The first case study I looked at through AIGA’s Design for Good website was titled “Watershed,” created by MSLK Design, a New York advertising agency. The full case study can be found here, http://www.aiga.org/case-study-watershed, but MSLK’s introduction to the project is this: “Watershed is an eco-art installation created to raise awareness of the effects of continued consumption of disposable, single-use bottled water. It consists of 1,500 reclaimed plastic water bottles, the equivalent of one second of U.S consumption, and features informational signs regarding this consumption.”
Because disposable plastic goods waste resources, have negative environmental impacts, and cause health risks, I certainly believe that MSLK’s concern was relevant for social good. Through the case study I read that each second, 1,500 bottles of water are consumed in America. And each year, 80 percent of the consumed water bottles end up in a landfill – even though recycling programs have drastically increased. I also learned that approximately 17 million barrels of oil are used in the production of bottled water each year.
I do think that design systems thinking played a role in the development and execution of this project, because its creators put a lot of thought into how the exhibition could reach the greatest number of people. The way that they formatted the chains allowed for installation in a wide variety of environments, from natural settings to industrial. They also took into consideration that, while the imagery of the water bottles does speak for itself, people who don’t know anything about the consequences of bottled water might need a little more context. So, they integrated informational signage that outlined facts on the bottled water industry and its effects, as well as how drinking tap water and using a reusable bottle can be better for both humans and the earth. Watershed is extremely human centered, because it not only tells humans how they can help themselves, but also how they can help the environment and the entire planet. And because it’s a somewhat interactive installation – the water bottles can be touched – it’s accessible for those who may be visually impaired.
What I appreciate about Watershed is its unashamed simplicity. It represents exactly what it’s trying to represent: the unnecessary and extreme consumption of plastic water bottles. The designers used only what was vital to getting their point across. I think it’s important that the water bottles they used were reclaimed, because the use of sustainable design in this way speaks into the point MSLK is trying to get across. I also appreciate that the scale of this installation is so large – when walking past it, you cannot help but stop and look. Because you’ll immediately see over a thousand plastic water bottles, you’ll at least be intrigued, but if you’re carrying a plastic water bottle with you? You’ll be compelled to think about your actions.
The second case study I looked at was titled, “Make Congress Work!” (Found here: http://www.aiga.org/justified-2012--case-study--make-congress-work). The final artifact was a booklet, designed by Maloney & Fox for No Labels, a non-profit, bipartisan group of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. No Labels has a simple underlying goal: for the government to work again. Because they believe the biggest problem with Congress is the outdated rules, they commissioned the booklet to outline their 12 steps on how to fix communication in Congress. The intended audience for the booklet was not only those in working in the government sector, but also the general public.
Maloney & Fox most definitely used design systems thinking during the creation of this booklet, and it’s obvious simply by giving it one glance. Most books and documents regarding the government are text heavy and unfortunately boring in appearance, or go overboard on “red, white, and blue” branding. However, this booklet has large typography, stand-out quotes from well known figures (that pertain to communication, not just politics), red, orange, green, and blue color blocks, and an unusual size. Maloney & Fox wanted the booklet to be both noticeable when on the congressmen’s folders and desks, and appealing to the general public. The unique design of the booklet not only makes it noticeable and appealing, but it also promotes conversation between the political parties, which No Labels believes to be the best outcome for all people. Because the book is not overly red, overly blue, or boring in its appearance, it’s a welcome change for everyone. “Make Congress Work!” is a very human centered design, not only because it focuses on informing both the government and the general public about communication changes that should be made within congress, but also because it seeks to better our country through this improved communication.
I don’t necessarily think the general format of this design is groundbreaking, because booklets are nothing new and nothing necessarily unique, however I do believe that it appropriately responds to the design challenge presented. It has the unique appeal that I outlined above, and it’s also easily accessible – anyone can get a copy for themselves. And because it received such great media attention, the production run was increased from 2,000 to 25,000.
MSLK. “Case Study: Watershed.” AIGA Design for Good. AIGA, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.
Maloney & Fox. “Case Study: Make Congress Work!” AIGA Design For Good. AIGA, 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2017.