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“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” -Jane Goodall

During the earliest day of dot-org, I borrowed this quote to succinctly express what I hoped dot-org would become in the world. This past year, we’ve made strides to clarify what and how we operate. We started the year working with Glide to pilot a new service, Glide Goods. Our mission—Transforming Communities by Design—was born in March with an engagement model that set clear expectations with both nonprofits and the design associates who would work these opportunities. In September, we organized our first BarnRaise in partnership with Illinois Institute of Design. I’m so excited about 2017 and the prospect of a new year; I could go on and on about how I feel dot-org has impacted everyone it has touched, but instead, I think it’s even better to have those people tell you themselves.

Participating in BarnRaise was one of the most impactful moments of 2016 for me. Not only because we spent a few awesome days of caffeine-fueled and paper-prototype-full design making, but because the solutions we came up with were immediately embraced and implemented by our partner FamilyHouse. Dot-org arranged an event unlike any other I have participated in—connecting design leads, students, and nonprofits around the goal of democratizing design. One of dot-org’s core beliefs is that design should not be a luxury, and that is exactly what BarnRaise was all about. Our two representatives from...

Hey, there’s someone we’d like you to meet. It’s Kendra Shimmell, who we’re excited to introduce as the new head of the Service Design practice for Adaptive Path at Capital One. Kendra comes to us via the venerable Cooper design team, but prior to that was a part of Adaptive Path, which makes for a good kind of déjà vu. Beyond being a service design leader, she’s a speaker, an educator, and a dancer. She’s also a stellar explainer, which is why we’ll help you to get to know her by asking her four questions: Q: You’ve led service design at Cooper and are now joining one of the largest internal service design teams around. How might you characterize the state of service design? Where is the industry headed? Good question. A lot of companies are currently in the “dating” phase with service design. They are intrigued, and they are getting to know it, because they want more cohesive and meaningful experiences. Keep in mind that service design is not an isolated practice. Rather, it...

Written by Helen Kim

Finding your way in a new place for the first time can be intimidating and confusing for anyone.  But finding your way in a crowd, through a building with minimal signage, narrow, winding corridors, and rooms that are used for multiple purposes at different times, can be especially disorienting; this is easily compounded when clients come with low literacy or English language comprehension skills, and little knowledge of what to expect or where to go to get the services they need.

Glide is a wonderful non-profit in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, that provides much needed services and programs in Wellness, Growth, Spirit and Leadership to people in the surrounding community and beyond. Clients are referred to Glide through support networks, or may come in on their own. They are often coming in with feelings of anxiety and stress, from difficult situations. They may come for the free meals and needle exchange programs, but can easily miss out on the many other services offered because of the difficulty in discovering what Glide has to offer. New volunteers coming in for the first time can also find it difficult to figure out where to go to get started.

Non-profits are in a really stomping mad, unfair place.

Our nonprofit partner, Homebridge, has a design problem that is terribly, incredibly unfair: monetizing what they do to support the parts of their mission that will never be profitable. For years, they’ve tackled providing home care for some of the most in-need senior citizens in the Bay Area — the ones with serious mental health issues, living in poverty, with no support system while they are suffering from the sorts of illnesses that makes one dependent on another human being for basic needs. Unlike those of us who simply fear getting older and not being able to take care of ourselves but have some retirement money set aside,  Homebridge serves those seniors who fall off the edge of a traditional supply/demand curve. They don’t have the means to pay for services they desperately need. Our current era is making it ever harder for Homebridge to do the right thing: cuts to public funding, rising senior populations, and historically low levels of community participation make caring for seniors in poverty an even trickier endeavor. But Homebridge is scrappy, mission-driven, and exploring ways to build a for-profit wing of their enterprise that fits within the scope of their mission yet could still help support their core work.

Fortunately, as designers, we love unfair places. As designers, we solve problems. Not just neat ones in nice boxes, but wicked ones and unfair ones.

As designers, we see uneven, unfair circumstances in...

Wall Mural by Brendan Murphy

The Magic of Family House
For this year’s BarnRaise, Sept 9-11, The Capital ONE Design team is partnering with Family House (FH), a local nonprofit that provides free, temporary housing for families with children undergoing cancer and other treatment at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.

The first time our team visited Family House, we were immediately struck by the warmth, hospitality, and comfort of our environment. It was clear that the House truly provides a home away from home (vs. a home away from hospital) for the children and families it serves.

As we learned more about the organization, its history, and its vision, we were further struck by the passion of Family House’s staff. Authors sometimes refer to the idea of “the given line” – a word, phrase, or idea that passes through the air and inspires an entire body of work. During our first meeting with FH staff, when Karen Banks, Director of Volunteer Programs, said to us, “There’s Magic at Family House,” we knew we had our given line.

Looking to make an impact in the San Francisco community but only have a weekend to spare? Look no further, BarnRaise is just around the corner.

Whether you consider yourself a creative, a maker, an ideas person, or are just plain curious, this is the opportunity to work with a local San Francisco community organization, on a tangible opportunity, while being led by experts in the design process.

What is BarnRaise?

BarnRaise is a maker conference that brings together design firms, community organizations, and people interested in designing solutions for the communities in which they live.

