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  • Some Good Definitions of Social Design

    June 04, 2007


    We had a feeling that social design might mean many things to many people. Apparently we were right! Teaming up with GOOD magazine, DESIGN 21 created an online contest to see how people defined their ideas of social design. The responses were overwhelmingly thoughtful, personal and perceptive; they truly expanded our ideas about what this movement we’re championing is all about. Some recognized singular, personal acts as social design, like one contributor who wrote, “When someone alters his or her behavior in a positive way in response to any deliberate message that ultimately could benefit the greater good, that is social design.” Others commented on how social design itself functions in a larger community, writing that, “It promotes community rather than further detachment from the world around us” or that, “respect is really the key to social design.” Here are some of the responses as posted on GOOD magazine’s website:

    Social design is…

    Social Design to me is design for everyone. It can be graffiti or even a simple "No Parking" sign or even the signs on a restroom door. It is design that we just absorb into our life with out even knowing it. _— by johnHoysa

    In my opinion, it's design that's shaped by society and its collective consciousness, rather than design with the intention of shaping society (and that collective consciousness) to its mold. — by caroline

    The GNU GPL is an example of perfect social design. It requires anyone who modifies GPL code to share their modifications with the community. — by papyromancer

    Social design is giving means for community development and interaction. — by nem0

    Social design is design with the society in mind. Social design would be more reflective of everyone in the community, and the diversity and commonalities of our collective realities. — by msekhar

    Social design exists as the context of the everyday, the everyone and the everywhere; it is tangible groupthink. — by eakspeasy

    For me, respect is really the key to social design. By respect, I mean respect for other humans, respect for the environment, respect for your surroundings, respect in essentially any way that the word can be used. While Design is often concerned with its target audience, rarely is anything else considered. It would never be possible to consider all of the ramifications of a design, but social design should strive to examine as many as possible. — by TshirtFiend

    Social design is… those things we create that consider issues beyond the bottom line. It is design with attention paid to environmental impact, labor practices, and the common good. Social design isn't extravagant, it is just enough, it is witty, fun, and practical. It encourages a response through how it looks or how it is used. It promotes community rather than further detatchment from the world around us. — by pdbird

    Social Design is progressive. It is the result of forward thinking and the physical manifestation of the ideal that social change is possible. Everyone with a home makes choices about its contents. These choices represent one's values. Having the option to elect for social change rather than tradition is Social Design's goal, which enables us to embark on social change right in our own backyard. — by jtg2001

    To me, Social Design is the intention and goal of a group to influence a community in a certain way. It is proactive, progressive and hopefully positive. Social Design has the power to make change. — by jomoray

    Social design, especially the one found in an urban environment, should reflect complexities of a social context in which it exists. This design should include some common human values, present innovative and provocative ideas, and also retain a certain amount of ambiguity and flexibility that would allow it to evolve and exist in future social contexts. Social design should also strive to engage and include, rather than simplify, specialize, and exclude. Although this kind of design would create certain conflicts, the final result would actually be socially valuable. The interaction between opposite interests would encourage dialog and negotiation, and this process and participation would enable this design to become socially relevant. — by beba

    Communication laid in function

    Soaked in Inspiration

    Caught in fleeting glimpses

    Collective Chemistry noted by the 
Rise and Fall of Fads

    Social Design

    Understood, but best had Understated.

    — by Suncaster

    After writing the title and brainstorming some thoughts on social design, I realized that perhaps I too am (or could be) a social designer (sans any formal training). That being said, 
Here are my notes on social design: 
proper perspective, 
challenges assumptions, provoking of double-takes, resource-moderate (not resource-intensive), 
with intention, 
more than a modicum of forethought to its externality costs, 
of value to society (not only a select few), 
fun (whimsical at times)... We are (or have the ability to be) so much smarter than the majority of what human beings design, but the gravity of the regression to the mean pulls us toward mediocrity. — by dmill

    Social design brings people together, hopefully for the greater good, but this is not always the case. By taking the extra step when designing the things that make up our world, we can influence society as a whole for the better, and anyone and everyone will benefit. — by pd360

