Do you believe that design can influence change?
We do. But, let’s face it: the design industry operates within a privilege-based system where only those who can afford our services benefit from our work. The result? Our participation in a feedback loop that serves to empower corporations, but leaves those making our world a better place (like non-profit orgs) without access to professional creative services.
The design industry is famous for thinking about “design for good.” However, the majority of solutions created from all this design thinking typically don’t create much impact outside the design community. Why? Because direct action is necessary to create change, and we haven’t created the systems to facilitate design as direct action.
The Visible HQ team asked: how can we help solve this problem? How can we create new systems that empower direct action, influence change, and challenge the models of exclusivity and inequity that the the design industry perpetuates?
When working to correct systems of inequity, the first thing we must address are basic needs.
For most non-profit organizations, these basic needs include a professionally designed logo and website. To be clear, a Design Equity Tournament is not meant to take the place of full-service strategic creative work. Think of it as a design emergency response system. Just as relief workers spring into action after a disaster to make sure everyone is safe, warm, and sheltered, a DET works in the same way: making sure an organization has their basic needs met, and fast. With these basic needs in place, organizations gain the gift of time. They now have the ability to take the time required to engage in a strategic creative process to address long-term needs, something that many of us take for granted when working for paying clients - but in reality, is a privilege not enjoyed by all.
The Design Equity Tournament is an opportunity to engage in direct action to benefit the greater good. It’s all walk, no talk – because change can only happen through action.
Each tournament is an experiment. Participants are challenged to think fast and work outside familiar structures and practices. Working to solve big design problems in a sprint-style format can be unpredictable, and even uncomfortable for some! Solutions arrived at during tournaments are always inspiring and innovative, and often surprising.
For some in the design industry, DET tournaments raise the question: can design work produced in a day have lasting value? From our direct experience, yes. Value is subjective, and based on privilege. What may not have value by traditional design standards (in terms of strategy and process) can still hold immense value to an organization whose basic design needs are not being met. The luxury to participate in a months-long creative process is a privilege. What does our work look like when we create it outside these systems of privilege? Does it still have value? How is value related to privilege?
At the end a Design Equity Tournament, a non-profit organization benefits from the work which they can either put into immediate action, or use as a starting point to empower their organization.
By gathering talented designers and thinkers together to solve a real-world problem in the span of a day, the DET strives to empower designers with a tangible way to put our skills into action, create a measurable impact, and inspire others to do the same.
Through this work, we hope to bring about change not only through the work created that day, but by offering a design solution that establishes a new norm: the redistribution of equity, resources and increased access to the power of design.