Using design to amplify our collective voice | Sarah Sandman | TEDxEast

July 28, 2019 posted by

so i would like to start by asking you to participate in a little exercise so i'm going to play a video and when you see a rectangle i want you to clap when you see a circle I want you to snap ready okay good great job so what we just did was perform a string of Morse code together spelling out purple rain as a collective tribute to Prince so I'm a communication designer in my early 20s I believed communication design was the tool needed to make great change in the world I soon found myself designing ads at the birth of the green washing era we could buy our way out of environmental catastrophe and social injustice with a responsible product the onus was on the individual and their pocketbooks after about a seven plus year time doing this I became disheartened I felt a more communal response was necessary one that evoked a feeling of belonging and ownership and I started to think about the ways I could use my design skills to build social capital also known as the value of human networks and relationships I noticed a trend was happening a communal trend and it was online in the form of social networking and thanks to social media were now more connected than ever but according to social psychologists sherry turkle were also more alone and isolated in our offline lives so I began designing vehicles for creating act of expression but in person rather than online I designed a community bike ride of 50 plus people in providence rhode island we picked up people along the way that wanted to help us spell out our message this day remains one of the happiest days of my life I've rarely felt more alive and I'm not alone in this feeling there was an electric buzz in the air yes we were excited about Obama in his message for change but more importantly was the magical togetherness and the public outcry of expression designing for successful collaborative communication allows room for the individual voice within the collective my South Bronx students and I designed protest signs that used a unifying visual the hand while allowing an individual protester select their statement of choice I was inspired by the kula tradition of the melon Bay region of Papua New Guinea where gifts are circulated amongst islands via canoe creating social solidarity I wanted to do something similar in the United States so I somehow convinced my friend Melissa that we would carry gifts of art across the country but instead of canoes we would ride bikes our project the gift cycle United 12 plus communities across the United States we started in providence rhode island where we picked up works of art from local artists we then biked the art to Brooklyn exchanging it for new work these exchanges happened across the country all the way to Seattle at each community event artist gave a piece of art and received a piece of art no money involved just gifts a single artist tap became a community beat became a nationwide pulse a network of 200 artists participated collective expression was revealed through a massive coordination of events in exchange what really excites me our recent studies that are beginning to show how collective action affect us physiologically a Swedish team of researchers led by musicologist Bjorn bykov found that singing together can actually sink apart raise a Danish study from our house University found that trust has an effect on heart rate arousal in synchrony and so what the study seems to reveal is that we can actually our bodies can mimic one another during positive collaboration so if we can actually reverberate off one another why not design for this phenomenon designers tend to design for the individual user but I want to urge a new genre where we design for the collective and I want to call a non designers to start participating in acts of collective expression to express what matters most for and with your communities connectivity from social networking is undeniably powerful but i also want to repurpose its use to bring us together offline rather than drive us to isolation synchronicity benefits the Firefly by amplifying its message let's design for synchrony and amplify our voices into a unified call for change thank you

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