    Social design is taking classic design ideas and problem solving and applying them to more than aesthetic ideals. Design is just taking a problem, and solving it as simply as possible. So for designers to take their time and present solutions to deeper problems, that’s social design. Design that will shape how we live our lives more directly than a cleverly designed end table. Modular housing that is easy and cheap to manufacture, an easy to use water purifier that is run without electricity for areas that need it desperately. Those are examples of social design. — by rroycema

    When someone alters his or her behavior in a positive way in response to any deliberate message that ultimately could benefit the greater good, that is social design. The message could be a poster, campaign, product, or a modified environment, etc. but it provokes and challenges people to think beyond themselves. — by orangina

    building community and empowering users! — by rebeccafyi

    Design by groups of people for groups of people. Designing for cultural fit. — by jmungar

    When the air gets cold, water turns to ice. There is no such thing as empty space. Shape it and re-shape it and tell me excatly what you want me to see. Or let me figure it out on my own. — by bryanstampy

    Design which promotes the betterment of society as a whole – it's people, it's environment, it's culture. — by cloudform

    Social: characterized by friendly companionship with others or in a community Design: to plan or sketch for work to be executed to plan and fashion artistically or skillfully. Social Design is a plan executed for a community. Its intention and purpose is for the greater good of its audience. — by korenca

    Social Design will help change something for the better. I believe that even the smallest design will change a larger picture, and that is great. — by photogal

    I can define it from two directions: the first, starting with 'social,' would do for design what digg does for 'social news' or' does for 'social bookmarking.' Social design would mean design collaboration on a massive scale, generated by ordinary people, who acting in concert are smarter than any one individual. I could also see 'social design' as being defined from the other direction, starting from an individual designer using his or her skill to express a social conscience, making an impact on society through the pwoer of graphics and text. Either way, I think what Design21 is doing is incredibly cool, and I'm happy that they've partnered with GOOD. — by caveatscriptor

    Social Design is when you design anything with the good of people in mind. It can benefit people by providing them with awarness. It is about being creative in order to assist in issues that negatively affect peoples lives. That is what I think socila design is. — by ethanbodnar

    Sign of the times this Social De Sign. 
In the old days, our everyday lives provided our physical workouts and social that we are one with our machines 4 to 20 hours a day, we need to deSign our Social lives and ensure our Humanity, Heart and Soul are highly prioritized signs of our existence. Built into this design is empowerment of our beliefs encouraging our positive actions for we *do* make a difference. — by Goody9shoes

    Social Design covers all aspects and stages of a designer’s life, forcing the designer to be responsible of each one. There must be a balance between materials life, environment, economy, and the user. — by ZanyGuru

    He lives in Alabama, collects radios, names his trees after days of the week, and is listed in the phonebook as M.E. Cancer - Mr. Eyes Cancer. The year a group of college students designed and built a house for him, everyone's life changed. And so it continues today as Music Man impacts those who read about his story or travel to sense his culture. I believe this is one example of Social Design: the bringing about of personal and communal transformation. — by bethisnice

    Social design… means to make a difference in people's life. To help people and change the environment we have to live in. For me that can range from small changes in our daily routines up to life saving projects or developments and every aspect of life in between. — by betsi09

    To begin to articulate Social Design, one must first understand the word design. A design, any design, by its very nature requires a problem, in this case a social problem, or a problem of society. Design is NOT art, it is not an opinion, or a trend or even an aesthetic. It is an answer to a problem. It is a way of thinking about and contemplating how to solve a problem, and then articulating this in a chosen medium. In the case of D21, "Social Design" is a way to present the problems of society and the world, into a social network of clever people, to contemplate and solve with their various disciplines. Whether you believe it or not, it is true that "Design will Save the World"... within all levels of society, thru-out your daily life, and even while brushing your teeth in the morning. — by buroMERENDA

    social design is a blueprint for the way a community of people could exist. It is a conglomeration of ideas(made by the people) that can make life for all people in a community or nation happier and healthier. social design opens doors for positive change. now all we need are some social designers. — by grazingpirate

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