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"Designed by" versus "Made by": Two Approaches to Design-Based Social Entrepreneurship


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Published in the Journal of Design Strategies, this article looks at two approaches to design-based social entrepreneurship within the artisan sector.
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THE JOURNAL OF DESIGN STRATEGIES Change Design Vol. 4, No. 1 | Spring 2010
Change Design
Vol. 4, No. 1 | Spring 2010
NEW YORK, NY 10011
Executive Editor
Lisa DeBenedittis
Managing Editor
Matthew H. Robb
Guest Editor
Lara Penin
Project Manager
John Haner Layden
Copy Editor
Amanda Siegel
Art Director
Isa Gouverneur
Graphic Designer
Shoko Tagaya
Production Artist
Steven Arnerich
Mariana Amatullo
Brigitte Borja de Mozota
Stephen Clune
Clarisa Diaz
Cynthia Lawson
Gavin Melles
Lara Penin
Lou Yongqi
e Journal of Design Strategies is published
annually by e New School in association
with the School of Design Strategies at Parsons
e New School for Design.
66 Fifth Avenue, 9th floor
New York. NY 10011
Parsons focuses on creating engaged citizens and
outstanding artists, designers, scholars, and business
leaders through a design-based professional and
liberal arts education.
Parsons students learn to rise to the challenges of
living, working, and creative decision-making in
a world where human experience is increasingly
e school embraces curricular innovation, pioneer-
ing uses of technology, collaborative methods, and
global perspectives on the future of design.
e Journal of Design Strategies welcomes submis-
sions for the Spring 2011 issue, addressing the
theme of “Transdisciplinary Design.” is issue of
the journal will explore emergent design practices
that generate new outcomes, establish new fields, or
reconfigure our understanding of design. For infor-
mation about submitting articles for consideration
for the forthcoming issue, please email Jamer Hunt,
Guest Editor, at
© The New S chool 2010. All r ights res erved. IS SN: 1935 -0112.
ISSN: 193 5-01 20 (online).
Vol. 4, No. 1 | Spring 2010
Change Design
8 Small, Local, Open, and Connected: Design for Social Innovation
and Sustainability Ezio Manzini
12 Responses to Ezio Manzini Arjun Appadurai
14 e DESIS Network: Design and Social Innovation for Sustainability
Lara Penin, et al
23 Enabling Society: New Design Processes in China;
e Case of Chongming Lou Yongqi and Clarisa Diaz
29 From the Townhall into the Studio:
Design, Democracy, and Community Resilience omas Darwin
34 “Designed by” versus “Made by”:
Two Approaches to Design-Based Social Entrepreneurship Cynthia Lawson
42 Sustainable Product Design: Balancing Local Techniques and Holistic Constraints
rough Innovative Curricula Gavin Melles, et al
52 Design for Sustainable Development: Examples from Designmatters at Art Center
College of Design Mariana Amatullo
60 Into the Open: Positioning Practice —from Venice to New York to Philadelphia;
An Interview with Co-Curators Aaron Levy and William Menking Laetitia Wol
68 Design and Behavioral Change Stephen Clune
76 Closing the Design Gap Elliot Felix
81 Recovering from an Annus Horribilis: Book Review of Expanding Architecture:
Design as Activism Denise Ramzy
84 New Roles in the Organizational Design of High Social Value-Creative
Business Models Jonatan Jelen and Kaleem Kamboj
91 Design Management as Core Competency: From “Design You Can See” to
“Design You Can’t See” Brigitte Borja de Mozota
e majority of the world’s designers focus all their
eorts on developing products and services exclusively
for the richest 10% of the world’s customers.1
is finding represents a responsibility and an
opportunity for individual designers, organiza-
tions such as Aid to Artisans,2 and most recently,
universities, to embark on projects through which
they may create a positive impact on artisan
communities in the areas of design, marketing,
and business, with the principal goal of generat-
ing income via the sale of artisanal goods. Case
studies, such as the Colombian and Indian design
and craft projects documented by United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) have demonstrated that design can play
“an important role in encouraging environmentally
sustainable and economically viable models… of
marginalized groups,”3 positioning it as a process
and tool with which to promote social and eco-
nomic development in underserved communities.
is article discusses “Made by” and “Designed
by” approaches to design and social entrepreneur-
ship initiatives in the developing world. e primary
focus is an ongoing project that started as a collabo-
ration between the global humanitarian organiza-
tion CARE and e New School, in which students
and faculty have been working with a group of
Mayan women in Guatemala—Ajkem’a Loy’a—to
help them develop a business model for exporting
their handcrafted products to the United States.
