Illustration of a man and a woman holding ends of a drawing compass as it sketches a circle with two marked points

People that know me know I talk a lot about how design intervenes in the world. Sometimes, more cynically, I use the term ‘interferes’. I use these words as a way of reflecting on the fact that design – especially strategic design – is explicitly about changing existing ways of doing things in order to have an impact: on people, on the future, on organisations, on the planet.

A few weeks ago I was humbled to be on a panel alongside the wonderful designers Lina Patel and Leander Kreltszheim, where we discussed ‘Communities of Care’. Something Lina said at the session really stuck with me:

People come up [to me and say], “Oh, I want to make an impact.”

We’re in the anthropocene right now. Whether you like it or not, you will make an impact. […] We are literally making an impact on the geology of this planet. I think a more useful question to ponder is, “What kind of impact am I having?”

Designers (including myself) could stand to be a lot more humble about the impact that we have. To borrow Lina’s words, “I just don’t think that many of us are making that big a difference.” We are privileged to work at a point of change in complex systems, but the scale of our impact is, in reality, pretty limited.

On that note, I love this idea of ‘small, sensitive interventions’ – by choosing and considering how and where we intervene in organisations, systems and feedback loops, perhaps outsize positive impact is possible. Perhaps with small, sensitive interventions we can undo the negative effects of large, clumsy, insensitive ones. I think it’s worth a shot.

— Reuben Stanton, Design Director

Read the rest of Issue #31 here.