Designing for social good

According to Tom Hulme, founder of OpenIDEO, the only way to produce relevant and meaningful work as a designer is to address a real human need.

“How do you do a new type of ideas suggestion box?” asks Tom Hulme, design director of IDEO and founder of OpenIDEO. “And what would the benefits be if we took the friction out of the process and enabled collaboration?”

Firstly you have to make the process open and transparent, which not only allows for similar ideas to congregate together but also for people with different skills sets to work together to solve a problem. 

These are the type of questions and observations that led to the OpenIDEO platform that puts the creative process of problem solving online and allows everyone to contribute for the collective social good.

According to Hulme, the job of designers, of great designers, is to address real human needs.

For him this is so important that he sets aside a certain amount of time in his diary each week to question why he is doing what he is doing: “What is the human need it really addresses? What is my guiding light for why I am actually embarking on this project? If I cannot start a project by describing a benefit that it will create for someone, I don't start.”

He explains that this human-centred approach allows designers to create work that is relevant and meaningful; it helps you to create things that real people connect with.

"How people use your product or brand service: that is the only truth. Nothing else is important," he says. "It doesn't matter how you expect them to use it, what matters is how they use it in practice."

Hulme goes on to talk about one of the current challenges running on OpenIDEO that looks at how to improve security for women in low-income areas in India.

His advice to designers is to get out there and build stuff in order to get real world feedback.

Err on the side of openness. Have the confidence to be open and serendipitous things will happen. Don't just wait in a closed room to give your great idea an airing in the future; don't be paranoid about it. Because in practice the stuff that is gathering dust in closed rooms is irrelevant.  

Watch the Talk with Tom Hulme