Public Interest Design
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ABOUT is principally a blog about a growing movement at the intersection of design and service. In many respects, this movement is decades in the making, while it’s also gained new life through a series of books, events, and exhibitions as well as the creation of new organizations and collaborations. Our hope with this new website is to share news and opportunities that the various stakeholders of the public interest design movement can take advantage of.

The movement’s consistent growth is potent evidence that people at all income levels have an appetite for and deserve quality spaces; that a great many architects, designers, and planners have a strong commitment to the communities where they live and work; and that funders and manufacturers are willing to invest real resources in creating great places, products, and programs.

There are an array of efforts aimed at making good design much more readily accessible to historically under-resourced communities across the U.S. and worldwide. Community design, humanitarian design, and pro bono design are three common subsets of the public interest design movement, and while their methods differ, all three share the motivation to democratize design. Naturally, each of these subsets of the public interest design movement has its champions and challenges.



On May 16, 2011, I had the amazing opportunity to give the commencement address for the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley. I had graduated from the College less than a decade earlier, and both been given and created some extraordinary opportunities to engage in design for the public good throughout the early years of my career. I thought it was a sign of how robust the public interest design movement has become that a still-young and struggling designer like me was asked to address the next generation of designers.

As I interacted with graduates, parents, faculty, and others, I lamented that there wasn’t a single place or website where I could point people interested in doing or supporting public interest design, whether as a part- or full-time pursuit. There are numerous amazing designers and organizations doing important work across the country and around the world, but that’s hard to explain in a 30-second conversation. At the same time, over the years, I repeatedly encountered peers in the public interest design world that weren’t aware of important discussions, events, fellowships, funding opportunities, and the like. So with the modest honorarium I received for my Berkeley commencement address, I’ve launched this simple blog-based website to aggregate our collective work and voices. But also to increase communication about and within the growing public interest design movement. I hope that others will be inspired to contribute as they’re able.

John Cary
Founder / Editor / Curator

Autodesk Foundation is an evolving resource of the Autodesk Foundation, a first-of-its-kind foundation focused on design for a better world.



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