. Just like any leader, a designer always takes care of the requirements and comforts
of every user or consumer and then finds the easiest, simplest and most efficient route to get
something done.
Design today is creating social interaction and changes in various fields such as developing
trends to tackle global warming issues, solving millennial issues of convenience by bringing
self-driven cars into the picture, creating awareness about social groups through art, or
bringing people closer through something as small as a secondary sound jack on a music
device which enables couples and friends to enjoy music together!
Design is hence contributing to the “bigger picture” in more way than one and in fact, adding
all the colours to it!


By Rishleen Bajaj
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