Design Activism arises anywhere

Design Activism encompasses a wide range of real-life, social and environmental actions. It includes innovate forms of creative practice, models by which designers might work, or challenge existing conventions of design knowledge.

For example, The School for Visual Arts, a fine art and graphic art school in New York City, specializing in art education for aspiring professional artists, recently finished its summer workshop, “!mpact: Design for Social Change”, introducing participants to “the growing field of design for social advocacy.”

Of particularly interesting projects was an effort by Claire Manibog, called Design:Effect. Outline of a tool would help designers figure out the social return on investment (SROI) from their work. SROI includes all the benefits (“returns”) that typically are difficult to measure in monetary terms.

Design Effect

Another example is the Parsons’ Desis project called, “ Amplifying Creative Communities” addressing the political intricacy of design for social innovation.

Amplifying Creative Designs

Design activism arises from anywhere – advocacy groups, businesses, or public agencies. Design activists use artifacts and design processes to influence change by disrupting the status quo and revealing better visions for society.

Researches by Scarcity and Creativity in the Built Environment (SCIBE) explores how conditions of scarcity might affect the creativity in the production of architecture and urban design and development. The research is based on the analysis of processes in four European cities: London, Oslo, Reykjavik, and Vienna.

A recent design activism is the leaking pipes and resulting “scum river” on the New York City neighbourhood sidewalk. Astoria Scum River Bridge was constructed, at zero cost entirely from recycled materials: an old work bench found on the curb, rescued screws from a disassembled desk, and a metal plate from an expired electrical component, to offer Astorians an opportunity to safely cross this hazard. Bridge was installed and dedicated on December 30th, 2009.

Jason Eppink's Design of Astoria Scum River Bridge

Other examples:

Climate Stability Design

Climate Stability Design: Almost carbon neutral…Kroon Hall houses Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Designed by Hopkins Architects.

Design for Ongoing Participation

Design for ongoing participation: technical infrastructure as a platform for social participation. The Lionakis-designed water intake structure on the Sacramento River.

Massachusetts General hospital Rooftop Healing Garden

Tricycle Drip by Jetske Verdonk at the Design Academy Eindohove

Labyrinth by Labyrinth Enterprises installed at West Clinic in Memphis TN

Design Activism Organisation
Amplifying Creative Communities
Design Activism Net
Design ActivismAstoria Scum River Bridge
Design Activism Archives 



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