Things & Thoughts

Designing for Impact

Over the past decades design has evolved from making purely physical artefacts (industrial design), to creating interactions (interaction design), to proposing need-based solutions (human-centered design) and implementing thought-through services and experiences (service design/UX). While design has always been about creating impact and designing for people, we are still lacking tools and methodologies to ensure and track this impact. As design continues to expand its role on business, technology and society at large, its responsibilities and scope of questioning also becomes larger.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries, and re-defining itself, design needs to find ways to not just solve problems but to track and ensure long-term positive impact. 

Unintended Consequences


AirBnB wasn’t designed to contribute to gentrification. Facebook didn’t aim at spreading fake news and influencing the presidential election. With the rise of Artificial Intelligence, society in 2017 has been getting more anxious about technology, and the role of the designer is shifting towards finding the right balance between machine and human input.

Parallel to the fear of machines taking our jobs evolves the chance of using technology to predict and prevent unintended consequences of design. While design today is more complex and needs to consider more variables than ever before, it also offers the chance for more impact when done well. How can we incorporate systems thinking, ethics, long-term consequences and at the same time stay agile, creative and effective?

This is an ongoing project - if you're interested in more details please feel free to get in touch.


Helen van Baal