Codifying Practices in an Emergent Space: Insights from the Leap Symposium on the New Professional Frontier in Design For Social Innovation

By Mariana Amatullo.

Published by Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article provides a critical overview of LEAP: The New Professional Frontier in Design for Social Innovation, a first-of-its-kind symposium, which took place at Art Center College of Design in September 2013. The symposium’s main goal was to address one central issue—career pathways for designers in the social innovation context—through a pluralism of lenses that aspired to catalyze a national conversation about this professional frontier for design. Over three days, thought leaders addressed the tensions and ambiguities inherent in an emergent field and identified five topics of relevance on which to focus. A series of proposals for future pathways generated by symposium participants serve as the empirical grounding for the analysis and key ideas that are offered in this study—one that adopts a dialectical approach to make sense of the insights gained. Two principal strands of formulations emerge, which manifest from the various LEAP scenarios discussed. First, a repeated discourse about the “need to produce evidence” or “demonstrate value” from this form of design engagement appears as a central preoccupation for all. Second, there seems to be agreement that the process of articulation and validation underway will require new models of engagement and ongoing cultural change within organizational practice. The article argues that the insights we gain from the LEAP proposals also underscore a growing awareness within this community of practice of the necessity to embrace the complexity of navigating career pathways in the social realm with tools outside design as well. In this sense, the article suggests that we are prompted to embrace an articulation of the design discipline that has evolved from a linear, deterministic causality to one that lives within a complex system.

Keywords: Social Innovation, Professional Design Careers, Social Impact Design, Design Education, Cultural Emergence

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal — Annual Review, Volume 7, 2013, pp.55-67. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 854.275KB).

Mariana Amatullo

Vice President, Designmatters Department, Art Center College of Design, Pasedena, CA, USA