Exhibition Presents Design as a Force for Social Change

The Museum of Design Atlanta showcases innovative solutions to common 21st-century problems.
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Recognizing that design can be a force for social good, the Museum of Design Atlanta has announced a new exhibition called "Design for Social Impact" that examines how architects, students, professors, and designers are using design to solve some of our society’s more nagging problems.

Volunteers for Mad Housers Inc. build an enclosure out of wood and corrugated metal. The Atlanta-based nonprofit build modest structures for homeless people with a goal of giving them a sense of security, privacy, and dignity. Photo courtesy of Mad Housers Inc.

The exhibit, which opens on May 25 and runs through August 3, will feature projects that were conceived to address challenges in the areas of shelter, community, education, health care, energy, and food and water.

Volunteers at work on another Mad Housers project. Photo courtesy of Mad Housers Inc.

"Imparting a sense of optimism at the possibility of creating a better world, ‘Design for Social Impact’ is not meant to be a total review of solutions," the museum said in a statement announcing the show. "Rather, it will provide a range of examples of design thinking being used to solve problems in innovative ways. In many cases, the projects actually solve multiple problems at one time. The featured projects were selected for their in-depth understanding of the users, which led to affordable, adaptable, and sustainable solutions."

A completed Mad Housers structure. Photo courtesy of Mad Housers Inc.

The exhibit will include the work of the following people and organizations:

Plywood People's Billboard Bags are made from upcycled billboard materials and coffee bags by refugees who fled conflict-plagued countries for Clarkston, Georgia. Workers receive job training, English lessons, and income through the project. Photo courtesy of Plywood People.

  • Mad Housers Inc., an Atlanta-based nonprofit that builds shelters for homeless people and families. The builds six-by-eight-foot structures that it designs for durability, low cost, and ease of assembly. The idea is to provide the homeless with a warm, dry shelter with a locking door as a means of giing them a sense of security, privacy, and dignity.
  • Plywood People, an Altanta organization that bills tiself as a "short-term solution to long-term problems." Refugees make Plywood's Billboard Bags by hand from upcycled billboard advertisements and coffee sacks.
  • Dr. Nicholas Giovinco, a foot and ankle surgeon, and Freeside Atlanta, a self-proclaimed collective of "makers, tinkerers, engineers, programmers, artists, teachers, and lunatics," are using CT scans to print full-scale 3-D templates, improving patient outcomes and simplifying the surgical procees.
  • The Full Belly Project, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, develops and distributes agricultural devices that help to promote self-sufficiency in developing countries. These products include a nut sheller and a mobile solar water pump.

A participant in Plywood People's Billboar Bags project at work. Photo by Morgan Blake.

Click through the slideshow to view some examples.


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