Sustainable Design: Designing for a Cause

Issue 10

By Design.

By Design is a fortnightly letter reaching ~170,000 people following the Prototypr publication. Written by Sophie Clifton-Tucker, we unearth unheard voices, and break down the barriers in design and development.

It’s a globally accepted fact that we do our best work when it’s for, or involving, something we’re wildly passionate about. (Case-in-point, my middle school design project on ‘plastic’ was a total flop. Who can be passionate about plastic?)

Companies like Stark and even giants such as Nike are examples of how passion projects can snowball into something much larger, and be used to effect change in the way we create and use products sustainably. Cat Noone, a self-confessed misfit with strong opinions and colourful language, strives to create products that make a difference. Cat started out small with apps like Lyra, a symbol to speech app for kids with autism, growing and moving on to Stark, bringing accessibility to all the big prototyping tools. For more on this, check out my previous newsletter on why Inclusive Design is Better Design. Nike reacted to the pandemic by transforming its design methods to produce more than 360,000 pieces of PPE for healthcare workers using materials already at hand; their face shields comprise padding from shoes, plastic from Nike Air soles, and drawstrings from trousers and jackets. A true example of sustainable design that ensured no essential materials were taken away from other PPE manufacturers. Check out Design Milk for a curated list of designers and design organisations that are committed to using their industry to improve the world.

However, some projects that start out with the best of intentions soon run away with themselves down the path of debauchery and destruction. Chances are, you use some of these products daily.

“Facebook employees, your labor is going into a platform that’s willingly dismantling democracy and giving voice to fascists. For the sole purpose of making the ultra rich even richer. So yes, we will criticize you and we will shame you. F**k your feelings. Have a nice weekend.” — Mike Monteiro

[Edit: If you haven’t seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix, do. But finish reading this newsletter first as it will likely make you want to kamikaze your technology out the window.]

Teacher Minnie Bredouw was surprised about the lack of a ‘code of conduct’ in design — so she got her students to write one. Their ‘Hippocratic Oath’ involved gems such as: “If you can’t make it better, don’t make it worse” and “Design with your great-grandchildren in mind.”

So what to do if your passions aren’t aligning with your work? Mike Monteiro has some opinions involving Franz Kafka’s passion projects and being ‘shit adjacent’.

One great way to revive your joie de travail is to be part of a project involving like-minded people. This October we have a whole slew of them for you to sink your teeth into, from makers events, to hackathons, and Inktober!

Hot off the Press

  • Inktober: The Inktober Challenge comes in two forms; the classic ‘one drawing a day’ for the 31 days in October, or Inktober 52: one drawing a week, for a whole year. Throwing back to my newsletter on the 100 days of UI challenge, “working on your craft is not too dissimilar to practising a musical instrument; if you’re consistent, you’ll get better, things will get easier, and you’ll probably enjoy it more”. (For tips on ‘How to Kick Inktober’s Booty’, check out Christine Nishiyama’s snazzy guide.)
  • Innovation Festival: The first-ever virtual Fast Company Innovation Festival will be an immersive multi-session experience drawing in makers from across the globe for five days of inspiration, connection and meaningful takeaways. The event will shine its lens on the innovative companies, leaders, strategies, and trends helping to build ‘a truly better tomorrow’. “The time has come for designers to question every assumption and consider the implications of every choice.” — Suzanne LaBarre for Fast Company
  • Chrome DevTools: Vision Deficiencies: It’s estimated that over 1 billion people have some form of vision impairment. Colour blindness alone accounts for 300 million of those people. In response, Chrome DevTools recently added support to simulate vision deficiencies, helping you to design accessible products that can be enjoyed, equally, by all. Addy Osmani illustrates how differing levels of colour blindness can affect the visual component of design, and how to implement this handy tool.
  • UX Designers to Watch 2020: Last week, for the third annual World Interaction Design Day, Adobe launched their second ‘Designers to Watch’ programme highlighting “how design can improve the human condition”. The chosen 10 were selected for their commitment to improving the world through design. These designers were commended for their various initiatives, which include pushing for diversity in the tech industry, hosting ‘hack days’ to improve customer experience, and considering the environmental impact of design.
  • Just F*ng Ship It: Women Make is an online community for female entrepreneurs to help one another, get feedback, and celebrate wins. Their annual October event encourages designers to make something — anything — every day for 30 days. “The concept is simple: 30 days to build and launch something.” This is a great space for you to explore that creative idea you’ve had scribbled in the back of your notebook for the last few years.
  • Hacktoberfest: Hosted by DesignOcean (in partnership with GitHub and Twilio), Hacktoberfest is a month-long open source event perfect for people wanting to dip their toe into the open source pool (an important facet for designers, so says Chetan Kaushik in his letter to designers. In the same vein, Coinsilium and Indorse have come together for the Post-Covid Hack 2020, an online hackathon with the goal of developing innovative solutions to challenges presented by the pandemic using blockchain technology.

Prototypr Roundup

An Idiot’s Guide to Git: The concept of Git is not always an easy one to grasp. Quips have been made about this distributed version-control system’s name meaning anything from ‘global information tracker’ (when it’s working), to ‘goddamn idiotic truckload of sh*t’ (when it breaks). But fear not, Veethika Mishra is on hand to give us a walkthrough and to help break down the concept of Git for designers with easy-to-understand definitions and illustrations. Phew!

Header image latop with hands


Touch, Point, Click: What’s your favourite method of input? As the push for accessible tech gets greater, so does the myriad forms of input available. Touch, mouse, keyboard… but also voice, 3D gestures, biometrics, and device motion. Graeme (the jefe) analyses the pros and nos of the ways we interact with our devices.

Post image mouse pinter, and and mouse clicking


Building a Productivity System with Notion: Coming from someone whose organisation system is a chaotic hotchpotch of Post-It notes above their dining room table, this article couldn’t have come at a better time. Zoe Chew 🇲🇾👩‍💻📕 (the legend behind finance tracker, SaaS tracker, and habit tracker) has come up with a fool-proof way of organising projects, to-dos, goals tracking, and ideation — all in one place.

Notion productivity system - a kanban view


Beautiful Colours for Data Visualisations: Even putting the issue of visual impairment aside, choosing appropriate and effective colours for your design can take some to-ing and fro-ing before settling on the right one. Lisa Charlotte Rost has put together a colourful and comprehensive guide to choosing the right hue, and avoiding common mistakes in the process.

3 pie charts

Available for Hire

Tamara avatar

Tamara Sredojevic • Web Designer
LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • Tamara Sredojevic is a web designer for people on a mission. She works with charities, humanitarian organisations and indie makers to design ethical websites with a mindful approach.
  • She has recently launched Thea; a freelance collective helping small brands have big conversations and creating inclusive and impactful content and design for progressive businesses. Tamara is a pro at working with clients that aren’t afraid to break taboos and challenge perspectives.
  • Read about her redesign of a website for a London-based consultancy for non-profits.
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Gabriela Radu • Remote Software Developer
LinkedIn | Website | Prototypr

  • Gabriela Radu describes herself as “a curious Software Engineer, with proven experience in creating useful products for people”. She has an interest and passion in creating projects that help people in their daily lives.
  • Check out her handy online tool, Pick A Pair Mate!
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Sophie Clifton-Tucker

Editor, UX writer, coding since GeoCities 👾