Masquerading as a Social Entreprenuer
What If I Cave?
The most provocative that the readings brought up in my mind was this idea that Jessi Hempel mentioned in her article. She writes, “The only thing worse than not asking the questions, is not paying attention to the answers that don’t fit into their world view, because it’s inconvenient.”
The overall message in Hedel’s article in my mind is that when designers go out looking for solution to a problem that we define, we will usually find it. The issue here is that, without taking the time to understand the people, scope, and context of the system, we may end up focusing on the wrong thing. Therefore the solution, while it may work for that particular problem, won’t actually provide any usefulness to the target users. People and businesses often miss this because it becomes inconvenient to their current strategy.
This really hit home for me. It’s been a big fear that when I go out into the workforce, unsure of my ethics and my design theory, and I’ll end up just caving to business theory or side with how other designers view the world. I want to have the moral backbone to stick up for my own values and the ways I’ve been taught in AC4D about how to create thoughtful and usable design.
AC4D has presented opportunities to me as a student that might be contrary to points articulated in the readings. Like, for example, the articles that talk about design competitions and hackathons. The point that Joyojeet Pal makes is that hackathons or design-for-good competitions aren’t doing near what they are trying because they set out to reach these blue sky ideas without considering how this thing could become a reality or really whether it is even useful. In fact, the result of these events favors us designers rather than the people it’s supposably for and by attending programs like AC4D or competitions like IxDA we get that sense of selfish altruism and practice at doing these type of projects. In a way it’s dishonest of us to masquerade as designers that practice social entrepreneurship and design for social good when, the minute we that we are out of here, we will pick the role that provides the top dollar.
Scaling As A Designer
I feel like new designers have so much pressure to do well quickly then it’s harder for us to choose what direct we want to go right now. Then once we get good enough to actually pave our own path we have gone too deep into agency work or consulting and our lives force us to stick to a paycheck.
It’s just like the Red Cross vs. New Home. New Home, because they were a startup company, was able to focus more on design research methods like participatory design that enabled them to create more empathetic and tailored products to their users. Red Cross, while they tried to helped, their methods failed because the problem required a more focused method approach that they couldn’t provide at the level they were at.
When you’re just starting out it’s easier to focus on the empathy and the individual, but scaling your design is another trick. Then once you get to the level of Red Cross you can’t do the same type of design because it doesn’t work that way. The Red Cross failed because with the thousands of things they do daily it is hard to really narrow in their focus to give the detail needed to thoughtful design.
I compare this to being a senior designer at a company like Frog or even Goodpatch. Chelsea, when she came to speak, mentioned in passing that 60% of their work is presentations and only 40% is actual design work. It’s not that this is inherently bad but, just like Red Cross finds it difficult to be effective at their scale, I feel like it would be hard to solve these wicked problem at that level.
I Guess We’ll See
The problem that scares me is that I am one of the designers we read about in Theory class. I can see myself being the type of designer that graduates and goes straight for the money, even though I know that I find working on these issues more fulfilling. I know long term I would want to make the monetary sacrifice, but I haven’t been one to have great foresight. I guess we will see in April.