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Definitions of social design: get them debating

Need to get students talking about the “social” aspects of sustainability? Try asking about definitions. In the Designers Atlas of Sustainability I wrote, “From our history of human activity, such as language, technology, beliefs, and values—what do we want to sustain over the long term? In some ways it’s easier to identify things we don’t want to maintain—wars, injustice, poverty, racism, and disease are a few examples.”

Easier to identify what it isn’t.

Recently we’ve seen the rise of “social” design and there’s a struggle over how to define it. John Carey and Gilad Meron recently compiled a glossary of what they call “social impact design terminology” and it leads to a great question for students: in what way, if any, are struggles for these types of definitions useful?

Does it get you thinking about how design can contribute to social or cultural sustainability? Or does it bog you down in unhelpful, murky detail?

The illustration is by Jessica de Jesus














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