"Design students, on the other hand, are rarely introduced to research methods in any formal sense; there are few required methods courses taught in design schools, particularly at the undergraduate level."

Bruce M. Hanington, “Relevant and Rigorous: Human-Centered Research and Design Education,” Design Issues 26, no. 3 (2011): 20.

"One of the things to keep in mind during this process, frog’s Collective Action Toolkit suggests, is to make sure you’re having fun."

frog design, “Collective Action Toolkit,” (Toolkit, San Francisco, CA, 2012): 6.

"There is a new small book by the Economic Policy Institute called Failure by Design: The Story Behind America’s Broken Economy. And the phrase, “by design,” is accurate. These things [policies that are harmful to the general public and beneficial to a very small sector] don’t happen by the laws of nature or the principles of economics, to the extent that they exist. They’re choices. And they are choices made by the wealthy and powerful elements to create a society that answers to their needs."

Noam Chomsky, Occupy, (New York, NY: Zuccotti Park Press, 2012).

"It’s only through the habit of everyday life that we come to think it perfectly plain and commonplace, that a social relation of production should take on the form of a thing…"

Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, (Moscow, Russia: Progress Publishers, 1859).

"Design must become an innovative, highly creative, cross-disciplinary tool responsive to the true needs of men. It must be more research oriented and we must stop defiling the earth itself with poorly-designed objects and structures."

Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change. (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1971): ix.

"Many designers today…want to do some good in the world. This is laudable, but for the good intentions of the design profession to actually result in some good, it is going to be necessary to carefully attend to how we design. Design is a social process, with implications for others who are participants to that process, and also brings something new into the world that may have social force. Attending to both matters responsibly will be essential as the field moves forward."

Derek B. Miller, Design Ethics for International Peace and Security.

"Be bold, get out, think wrong, make stuff, bet small, and fast forward."

Future Partners, The Blitz Cycle.


Not long ago I visited Gulu, the epicenter of northern Uganda’s twenty-year insurgency, with my friend David Latim. David was born in Gulu, but fled to Kampala after escaping from the Lord’s Resistance Army in 1995. One day, I recounted a particularly gruesome scene in the movie, Hotel Rwanda. He responded by describing a similar massacre he had personally witnessed as a young man in Gulu. Before he was half-finished with his story, I blushed with shame at the realization that I was comparing my movie-going experience to his life experience. My well-intended faux pas is emblematic of the challenge facing outsiders, who cannot begin to imagine the vicissitudes of life in such distant places.

Remote experience is… a price we, in the West, pay for our mediated existence. Too often design solutions are remote solutions, even by those with years’ work in the developing world (myself very much included). The only reference I could find in the catalog to this problem was Martin Fisher’s observation that poor families like to prepare their main meal indoors in the evening, when solar cookers are considerably less effective — an issue contradicted in exhibiting a solar stove made from bicycle parts. Remote experience also leads to naïve criticism — like design futurist Natalia Allen’s concern that the exhibition does not pay enough attention to aesthetics: ‘Is it that beauty should not be considered when designing for poorer communities?’ When considering these communities, such a rhetorical question might explain why many Western design initiatives are not sustainable.


David Stairs, Why Design Won’t Save the World.