Started by the Institute of Design in Chicago, the San Francisco BarnRaise is being organized and hosted by and is a great way to make a difference in our community. Be part of the history in the making!

This year’s theme is transformation:

How might we create experiences that support people who are transitioning into a new chapter of life?

That’s a BIG, TOUGH question.

Here’s one example of how we’re will be using design thinking to solve a big problem and help a San Francisco nonprofit as they transition.

Meet La Cocina & DesignMap

La Cocina is an incubator in the Mission helping food entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running. They provide a mentorship program to teach the owners how to run a business and provide market opportunities and commercial kitchen space.

What makes them truly special is their vision for  diversity in food and culture by supporting women of color...

When I think about my decision to pursue design as a career, an intrinsic desire to change the world for the better was at the core of that. It still is.

I like to think that this is what makes a lot of designers tick: our incessant drive to make a difference and leave the world better than how we found it. As designers, we all do our part. But for many of us, our day-to-day responsibilities keep us from being able to create an impact with real people in our local communities.

BarnRaise is an opportunity to create impact in a way that’s real, personal, and local. BarnRaise brings together design firms, community-based organizations, and participants to address a social topic embedded in the local community. Interdisciplinary groups are formed and each focuses on tackling a unique challenge that a community-based organization is facing.

The BarnRaise model originated at the Institute of Design in Chicago, where I dove head first into my pursuit of design. This year, BarnRaise will be in San Francisco and is being hosted by Adaptive, which is part of Capital One, where I now work. From dotorg’s inception, one of our main goals was to not only to create opportunities for Capital One designers to partner with community organizations but to also to create similar opportunities for the design community at large. In this way, we could all come together for the greater good. The Institute of Design’s BarnRaise model was the answer. I’m honored to...

Steve Silberman’s book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently, won Britain’s prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction writing last year. The book, a sweeping history of autism in both science and society, contains some powerful implications about designing for human cognition and what “normal” really means. Ahead of his talk at UX Week 2016, Steve talked with Adaptive Path Chief Creative Officer and UX Week host Jesse James Garrett.

Jesse James Garrett: First of all, congratulations on the success of the book. It sounds like it has really struck a chord with a lot of people around the world.

Steve Silberman: Yeah, I’m very happy to say that the book seems to have touched people from several different communities in a good place. For autistic people, I think it’s important that many of the ideas – such as the concept of neurodiversity that they first articulated – are rendered here in the larger arc of autism history. From what parents have told me, it’s been really important for them because there’s so much confusing information about autism out there, like is it an epidemic? Can it be cured? By looking at 80-plus years of autism history, I make it clear that the best “cure” for the most disabling aspects of autism is to be found...

Cindy Gallop is a prominent, provocative leader in the advertising industry in addition to being the visionary behind sextech startup MakeLoveNotPorn. Allison Huang, our Design intern, and I talked to Cindy. In Part 1 of our conversation, she talks about why innovations in sextech are so important, why women have so much to offer this industry, and how technology can be used to bring people closer together. This portion includes Cindy’s vision for how diversity and inclusion can be used to design spaces for open conversation around human sexuality and technology, and how that conversation can lead to personal and relational transformation.

IN: You gave one overriding principle that would steer sextech towards something that supports human interaction: gender equality. Are there any other supporting design principles or criteria that you think sextech requires in order to support that humanity?

CG: No, it literally is that simple. Diversity drives innovation. True innovation, true disruption is the result of many different mindsets, perspectives, insights, backgrounds, experiences, worldviews all coming together in constructive, creative conflict to get to a better place none of us could have gotten to on our own.

Everything else becomes possible when you have diversity. I mean not only gender diversity; I also mean diversity of race, ethnicity, sexuality, age. When you have many, many different perspectives coming together, you get to extraordinary things together. And really, all other issues fall away, because then you have the full spectrum of humanity inputting into things that will create better lives for the...

Cindy Gallop is a bold, provocative leader and speaker in the advertising industry as well as an entrepreneur whose goal is to bring us closer together in the real world. MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy’s sextech startup, works to redefine how a digitally-minded generation thinks about sexuality by balancing the myths of hardcore Internet pornography with the real world. Iran and Allison Huang, our Design intern, talked to Cindy. They asked her to inspire us with her vision for a diverse, inclusive world where technology is designed to facilitate honest human experiences and relationships.

Iran Narges: How do you define sextech?

Cindy Gallop: Essentially, sextech is any technology or tech-driven desire to amplify or improve the quality of human sexual experience.

As a society, we are all remarkably mixed up about sex. Our reluctance to talk about sex openly and honestly, and the shame and embarrassment we feel around it, has many implications. For example, because the media and tech blogs are just as uncomfortable covering sex as anyone else is talking about it, when they do talk about sextech, they tend to default to the hardware side of sextech. And so you’ll see all the coverage in the media about teledildonics, VR porn, sex robots.

The issue with that is all of the awareness and coverage goes to that side of sextech when there are many more interesting things happening on the side I call software, which is where my own startup, MakeLoveNotPorn, operates. The software side is technology that is designed to bring people closer together...