Sam Kapila, Lauren Serota, Alan Holt, VIctoria O'Dell and Adam Butler

Event Recap: Making Design for Good Part of Your Career

To wrap Austin Design Week, AIGA Austin hosted a panel discussion featuring local designers about how to make design for good part of your career. This latest installment in AIGA’s Changemaker series brought together designers from all career stages who have committed to make giving back part of their everyday lives.

Panelists included Lauren Serota, Austin Center for Design founding faculty member; Adam Butler, founder of The Butler Bros; Victoria O’Dell, Brigade Captain of Open Austin; and Alan Holt, Principal Designer at the City of Austin. Sam Kapila, a designer and educator, moderated the panel at Funsize Studios.

The event was overflowing, attracting both existing designers and educators involved with social good and citizens simply interested in how to give back to their communities.

Understanding Design for Good
Despite different backgrounds and clients, all designers agreed that intention is key when solving social problems.

“Design for good, for me, is considering the potential implications of my involvement and what the outcomes might be of my work– hoping it’s net positive and deciding when not to involve myself if that’s not likely,” said Serota.

Working as a Principal Designer for the City of Austin, Alan Holt is not only concerned with how to make great public spaces that are beautiful, but how do we create public spaces that are sustainable and connect us together?  

O’Dell has already discovered to only commit herself to projects that she truly believes in and that will positively impact her community. “Design for good for is the integration and elevation of ideas that will help everyone,” said O’Dell.

Serving Your Community
People and communities are at the core of designing for social good. Prior to becoming a designer for cities, Alan Holt started at a boutique architecture firm designing for elite New Yorkers. Once moving into the public sector, he realized he could help give a voice to the people he serves.

“On a day-to-day basis, I’m working in a world of politics where some people can say yes, and some people can say no,” said Holt. “Who I really feel I need to serve are the people who are oftentimes most powerless in that conversation. As designers I believe we can bring something unique to that conversation just because design is a radical act.”

Designing for your community can be as big Austin’s South Central Waterfront Initiative, a $1.2 billion dollar project Holt is spearheading in Austin, to starting a simple campaign to encourage community through waving. In 2013, Butler noticed hostility between cyclists and drivers in Austin — so he fought back through a simple act: waving. His agency developed a local campaign, which was later integrated into efforts in Austin and ultimately picked up as a statewide campaign in Rhode Island.

Designers not only have the power to create products and processes, they can also help spark conversations in communities. Serota views this as the biggest challenge and opportunity for success in her work. She advises that allowing your idea to expand, evolve and live in the world independent of you is what makes it more powerful.

“It’s probably 90% of my time now — to produce an environment that is conducive to inspiration coming forward and everyone feeling ownership around it,” said Serota.

Ultimately, community and intention are at the core of designing for good. Even though O’Dell is new to her career, she has already discovered that “to make anything good happen, you need to talk to people.”

CHANGEMAKER is an AIGA Austin initiative that unites teams of creative professionals with nonprofits and social change organizations to use design thinking, sustainable frameworks and creative tools to help advance their mission. Inspired? Sign up here to learn how you can help build a movement for change.