Sunday, January 4, 2009

Design Resolutions

Last week the common cause was family. Sometimes that's all the work - and joy - we can each handle.

This week I'm acting as easy facilitator and passing on the annual update from one of the few architecture-based organizations borne of the dearth of design activism. An organization that was founded just under a decade ago, Architecture for Humanity continues to grow in size and influence by supporting branch chapters and global initiatives. December 27th - apparently a boxing day tradition - they posted their 'Year in Review'. Take a look at their latest accomplishments by clicking here. They also include the user friendly post 'Ten Ways to Give'. Though many of the ten are variations of a 'donate to AfH now' theme (a worthy cause), my favorite is #5, give your staff a sabbatical. If anything is true about architects, it's that we work too hard for too little money and often in the name of sacrifice and adoration of the art of making. So, regardless of your field, if you have yet to incorporate opportunities for volunteerism into the schedule of your staff, make 2009 the year to do so. If you are the staff, then maybe it's time for a grassroots suggestion. If you're willing to do a short term commitment sans salary, then you may also be donating a small bit to the survival of your own office. From all I have read, the reward in spirit revitalization and gratitude with a side effect of employee loyalty, heightened morale and new knowledge is well worth the perceivable inefficiency. It might be one day a month - time to paint a room or two, clean a park, build a ramp - or the chance to pool those days into weeks, even months, over the life of a single job. Imagine a client/office volunteer collaboration, where the way you really get to know their tastes and needs and earn their trust is through a tangible and shared commitment to a better environment. Six hours, or 6 months, no effort is wasted.

AfH also asks for your Design Resolutions. Reading the list is both inspiring and dispiriting. So many designers are stifled by the limitations of low expectations. I send good karma to everyone who is vowing to inject design back into their lives and the lives of their clients, family, friends, and unsuspecting strangers. The latter is my Design Resolution, to be produced and implemented through my course this semester at Otis College of Art & Design. This week, this year, how do you design a better world?

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