People have ideas of what design is.

The dictionary states that design (as a noun) is a plan to show the look and function of something that will be built. It also references design as a pattern, style, shape, composition, and form. An intention is the third – design is purpose, ambition, and aspiration.

The idea of design as a positive force doesn’t get talked about much, still, it’s a valuable discussion to have. In my world, graphic design is in real danger of being seen as a commodity. It’s sad, because graphic design, at its best, creates a positive force.

When the design is done well, most people don’t notice the design — at all. Instead, people experience how design makes them feel and how good it works. The issue they had is now gone because of good design. People benefit from the results good design brings them.

At the same time, as designers, we have a responsibility when building/making things to understand what impact it can create.

For example, our digital world, i.e. our public spaces on social media, designed to keep us connected and informed, are failing us by presenting a skewed version of reality. It has created an ecosystem of filter bubbles (designed by algorithms) that in turn create a breeding ground for fake news (and hate) to thrive. It’s also created rising rates of anxiety, depression, and making us less connected, not more.

Yet there are innumerable of ways we have experienced or witnessed design as a positive force. Here are a few favorites:

Empowers by informing. Design is a conduit for knowledge and knowledge is currency.

Corrects and challenges misinformation. Design as a truth seeker.

Visualizes the changes people want to see in the world showing ways they can make these changes to move their wants into a reality. Design as hope.

Creates transparency to encourage greater participation and civic engagement. Design as uniter.

Moves diversity away from “us and them” to “we’re all in this together.” Design as a global citizen.

Levels the playing field by subverting the traditional (money) power structure and allowing the little guy/small business/start-up to look big. There are now more tools than ever designed to help individuals succeed at their own gig. Design as an equalizer.

Design also levels the playing field for people with disabilities. Design that’s empathetic ultimately makes everything from buildings, tools, infrastructure to websites better for everyone.

Protects and speaks up for the voiceless and marginalized. Design as an advocate.

Reveals who the real heroes are in this world by uncovering the true narratives that have been defined by the victors and suppressors. Design sets our history straight.

Encourages play and curiosity. Design spreads joy.

Contradicts assumptions through demonstration. Showing is far more powerful than just telling.

Many of these involve thinking about design in a multifaceted way. At its core, design is meant to solve problems. As a positive force ultimately design makes the world a better place.

You’re up next. What positive impact have you witnessed or experienced with design? Jot your thoughts in the comments.

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