June 26, 2013

Targets in the Distance

by Alexander Hadik

Alexander Hadik '15 is a Starr Fellow living in Providence working for A Better World by Design.

Greetings from Providence! And New York! And Boston! And Cupertino, Tanzania and Berlin...

Greetings from around the world, as I have the privilege to speak on behalf of the entire 2013 Planning Committee for A Better World by Design. Our astounding team of 17 Brown and RISD students is spread across the globe, but our collective hearts are set on Providence, in preparation for our 6th annual socially conscious design conference in September 2013.

As students, hosting a conference for 1000 participants can seem like a task beyond reach. However, with 17 brilliant minds working to bring socially conscious design to the forefront of industry, things get moving fast. Being the leader of our team of 8 in Providence, RI, my biggest challenge has been keeping up with everyone. We’ve made leaps and bounds towards hosting our September conference, as well as making A Better World by Design an icon of socially conscious design. However, amidst rapid growth and progress, I’ve found how easy it is to lose sight of your targets.

A Better World by Design’s mission is to promote the mindset and thought process that is socially responsible design. This means that our product, our conference, no matter how well executed or received, is a means to an end. That can be disheartening, but also a crucial point of reference as we work daily on the projects that make up the conference. We have a responsibility to always ask “How does this project, in this moment, promote socially conscious design?”

It’s a difficult question to answer, and certainly one that we’re not always able to grapple with. However, it’s a crucial tenant of our design process. Rallying around a mission, form follows function, and it follows by means of empathy for our end users. By baking social innovation into our work, we’re creating a community where our members feel a sense of belonging and connection. They feel the presence of socially conscious design, because it’s been there from the start.

At least that’s our goal. I’ve been finding myself stretching to just check off the box, let alone connect my work to our broader mission. It’s challenge to achieve short term goals in the name of a larger mission, with a broader definition and longer timeline. A well executed design process helps make this connection, where each piece of the final product works in harmony with the rest to fill a larger role. It’s a philosophy that I’ve always embraced, but one that I never realized was so difficult to implement, until now.

Around the world, our committee is meeting and collaborating, in coffee shops and on Skype, over the phone and in studios. Our team itself embodies this design principal, working collaboratively towards a common goal. As we enter July, the culmination of 12 months of work is but three months away. We will continue to challenge ourselves to work always with our mission at the forefront, and recognize that every decision we make must be in the name of a larger ideal. We won’t always succeed, but it’s by this process that we can continue to refine and improve. For us, failure is an opportunity for success, and around the world, our team is striving for a successful 2013 A Better World by Design Conference.

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