Picture 43Later this week I’ll have the pleasure of participating in the Aspen Design Summit, an interdisciplinary workshop which aspires to utilize the power of design to help solve large social problems. The unique format of this conference will split the 70 attendees—with backgrounds ranging from design to healthcare to public policy—into five “studios,” each of which will be asked to develop innovative solutions around a specific social problem.

The Summit, sponsored by AIGA and Winterhouse Institute with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, is the offspring of the original International Design Conference in Aspen (IDCA). IDCA was founded in 1951 by many of America’s rising stars on the graphic design scene, and sought to provide a forum for discussion on design. In 2005, AIGA took over the programming of the event and has transformed it into the current form.

The five “problems” being addressed at this year’s Summit are:
National Design Center for Rural Poverty Programs
UNICEF Education Programs
CDC Public Health Programs for Older Adults
Mayo Clinic Rural Health Program
Sustainable Food Innovation

Click here to read more about these initiatives.

I see the Summit as an innovative approach to service design, a topic that has been featured frequently here on Merge (including this September 1 post). I’ve written extensively about the business benefits that designers can find by exploring this new—and intensely collaborative—way of working, but I’m also hearing from many designers who talk about their personal drive to find a more meaningful way to use their skills.

I will be blogging and tweeting frequently from Aspen—most likely eschewing my typical format for a more immediate and off-the-cuff approach. If you’re not following my tweets, you can do so by clicking here.