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Designing For More Than Just Looks: Inside Public Interest Design

You may not know the term “public interest design,” but you’re probably familiar with the movement, which encourages designers to consider environmental, social, and economic factors in their creations. John Cary, the editor of Public Interest Design, a site focused on the “growing movement at the intersection of design and service,” is one of its biggest evangelists.


In a recent New York Times op-ed, Cary discusses some of the movement’s biggest successes, including the beautiful, patient-centered Butaro Hospital in Rwanda and Ideo.org‘s work on rethinking sanitation in Ghana. It’s a thought-provoking piece, but there’s nothing like actually visualizing these projects, which is why I took a trip to the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco to see a new public interest design exhibition curated by Cary and author Courtney E. Martin.

The exhibition features four products, four places, and four processes. According to Jason Medal Katz, Autodesk’s gallery curator, this emphasis on system design sets the exhibition apart from other similar shows that emphasize objects and buildings, like Cooper-Hewitt’s Design With the Other 90%.

Can’t make it to San Francisco? Take a look at the projects in the slide show above.

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