Live from HxR: Purpose Driven Design

Purpose Driven Design, by Amy Cueva

HxR2017Consider how in designing for health we can work on our empathy, and create a sense of purpose.

In the book The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman talks about a friend getting stuck in a series of glass swinging doors. When the automatic doors didn’t work, he panicked. He couldn’t get out until someone found him and was able to open the door from the outside. Amy says this shows us that design isn’t about a single object, but about many objects working together in a system.

Amy believes design of whole organizations and networks can change the world. It can help us find direction as individuals, fuel innovation, and deliver positive change. Our experiences give us purpose.


Personal History

Amy learned from her parents that ordinary options can make big differences in peoples’ lives. That led her to design school, where she learned that design is about helping people find new ways to learn things.

After college, Amy had to deal with the addiction of a loved one, single parenting 3 children, a child diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. All of this, these experiences, worked to provide her with purpose. They centered her work as a designer.

When we build sites or applications for a business, they want our skillsets, but they also look at the experiences we provide, and the human-centered piece we can provide. Human centered design focuses on learning peoples’ emotions and desires. In healthcare we want to understand the emotions and challenges people are facing every day. But human-centered design isn’t enough to solve the problems we face.

When you’ve experienced the difference between a jaded doctor and one who cares about the person, you understand. When you’ve combed the internet for research to try and save a loved one’s life, while also coming to grips with the fact that you need to let her go, then you really understand. It’s hard to understand how people get lost in the system, until you’re lost in it. So many of us have been there, and that’s why we’re here.

We know that solving the big problems in front of us requires an understanding of humans and their behavior. But we can’t improve their experiences without having a sense of purpose.

Designing with Purpose

People search for purpose today in their lives, in their jobs. “Millenials” want to focus their life’s work on something meaningful. Organizations from USAA to Whole Foods are offering opportunities for people to take part in their mission. Purpose driven design focuses on the entire ecosystem – the networks that drive change.

In a study by Proctor and Gamble, they found that businesses who have a purpose of improving peoples’ lives resonate more with consumers. At Mad*Pow we help our clients design for change. Our approach is two fold:

  1. We design with an understanding of behavior
  2. We design to change the behaviors that matter

Being a badass designer involves more than visual expertise. It means having an understanding of human behavior. We are facilitators, not sole creators. We foster connections within an organization, across silos, and outside organizations. We are the design: how we partner, integrate, and work together affects our ability to transform the system.

Marli Mesibov

Marli is a content strategist with a passion for the user experience. Her work spans websites, web applications, and mobile. Marli is the VP of Content Strategy at the UX design agency Mad*Pow, where she helps healthcare, finance, and educational organizations communicate with their audiences. Marli is a frequent conference speaker, and has spoken at conferences including Content Strategy Forum and LavaCon. She can also be found on Twitter, where she shares thoughts on content strategy, literature, and Muppets.

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