The world is facing difficult crises. The earth is getting warmer every day. Climate change and its consequences threaten the food security of every inhabitant of the planet as well as biodiversity. The world’s oceans are filled with plastic, and UNESCO has predicted that there will be more plastic than fish by 2050. The war in Ukraine and the Corona epidemic have also complicated the world situation. No one is safe.
You must be asking yourself what the world crises and problems have to do with product design. Is it possible to solve climate change and hunger crisis in the world with UI/UX design? Yes, product design can help solve global, regional and national crises. So, how? If the product designer designs for social impact, that’s when he can help find solutions to crises.
In this content, a very new approach to design and product design in the 21st century is discussed and these questions are answered: What is UI/UX design for social impact? And how can a product designer design with the aim of helping to solve problems and have a positive impact on society and culture?
Table of Contents
Social impact and UI/UX design
Global and regional crises cannot be solved by a country or an organization or even a few experts and companies. Solving global crises requires global cooperation. It means that even you and I should do our best to deal with global warming. It is not possible to solve the crises of a country without the participation of all people, government institutions and the private sector. Therefore, people’s participation is necessary to solve the crisis, both at the global level and at the regional and national levels.
In addition to people and alongside them, the participation and companionship of companies and businesses is also very important and decisive in finding solutions to problems as well as the implementation of solutions. How can global warming be tackled if energy companies around the world don’t invest in clean and renewable energy production?
Or how can we reduce the consumption of fossil fuels if car companies do not design and produce electric cars? If computer and information technology companies such as Google or Microsoft did not design and produce software and programs such as Google Workspace or Microsoft Teams and remote work was not possible, how could the world control and manage the Corona crisis?
So, in the design and production of products, in addition to considering the needs and problems of users/customers, businesses can also consider the needs and problems of society or even the world and design products to solve the problems of a larger number of people. It is even possible that the designed product will inform people to correct the wrong culture in society or provide the necessary facilities to create a positive impact on society.
Social impact on design
What is social impact and what does it have to do with design? If we want to mean social impact, its meaning is more than just Impact on society. Social impact is used in various fields.
Since there are companies and businesses that design and produce a product for supply and sale, the social and cultural impact should be understood in the context of economic and commercial activities. The following definition (from the Duke University website) is a clear and complete definition. Social and cultural impact!
“Any significant or positive changes that solve or at least address social injustice and challenges. Businesses or organizations achieve these goals through conscious and deliberate efforts or activities in their operations and administrations.”
So, social and cultural impact is an approach that businesses and companies consider in all their policies and practices, from investing in projects to non-discriminatory employment policies, and make decisions based on them. By putting together the above definition and the definition of design that will be mentioned in the following, the relationship between design and social and cultural impact is determined.
“Design is a set of methods and a way of thinking that can be applied to virtually every discipline and problem.”
UI/UX design and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
UI/UX design starts with design thinking. That is, by deeply knowing the user (human), his needs, problems and fears. So, the designer can find a solution to the needs and problems of the 21st century man, who is facing hunger and rising global temperatures, better than anyone else. Designers of user interface and user experience do not have to look for the needs and challenges of the contemporary world. The United Nations has made it easy for everyone.
In 2015, the United Nations set 17 global goals as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end hunger, poverty, protect the planet and achieve global peace and prosperity by 2030. The United Nations asked all the countries of the world to use their social, economic and cultural resources to achieve these goals. It means that all the governments of the world should do their best to achieve the 17 goals of sustainable development in their lands.
Product design should be human-centered and empathetic. The designer must discover the needs that man himself is not aware of, and design it to make his life better. Humans all over the world need a clean climate, health, adequate food, education, justice and equality, decent work and peace and security.
Businesses and companies must operate responsibly. They should not harm society, people and the environment for their economic interests. Rather, they should help with innovation and creativity and use new technologies to achieve those goals. Its product designers and designers who help businesses play their part in realizing those goals.
Examples of product design for social and cultural impact
The question may arise. Is it really possible to design a site or an application that helps to achieve the goals of sustainable development in the world? Can the site or application really create a social and cultural impact on society? Yes. The following examples prove that it really does.
ShareTheMeal is the first app designed and built to help fight hunger in the world. This application belongs to the UN World Food Program. With this application, anyone anywhere in the world can pay for the food of at least one hungry family in the world. In the application, the payer is informed that the money was used to prepare food for whom and where in the world. This means that 9 million installers of this application will learn about the positive impact they have on fighting hunger in the world.
The design of the user interface and the user experience of the UNICEF website are really unique. I suggest to all those who are interested in UI/UX design to read and review the UNICEF site carefully. All the visual elements are designed according to the needs of users who visit the UNICEF website for any reason. Everything on the site is simple and intuitive. The visual hierarchy of the site brings the user’s eye to the most important issues of UNICEF these days: helping children affected by the Ukrainian war and helping UNICEF (Donate).
The most creative way to tackle global warming and tree planting is a plugin (search engine) called Ecosia. When you install this extension on Chrome, your search engine will be changed to Ecosia. This search engine, like Google, earns money through advertisements. The only difference with Google is that it spends the profit it gets from advertising on planting trees in different parts of the world.