Despite its increasing popularity today, “designing for good”, also referred to as “social design”, has existed since the early Modernists established the concept of “good design for everyone”.
However later in history, the focus of design shifted toward consumerism and desire, due to industrialization and mass production. Today, with economic situations changing rapidly and consumers becoming more critical of their governments and corporations, the idea of social responsibility and design for good is well on its way to becoming mainstream – now even with large corporations on-board.
In many ways it is up to designers to maintain this positive movement and continue to practice social design. Adrian Shaughnessy explains that practicing social design for the common good, essentially, means “questioning what we do and who we do it for.” Although easier said than done, it is the way of the future, as designers must shift their focus toward ethical and socially responsible practices and products.
Evidently it is natural for humans to help one another, and contribute to the greater good. In terms of graphic design specifically, the meaning of “designing for good” must be defined. An article on Elefint Designs’ blog about design for good specifically explains why the social sector needs a new vocabulary. Elefint explains that the word “good” is used very frequently in the areas of both design and non-profit work. For example, GOOD Magazine and Mashable’s Social Good “have helped elevate the definition of good in the popular consciousness to mean ‘with a greater purpose’ or ‘meaningful.’” There are alternate meanings of the word “good” however, explained online:
While there is the risk of confusing it with the definition “effective” (in fact we are about to write an article on “good marketing” that means “effective marketing”) and while “the good sector” sounds a bit funny, we can mitigate this problem by combining “good” with other words, such as “for” to come up with a clear meaning. “Design for good”, “marketing for good”, “architects for good”, etc. are all great ways to clearly signal a commitment to the greater good. This definition ignores causes and tax status, and could be applied across the social sector.
Essentially, “good” is used in relation to a positive future, one that allows a sustainable world that supports everyone.