Introduction

I’ve been on an exploration to further understand my role as a Designer in the context of Social and Racial Justice. With the premise that as designers, researchers, strategists, and creators, we have for too long stood by as we upheld systems built for racism, capitalism, environmental terrorism, settler colonialism, and patriarchy. Without examining what we were told, questioning its efficacy, and reinventing new systems, we fell silent as BIPOCs were killed, poisoned, and imprisoned, just to name a few injustices. As an anti-racist, how do I commit to anti-racist acts in my day-to-day, my workplace, and with my friends and community? I do believe we need to go beyond ‘doing our job’. …


Introduction

I’ve been reflecting on myself and my work as a designer. I’ve worked on numerous design projects, all with a social aspect to varying degrees. What makes them social projects? After searching for new resources and sitting down with webinars and readings from Creative Recreation Lab (CRL), here are some of my thoughts on why we need equity-centered design, why we need thoughtful community design, and how equity-centered community design shows up in your product and marketing work even when you don’t expect it.

My work has most recently have been with startups, first-of-its kind, or products new to a group. We put a lot of emphasis on user research to understand who we’re designing for, what they need, and how we can serve them, which informs our scope of work. A big part of this is to ensure that the product is successful in the market, from how we market it, to how it actually functions, and the platforms that supports the product. With marketing and product design, we have the power to create or disrupt systems. With that in mind, as CRL puts it, “how can we make sure that you’re designing inclusive and equitable outcomes for all — no matter how big or small the decision?”


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Consumerism has traditionally been the enemy of sustainability

When we think of sustainability, what we should be thinking of are in terms of three systems; human, industrial product, and environmental. But how can business possibility survive without consumerism? How can we bring value to our customers without new offerings, and achieve increased profits, without increases in growth? To begin, as design and user researchers, we should “explore beyond the traditional usability data, net promoter, or affective data, and include data based on green consumerism” (Kramer, Kem-Lauren, User Experience in the Age of Sustainability). We need to shift our mentality from sustainability as an inhibitor, to sustainability as parameters for systems-based design. …


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The Power Paradox

A shifting landscape and changing forces are calling for citizens and consumers to create systemic change through authentic leadership, networks, and organizations, but what does it all mean? As a nation, we are constantly at war with traditional leaders, networks, and organizations. We hope for less stress, less hierarchy, less problems, and less tasks, but what we really want is more autonomy, more collectivism, more informed decision-making, more support, more praise, and more empowerment. In short, we want more of organizational innovation. But, what does organizational innovation mean? What do we need from our leaders to support organizational innovation, and what networks are required? In the Power Paradox, as described by Dacher Keltner, in The Power Paradox — How We Gain and Lose Influence, “we gain a capacity to make a difference in the world by enhancing the lives of others, but the very experience of having power and privilege leads jus to behave, in our worst moments, like impulsive, out-of-control sociopaths.” …


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The Shifting Landscape:

As recent political events have shown, nothing is certain, and as the development of the human mind evolves and as we become more enlightened, traditional organizations and man-made systems start to lag behind our needs more and more to the point where those systems become obtrusive to progress. Today, as the millennial generation in the United States’ is its largest workforce; entering the marketplace as consumers and the workforce as workers, we are dramatically shifting the landscape. How can the political, economic and social markets possibly meet our demands? What changes are needed to accommodate new values? What tools do we have to create systemic change? …


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But I suppose that would be very anthropocentric of me to say. However, it’s astonishing to think how much impact we’ve created to the planet in such short time compared to the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs out of the quaternary period (WWF, Living Planet Report). As the reality of tomorrow’s inauguration for the next president sets in, it’s easy to be overcome with fear, but the severity of this upcoming presidency has shocked the world and has united numerous parties, whom would have never joined together in effort to combat what could be human extinction, to do so (Eban Goldstein, The Long View). …

About

Aaron Wong

Design & Research for Social Innovation

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