When I applied to study Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship at the Austin Center for Design (AC4D), part of the application included writing a “statement of purpose” outlining why I wanted to go to AC4D and what I hoped to learn from the program. As we start this blog, I wanted to share a few choice snippets from my essay:
I have a mission. I believe in the power of design. I believe that faith-based and non-profit organizations have an important role in serving people and doing good in the world. And my call is to help these organizations embrace the tools of design and design thinking to have a greater impact at addressing the big problems we face in our society today.
When I talk about design, I’m talking about a process that builds empathy. That synthesizes observations and qualitative research data into insights and design ideas. That thinks about interactions between people and systems–and seeks to humanize technology. That includes people in the design process instead of creating something for them. That favors hard, messy, frustrating, iterative work over propagating the myth of “magical” or “genius” design. That addresses problems worth solving.
I’m inspired by Roberto Verganti’s use of the word designare: “The etymology of the word design goes back to the Latin ‘designare’ which means to designate, to give meaning to things…Design is not about styling. It’s not about technology. It’s about radical change in meaning. These are things that people were not asking for, but when they saw them, they fell in love.”
And when I think about this definition of design, I can’t help but think theologically. The stories we talk about in faith communities are stories about meaning. They are invitations and offer frameworks and scaffolds for people to make meaning in their own lives. I think design does that as well–and in ways that the church could learn from.
Which brings me back to my AC4D statement of purpose.
I’ve become an evangelist for design thinking because even with good intentions, motivation and execution are difficult. However, design shifts the focus from me to us. From individuals to collaboration. From consumption to participation. From problems to opportunities.
I wrote these words over a year ago. And after 32 of the most challenging weeks in my entire educational career (plus a couple months back at sparkhouse, pushing our design processes), I’m happy to say that many of these words I wrote over a year ago still hold true.
And I’m more convinced than ever of the importance of working in public. Of creating something, getting feedback, iterating, and growing. Which brings me to this space. If I want to be an evangelist for design, it’s time to “put up or shut up.” And I’m not a very quiet person.
So with that, welcome to Theology x Design.