Can innovative design get us out of the mess it helped create?
Just because a design is effective doesn’t make it good.
One of the first winners of Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards, which launched in 2012, was the BioLite CampStove, a portable device for turning biomass into a heat source that cooks food, charges gadgets, and produces fewer toxic emissions. Another was Uber, which won for reinventing the user experience of hailing a ride. At the time, a juror praised Uber for “hacking the system.”
Two effective designs, two wildly divergent outcomes. BioLite went on to generate more than $25 million in revenue in 2020 and invest proceeds from CampStove and other consumer products into green energy solutions for families living without access to the grid. To date, BioLite has supplied 2.9 million people in Asia and Africa with clean stoves and lighting.
Uber went on to IPO in 2019 with an eye-popping $82.4 billion valuation, but in the process “disrupted” taxi drivers almost out of existence, clogged streets in cities, exacerbated pollution and helped create a gig economy that frequently exploits workers.
This is what happens when a design ignores the larger ecosystem in which it operates. Effective design isn’t always good design. Good design is always responsible—to users, society, and the planet.
Just look at BioLite.
We must all do better. As Don Norman, author of the seminal book The Design of Everyday Things, tells Fast Company: “If it is design that got us here, design can get us out.”
When it comes to preparing for the future of design, there’s no one better to guide you than the Godfather of UX.
The first person to hold a position that had User Experience in the title was Don Norman, who coined the now-ubiquitous term when he worked for Apple in the mid-90s. Norman’s 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things remains a sort of UX bible, touting iterative development and frictionless relationships between user and object.
So when it comes to preparing for the future of design, there’s no one better to guide you than him. IxDF is bringing you a treasure trove of never-seen-before, exclusive resources on designing for the 21st Century!
Design for the 21st Century with Don Norman is free for members, you can take as many courses as you want for a flat fee.
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Tools & Resources
2021 has been a challenging year, between the relentless march of COVID-19, geopolitical unrest, and disasters wrought by a warming planet. Designers saw the tragedy and chaos and responded with thoughtful solutions. At-home health products were expedited in the face of the pandemic. Packaging, clothing, and transit systems prioritized accessibility.
And old buildings and materials got surprising second lives as the climate crisis upended, well, everything. This year’s Innovation by Design Awards have 599 honorees in 37 categories, representing thousands of people, nonprofits, and companies actively working to make the world a safer, fairer, more beautiful place.
🔠 Google Fonts Knowledge is a rich library of guides to the world of typography, created by typographic experts from around the globe. This supplement to the Google Fonts catalog covers universal principles of typography for any medium, enabling designers and developers of all skill sets to choose and use type with purpose.
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It’s not hard to become a good typographer, but it can sometimes be hard to demystify the art and science of typography itself. Google Fonts Knowledge aims to make these skills accessible to all.
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Suzanne Labarre | Fast Company
Mehek Kapoor | UX Collective
Taylor & Jordan | UX Tools
Anton Sten | Blog
Tanner Christensen | Blog
Spotify Design | Medium
The UX Collective
How product design can change the world | Christiaan Maats | TEDxUniversityofGroningen
Christiaan Maats is a designer and entrepreneur who challenges the way we look at product design. Going beyond form and function he shows us how products carry deeper layers of meaning and how those layers can connect us to a bigger reality. In this Talk, Christiaan Maats explains how meaningful products can embody the change we want to see in the world and sheds light on his own vision of a circular society that integrates industrial society with its natural roots.
This is the last edition of this year, 2021. Surprising and serious events and trends noted for the first time ever this year.
Ten firsts of 2021
The New York Times rounded up 21 things that happened for the first time this year, some surprising trends, others serious events. Here’s an excerpt, or see the full list.
1. The World Trade Organization was led by an African woman.
2. A purely digital artwork sold at auction for millions.
3. A human brain was wirelessly connected to a computer via a transmitter device.
4. Mexico elected its first transgender lawmakers.
5. The world’s first 3-D-printed school opened in Malawi.
6. El Salvador became the first country to make Bitcoin a national currency.
7. NASA’s Perseverance rover made oxygen on Mars.
8. National Geographic cartographers recognized the Southern Ocean as the world’s fifth ocean.
9. SpaceX launched the first all-civilian crew into space.
10. Sales of zero-emission vehicles surpassed diesel sales in Europe.
So what happens now?
Climate designer Sarah Harrison points us in the right direction by asking the right question; how can we design systems that give back more than what they take?
Rather than asking ourselves how we can pollute less or do less harm, we should rethink the systems we operate in and create things that have a restorative impact for their relevant communities.
— That’s it for this edition. See you next month.
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