Katie Crepeau’s recent blog post on Design Affect got me thinking about why and how I got into Public interest design, Impact Design, socially driven design, humanitarian design or people centred design, however you want to call it. I realized that there wasnt a single moment that lead me to this, more a series of small moments that pulled me in this direction. I’m still very much at the start of my career and learning in this field but it is interesting to look back at the random steps that led me here.
The role of the creative class should be less receiving, rather broader, faithful and responsive
It was only when I started my Diploma (the last 2 years of architecture course) that I started to be more exposed to this field and maybe even think about it as a legitimate career path. My dissertation was quite pivotal. I wanted to write about Lagos in Nigeria. I was between writing about a development for middle income clients or a slum called Makoko that I’d somehow come across. And I had a meeting with one of the tutors impressed on me that I had a key choice to make.
This project continued into my thesis project where I designed a maternity centre for Makoko. Again it was having a fantastic tutor while I was on exchange in Vienna that encouraged me to do this. Despite it being totally different from what everyone back in Glasgow was doing.
Final year was tricky, everyone was talking about what they wanted to do next and I knew I didn’t want to go back to working in a traditional office, but I didn’t feel like I had enough courage to go out on my own and do it. There was a symposium at the University, Clean Conscience Dirty Hands that was organised by one of the tutors, who had set up his own humanitarian design studio as a 19yr old student (and is now my colleague). I think that was the biggest turning point for me. Seeing the speakers from a range of countries all working in this field whether in the UK or abroad, made me realize that it was possible. I was still scared of course, I told my brother that the longer I waited to start the more fear would set in.
Since then it’s been a total whirlwind and I am learning so much about people centred design and making a positive impact in communities. I can’t believe I graduated last year.