Socially Ecological

Design Manifesto

This manifesto defines a design practice that works towards fostering non-hierarchical relationships in communities and nature through the sensitive crafting of messages, services and products, both physical and digital, that are rooted in ecological values. These following principles ground us.


Use our power to advocate for the continuous wellness of a community’s ecosystem.

Designers influence consumption and cultural values. As such, we have a social and moral responsibility to be critical of the cultural messages we produce and promote. Be conscious of this. To paraphrase Milton Glaser, we should work to inform rather than to persuade. Ensure work is done with the highest degree of respect and consideration for the resources needed to build that message and the people who will engage with it.


Take on projects for people, businesses and organizations whose work nourishes community.

Devote time to projects that promote local, social good. Do meaningful❡work for non-profits, small businesses, education and health sectors, community outreach programs, local farms, and activist groups; ensure this work circulates back to the community. Help them clarify their objectives. Are they organized, vocal, self-sustainable† and inviting?

❡ In our eyes, meaningful work addresses the urgency to provide basic human needs and looks to find accessible solutions to supply them. To quote Victor Papanek: "Design must be meaningful, and meaningful replaces the semantically loaded noise of such expressions as "beautiful", "ugly", "cool", "cute", "disgusting", "realistic", "obscure", "abstract", or "nice"."

† By helping communities, people, businesses and organizations be more self-sustainable, we aim to assist them in conceiving of and navigating in a human scale infrastructure for the purpose of operating independently.


Always make informed decisions❡ when designing to reduce environmental impact.

Limit what you resources you use, and never create without taking into consideration a product's life cycle. Use recycled materials whenever possible for physical production and optimize your digital products to reduce CO2 emissions. Lanza del Vasto said: “Find the shortest, simplest way between the earth, the hands, and the mouth.”

Always make considered choices about the resources you use when creating something that will be printed, manufactured, or hosted online. To be informed of where the resources come from, is to question if they are actually needed, identify alternatives that use less or recycled material; and be aware of the processes used to turn them into waste.


Design for organic human needs.

Challenge the idea that the designer’s highest value is to help companies gain monetary profit. Do not focus on a human as solely a consumer. Direct your attention to genuine physical, emotional, technological, social, intellectual and spiritual needs of members of a community. How does the work you're creating or promoting provide a solution that addresses these needs? Where can you build roots so that an idea or product is sustained?


Make the core of your practice volunteering.

Designer's are rich with plentiful ideas and strategies. Ensure that individuals and organizations who can't afford design services still have access to them. To paraphrase Victor Papanek, we should donate a minimum of 10% of our time and ideas to the 75% in need. To offset this volunteerism, consider other modes of wage-earning, such as bartering. What daily necessities could you obtain from community members whom you serve?


Create a broadly understood language in your practice for communicating and training.

Teach your creative problem solving strategies to a diverse audience who can employ them for themselves. Make your knowledge accessible to those outside of the design bubble.


Use your thoughtfulness towards pursuing meaningful work.

Be sensitive, curious, experimental, determined, and sincere in all projects and interactions with people. Use your intuitive empathy to care for life, community, and the ecosystem. Your role as designer is always important.

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