“Design for Good”: A Working Definition


“Design for Good”: A Working Definition

Opening remarks from the AIGA DC Salon: How to Design for Good, Full Time, September 24, 2012, Washington, DC

“Design for Good” is any form of design work that aspires to better someone’s life. To me, it is a distinct facet of the design practice, a specialization as discreet as branding or interactive design. Designers working in this field have expertise in the traditional aspects of graphic design — print, web, interactive — but will have one special power: empathy.

Aside our usual obsessions — fonts, paper, the smell of ink, kerning— we are also keenly interested in people, in history, in current events, in culture and care to know how our work is received and how we can do better next time. Our work supports, vivifies and amplifies programs. Change doesn’t happen when the brochures are delivered from the printer.  Design is part of the process and not the end.

Design for Good is iterative. Inclusive rather than exclusive. We co-create. To be effective, our work must be timely and responsive, not just to a client deadline but say, to the urgency of a burgeoning epidemic. We are pragmatic as we are idealistic.

What we won’t be able to spend time on is the word “Good”. There are gradients to “good” perhaps enough to warrant its own Salon. At times, “Design for Good” can be political or critical. But at the heart of Design for Good is always a love for community, a cause and the other. Design for Good” is animated with a zeal for service. —AQ