Peter Durand

PopTech Social Innovation Fellows: Why Design? with Robert Fabricant

In Design, Pop!Tech, Social Innovation Fellows on October 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Why Design? with Robert Fabricant, frog design

Vice President for Creative of frog design, Robert Fabricant leads frog’s efforts to expand the impact of design into new markets and industries, teaches at NYU’s Tisch School, and is a central partner in PopTech’s Project Masiluleke, a multi-party collaboration on the use of mobile technology to encourage testing for AIDS .

Robert writes on design and mobile technology in the theme of Design4Impact for frog’s designmind and FastCompany.

Robert spoke to the SI Fellows on the breadth of diversity in the design field: product design, service design, experience design, interaction design, and strategy design.

Why Design?


The most destructive misperception about design for impact is the notion of “design thinking” as a magic elixir that can be sprinkled on anything. While design tools and methods can be a great way to kick-start new thinking, most of the value is in the follow-through. Unfortunately, designers can’t just show up for a work session or two and sketch on some Post-it notes and have any impact on a major social issue. Each initiative requires a sustained commitment that is easily underestimated. This is another reason why working local is not just honorable but immensely practical.

Given the level of effort required to see these initiatives through, it is important to establish a focus and stick with it. Whether you are working locally or globally, the issues are not easily understood and the solutions don’t just magically appear. Most issues are highly interconnected. Meaningful impact is driven by an interplay of products, services and partners that takes time to mature. So impact usually comes through focused efforts and sustained commitments.

In our own practice, this focus has been around mobile technology. I believe that these are areas where we can help magnify the impact of local partnerships as well as play a larger role in helping them spread globally. But this is obviously only one approach, and others are making their own areas of expertise a basis for creating programs of large-scale social impact. We need all these efforts. After all, we don’t want these ideas to remain local forever, do we?

Design Research Cards


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