Design for Social Change Storybook Exhibition

It was an exciting month for our “Design for Social Change” course. Not only did we have the opportunity to share the topics we have been exploring in a formal exhibition, but the resulting children’s e-books received rave reviews from some very high profile guests.

So what exactly is ‘design for social change’? Often referred to as ‘social design,’ it aims to contribute to—or directly benefit—social, humanitarian, or environmental well-being. Designer and social entrepreneur William Drenttel suggests it is “inherently pragmatic and results-oriented, simultaneously humble and ambitious, and fundamentally optimistic and forward-looking.” Social designers come from varying backgrounds and often work in interdisciplinary teams to address the diverse community’s needs—just like our students!

The Design for Social Change Storybook Exhibition explored the use of digital tools to engage children in a range of socially-motivated issues related to local resources and conservation in the United Arab Emirates. The topics included coral reef conservation, environmental disaster, Arabic language conservation, and the importance of educating children about autism. Students invited parents, schoolteachers, school administrators, and select guests from across the Emirates to engage with the ideas generated during the course and the interactive features of the e-book.

Following the exhibition, Jumeira Model School (K-9th grade) formally invited the class to participate in an event titled “Children storybook exhibition using iPad technology on the topic of local resources and conservation in the UAE.” We met with a class of first and third-grade students in the well-equipped multilingual library. You can’t imagine what a transformative experience the day way. After months of research and preparation—including writing, illustration, and publication design for the iPad—the design students joyfully shared their e-books with an eager audience.

They read the stories in Arabic and English, observing first-hand the impact their social design topics had on the children. Not only were the students attentive, engaged, and interested in the topics (providing tons of feedback) – but the school teachers were excited to begin an ongoing collaboration with our burgeoning social designers. Such exciting prospects for the future!