Two Approaches to
Design-Based Social
Cynthia Lawson
1. Cooper- Hewitt N ational
Design M useum, Design for
the Oth er 90% website, http://
other 90.cooperhewitt .org/.
2. Aid to Artisans website,
3. Craft R evival Trust,
Artes anías de Colom bia S.A.,
UNESCO, Designers M eet
Artisans: A Practical Guid e.
Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 20 05.
e book Designers Meet Artisans documents several
examples of the positive role design can play in
artisan communities.4 It argues, however, that a
community’s engagement with (or through) design
is more likely to be sustainable if it is not imposed
by an external person (creating a situation of depen-
dency), but instead adopted as part of the artisan’s
creative process.
e term “Made by” indicates a practice whereby
designs from an industrialized country are ex-
ecuted in a low-wage manufacturing situation in
a developing country.5 is model (adapted to an
artisanal context) describes the underlying premise
of projects like Cojolyá, an association in Santiago,
Guatemala, that “provides weavers with threads
and looms, design services, infrastructures, and the
development of markets to promote sales.”6 Here,
design is not an intrinsic part of the production
process. Instead, it is a service that is given to the
weavers by the organization’s designers, who impose
(as opposed to collaborate on) designs, albeit ones
inspired by the local culture and craft traditions.
In such a scenario, the artisans are limited to the
mechanical role of making products by hand. e
intended beneficiaries have relatively little input
into decisions about what product is made, why it is
made, and in what quantities. is model guar-
antees that what is produced aligns with current
market trends and is thus more likely to sell. It is
therefore appropriate for initiatives in which the pri-
ority is the generation of income and not necessar-
ily education or culture preservation. If the goal is
sustainable development, this method suers from
some critical defects: e artisans do not develop
their skills beyond the physical, hands-on making
of the products; they are not learning about the
market or the design industry; the artisans often re-
ceive a very small percentage of the profits; and they
become dependent on the person or people playing
the role of the designer, thereby compromising the
self-sustainability of the project.7
ere are two ways to approach the contrasting
“Designed by” model. e first is exemplified by
groups such as Artesanías de Colombia,8 which has
been able to position originally designed handcrafts
as desired products, accessories, and furnishings. In
this development model, the design is inherent to
the artisans’ traditions; it is not being transformed
or adjusted to meet market needs. Instead, the
overarching organization works to position these
authentic designs as luxury goods through stores
around the country, exports, and the interna-
tionally-known Colombian fair Expoartesanías.9
Incorporating local crafts with modern, minimalist
furniture design has become the signature trait of
Colombian interior designers, who have thus helped
create a high-end local market—a rare phenomenon
in other countries across Latin America, in which
the great majority of craft sales are exported or sold
to tourists.
In this first “Designed by” concept, artisans in
developing countries are elevated to a new socio-
economic position because they play a pivotal role
in the design of the products (with the cooperation
and advisement of a designer associated with the
sponsoring social-entrepreneurial agency). is
approach allows artisans to develop their own
products and move up the value chain of design,
rather than merely subsisting as manufacturers.10
When they are trained in the necessary skills (e.g.,
product design and development, business and
A community’s engagement
with design is more likely to be
sustainable if it is not imposed
by an external person, but
instead adopted as part of the
artisan’s creative process.
4. Craft Revival Trust.
5. Victor Margolin, “De sign for
Develop ment: Toward s a His-
tory,” Desi gn Studies, 28, 2 007,
6. Cojolyá w ebsite,
7. Fabiola Berdiel a nd Jaykumar
Dehejia, “CARE/The New
School P artnership Feasi bility
Study Summary,” Feasibility
Study for CARE/T he New
School p artne rships, The New
School, 2007.
8. Artesanías de Colo mbia,
9. Expoartesan ías website,
10. Craf t Revival Trust.
organizational skills, and quality control), artisans
have the opportunity to be creative in developing
products that reflect their heritage while still appeal-
ing to external markets. e main goal is to increase
exposure for the artisans, adding value to what they
have produced for generations, in the hope of pre-
serving their culture, heritage and traditional skills.
