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Seth Godin stated, “Design is where science and art break even,”. For me, this provides a robust foundation for understanding the essence of purpose-led design and highlights the intersection of science and art in design, emphasizing the delicate balance between aesthetics and functionality. Design is not merely about creating visually pleasing objects or experiences; it also involves understanding the underlying principles and systems that enable a design to serve its intended purpose. This balance becomes crucial as designers work to address pressing global challenges while also creating emotionally resonant and meaningful experiences for users. Furthermore, the design goes beyond aesthetics, underscoring the importance of functionality> it is not just about making a product or experience visually appealing but also ensuring that it effectively addresses the needs of its users and the broader issues it aims to tackle. This holistic approach to design ensures that solutions are beautiful and impactful.

Purpose-led design requires a harmonious blend of artistic expression, scientific understanding, and a deep commitment to addressing social and environmental challenges. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, designers must embrace this holistic approach, leveraging their skills and creativity to develop solutions that delight users and contribute to improving society and the environment. As we grapple with pressing global issues, the purpose-led design emerges as a crucial tool for creating meaningful and lasting change, demonstrating design’s power to make a difference.

The following data-driven case studies demonstrate the power of design thinking and purpose-led design in addressing pressing global challenges:

  1. Patagonia: The fashion industry is responsible for approximately 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of water waste. Additionally, 85% of textiles produced annually are in landfills or incinerated. Patagonia, an outdoor clothing brand, combats these issues through environmentally responsible and sustainable practices. They embrace circular economy principles, repairing, recycling, reusing products and encouraging consumers to do the same. Patagonia’s “Worn Wear” program has helped save over 112,000 items from landfills since 2013.
  2. Chumpy Pullin Foundation: In Australia, over 3 million people live below the poverty line, impacting access to sports and physical activity. The Chumpy Pullin Foundation honours the late Australian snowboarder Alex “Chumpy” Pullin. It supports young athletes in their pursuit of excellence. Using the purpose-led design, the foundation creates initiatives providing financial support, mental health resources, and opportunities for marginalized communities, enabling equal access to sports and fostering a more inclusive society.
  3. The Australian Heart Foundation: Heart disease is Australia’s leading cause of death, accounting for 17.9% of all deaths. By employing design thinking, the foundation has developed effective campaigns and initiatives that address the needs of individuals affected by heart disease and promote heart health. Their efforts have resulted in a 22% reduction in death rates from coronary heart disease over the last two decades.
  4. Beard Season and Skin Check Champions: In Australia, over 16,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year, making it one of the most common cancers in the country. These organizations utilize design thinking to raise awareness about skin cancer and the importance of regular skin checks. Through innovative campaigns and the development of user-friendly tools, Beard Season and Skin Check Champions have inspired people to take action, prioritize their skin health, and potentially save lives.

These case studies showcase the transformative power of design thinking and purpose-led design when applied to meaningful causes. As a problem-solving tool, design thinking has been found to increase the success rate of innovation projects by up to 50% and improve the overall return on investment.

As designers, we have a responsibility to make a positive impact on the world. That’s why our firm commits to dedicating 20% of our work to impact projects and allocating 1% of our turnover to pro bono work.

In conclusion, design thinking and purpose-led design can change the world by addressing users’ needs and tackling pressing global challenges. By committing to impactful projects and proactively addressing the world’s problems, the design profession can create a better future for ourselves and generations to come.