William Drenttel | Video

William Drenttel on Design and Social Innovation

A video of a talk on design and social innovation at the Feast Conference given by William Drenttel, director of Winterhouse Institute. Delivered October 1, 2009 in New York City at the Times Center Auditorium.

Posted in: Media

Comments [11]

what a lot of bs as usual in this kind of monkey bs

Heartening to see the 'artefacts vs. consequences' notion articulated. I think many designers and others are grappling for ways to express the tension they feel between these two. Given that designers traditionally envision and generate solutions to problems, it seems that increasing numbers are frustrated by the limited scope of what they are called to address. Indeed, as William highlights – it's ripe times to be questioning what it means to be a designer.
Meena Kadri

Moving from "artifact to consequence" is a great term, speaks to the need for designers to realize that products are really byproducts, the logical "remains", that come from a bigger picture framing of the problem.


you are not designing, unless you are the one using the tools, creating forms, making shapes, and making decisions. Being a manager, producer, a director of a pool of talent, or speaking to this pool of talent is not designing. Designing is not an approval process by which hired hands develop things for you and you approve their merit based on your experience and judgement. There are too many creative executives that own companies, manage teams of creatives and still think they deserve to take the actual DESIGNER CREDIT from the individuals, WHO ACTUALLY DID THE DESIGNING. Advertising doesn't even have this incessant (creative role/ego) problem.

@xpez2000 Hearing you on creating, making and deciding but I can't agree that designing has got to be about forms and shapes.

For example, user interface design is largely about the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of what people see online. Can the notion of designing for interaction not apply to a vast array of social endeavor like healthcare, conferences and energy supply that are presented here? Not every designer's chosen path, to be sure – but does that mean that those who choose to stick with form-making pursuits should deny the merits of the wider applications of design?
Meena Kadri

Great talk. Please post the slideshow that went with your talk on design and social innovation at the Feast Conference.

Thank you for quoting from 1000 Words: A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design.
“We think that we’re in the artifact business, but we’re not; we’re in the consequence business.” – Allan Chochinov

Here is the link:

Carl W. Smith

In the most rigid context, I cannot argue with your conclusion. Strictly speaking, the act of designing is, as you say "using the tools." What is more interesting to me—and what, I believe, Bill is getting at in this talk—is what happens when those of us who have been "using the tools" for our entire career then step into the role you describe as managing, producing, directing (or maybe envisioning). Call it what you will, but when you view a complex social problem through the lens of an experienced designer, the result is fundamentally different than when it is viewed from a more conventional perspective. Design methodology often garners empathic, human-centered solutions that are surprising and effective. Not matter what you call it, this is needed. And we know how to do it.
Doug Powell

I agree with xpez2000, but being the guy that can put it all together, get the right team, and actually build it is a design in itself.
alex gore

I appreciate William's intent, but I seriously question his benefactors understanding of the term ‘social relevance’. Life is great, brilliant designers abound. Cut the crap, people.

Design is a process which analyzes layers of information, specifically in this case hard statistics and narrative, distilling a provocative, and in the most fortunate occasions a sublime, understanding. This was a tirade of powerpoint slides. Please excuse me for the vernacular, but this is an UTTER DESIGN FAIL.

Mentioning the Right of Women to vote on the floor of Grand Central is a classic example of value by association. Cheap linguistic programming techniques in a talk about social change, sheesh!

Didn't he mention ‘we started out doing new media’ at the onset?
Wait, who did what? New media?

I believe I may have arrived from the distant future, because a static biaxial, right rising graph, coupled with the statement, ‘the numbers start getting really powerful and really exciting’ is utterly obsolete in my time.

I'm left wondering whether he desires the crowd to become engaged with his intended subject or he's merely satisfied with talking to something else besides a mirror. Really!

Really? Is this honestly anyone's idea of inciting social change? If William honestly cared about change, why does he not hire talented people who can make this intention a reality? Big thinkers get the job done, small thinkers tinker about.
Not impressed. This money could be spent on actual change, too bad.

Oops! Business expense, drinks on me after the talk!
Ryan Pescatore Frisk

***** thank you.
antonio scarponi

Oops! Business expense, drinks on me after the talk! And maybe a trip to CB2??!


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