Spark Collaborations: Design as Catalyst for Social Impact

Natacha Poggio
Assistant Professor, Visual Communication Design
Hartford Art School, University of Hartford

Designing for wellness has extended further beyond the creation of care products to the design of processes and experiences involving patients as learners and users. Visually compelling and meaningful systems of artifacts are part of the “wicked solutions” at the intersection between design and health.

The past decade has seen a radical revolution in the amount and variety of design products and systems addressing life-improving humanitarian issues and showcasing the transformational implementation of design as a change agent. Visual communication design education still struggles to transcend the conversation about effectively implementing and facilitating design curricula that could help trigger and sustain positive social and cultural change while balancing the need for portfolio-driven outcomes.

Approximately 3–11 million amputees worldwide are in need of a prosthesis, most are located in the poorest countries, where physical therapists are seldom available to teach patients how to use their artificial limbs. “Prosthetic Training Across Borders” (PTAB) is an ongoing transdisciplinary research initiative between Design and Physical Therapy departments at [University] and nonprofit humanitarian organization LIMBS International. Faculty leading teams of undergraduate and graduate students collaboratively co-created prosthetics training materials for above-knee amputee patients in developing countries.

Through the use of simple illustrations to overcome literacy limitations, these educational materials facilitate the communication process for local clinicians so they can effectively educate their patients about rehabilitation protocols and regain mobility. By following simple, concise instructions in posters, brochures, and manuals, amputees are able to perform various training activities and avoid inefficient gait patterns. After testing of prototypes in Peru, Ghana and Kenya, the materials are being translated for cultural adaptation to the 32 clinics in Latin America, India and Africa. PTAB initiative not only has transformed the lives of patients, but also shows a practical way in which the intersection between design and health matters.

Graphic Design in the Zone: Peak Performance in Picturing Sport

Jen Roos
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Computer Arts + Design
Mercy College
Founder and Principal
8 Point Studio

While much has been written about the significance of sport and graphic design in culture, there exists a gap in research examining their intersection. The cultural impact of sport and graphic design has increased and so has the importance of this growing body of design. The history of graphic design for sport reveals important cultural attitudes toward human movement, and contemporary design in this category depicts our shifting attitudes in the face of significant societal change. Contemporary designs for sport display an increasingly sophisticated and groundbreaking visual language for the poetics of movement through space. This modern translation of the experience of “flow”, or “being in the zone”, provides a heightened and visceral sense of great feats of modern physical prowess — albeit at a remove. Our current outsourcing of movement to visual and virtual realms and idolization of the promise of technology threaten to imperil our actual experience of physical movement and health on a global scale.

Individuals experience the seduction of motion more than ever by virtue of the rapidly evolving digital world and expanding global presence of sport. At the same time, health research indicates that we as a society are becoming dangerously sedentary. Given that we are increasingly detached from physical movement and real-life athletic experiences, we naturally seek visuals that represent the glories of the pinnacle of motion. We now need to ask if design and sport can work together to encourage — not just lionize — movement. Global entities such as Nike have begun to experiment with ways graphic design might inspire physical movement, an important mission that could have larger, positive implications for the role that graphic design can play in improving our future health across the world.