e case of Artesanías de Colombia represents an
ideal in some respects. However, this model is not
necessarily translatable to the context of a country
such as Guatemala, in which the traditional tech-
niques (e.g. back strap loom weaving) are of interest,
but the designs themselves (e.g., the huipil, a tradi-
tional Mayan blouse) do not have sustainable mar-
kets. In this case, the “Designed by” model needs to
be framed as a process through which the artisans
learn to innovate new products by experimenting
with their traditional
techniques while follow-
ing design guidelines (in
terms of form, color, and
quality) in order to create more marketable products
(SEE FIGURE 1). is second approach to “Designed by”
social entrepreneurship does, however, retain the
overarching goal of helping artisans design their
own products and move up the value chain of de-
signers.11 is approach to design-based sustainable
development, moreover, can include “Marketed by”
and “Managed by” components, in which artisans
are trained in the skills and procedures of product
design and development, business and organization-
al management, and quality control. is raises the
likelihood of sustainable, income-generating success
through the sale of the artisans’ goods.
e Design for the Other 90% exhibition website
states that, “Of the world’s total population of 6.5
billion … 90% have little or no access to most
of the products and services many of us take for
granted.13 Motivated by this statistic, educational
11. Craf t Revival Trust.
12. The New Sc hool
Collaborates, w ww.thenew s-
FIGURE 1: A Guatemalan art isan par ticipating in one of The N ew School’s student-led design wo rkshop
San Lucas Tolimán, Guat emala, summ er 2008
institutions have begun engaging students in col-
laborations aimed at reducing this “design divide.”
ere has been much engagement from the disci-
plines in the social sciences, particularly around
economic and social development. Since at least the
1970s, designers have been encouraged to con-
sider the potential positive impact of their work.14
Nevertheless, projects that approach the issue of
development holistically and from various disciplin-
ary perspectives at once are less common. One such
eort has involved the creation of a cross-divisional
and transdisciplinary faculty research group at e
New School. e group studies socio-economic and
urban development through design—in particular,
the models of “Made by” and “Designed by” social
entrepreneurship. e models are explored and ana-
lyzed in terms of their eectiveness in advancing the
twin aims of sustainable development and cultural
Students interested in participating in the project
with the Mayan artisan weaver’s association Ajkem’a
Loy’a in Guatemala take a spring course at the
university that runs as a combined lecture series and
seminar. e course ends with an intensive proto-
typing phase in which teams of students from New
School divisions including Parsons, Milano, and
General Studies apply what has been read and dis-
cussed to a real-world context, including the project
in Guatemala. e lectures—oered by the core
faculty and supplemented by domain experts from
a variety of fields and institutions—focus on teach-
ing and learning in informal settings; using digital
media to communicate, represent, and motivate;
microcredit and financing; marketing; fundraising;
and urban development.
Central to the course’s pedagogy is the demystifi-
cation of the universal expert—the idea that a single
person may have an answer to every question—in
order to establish an equal field of questions, skills,
and knowledge in which all participants (faculty,
students, and community collaborators alike) can
contribute and learn (SEE FIGURE 2). is approach has
yielded a successful learning experience for students,
whose course evaluations and project debriefings
often celebrate their participation in the project. As
one summer 2009 participant put it in an anony-
mous post-fieldwork evaluation, “I think that I
learned more than I ever could in a class and I have
formulated opinions and ideas that I believe I could
only have made through this experience.”
is positioning of students as active agents of
their own education helps prepare them to facilitate
the capacity-building aspect of the summer project
(during which time they travel to Guatemala for
up to two months). Students prepare and conduct
15. The case study referenced
here was organized an d con-
ducted by the autho r along
with Fabiola Berdiel, J. Erin
Cho, Jaykumar Dehejia, Alice
Demirjian, Pascale Gatzen, Mark
Johnson, Edwin Torres and
Tatiana Wah; the 27 students
who traveled to Guatemala in
summer s 2008 and 20 09; and
the memb ers of the Mayan
weaver as sociatio ns Ajkem’a
Loy’a and Ixoqui A’j Ru Xel Kiem.
FIGURE 2: A New Sch ool student leading a p atternm aking workshop
for Ajkem’a Loy’a—San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, summer 2008
13. Cooper- Hewitt N ational
Design M useum, p. 1.
14. Victor Papanek, D esign for
the Real Worl d: Human Ecolog y
and Social C hange, 2nd ed. (C hi-
cago: Aca demy Chicago Publish-
ers, 1985); 1st ed., 1971.
ice-breaker activities that promote trust and team-
work; specific skill-based workshops in product pric-
ing, sewing, patternmaking, and computers; and
discussion-based activities that cover running an
organization, managing inventory, and so on. is
hands-on intensive approach requires students to
quickly translate theory (from the spring class and
previous training) into practice. e class becomes a
situation in the real world, in which the students are
playing a critical role.
e first faculty-student trip to Guatemala
took place in 2008, for the summer program in
San Lucas Tolimán. During the first two weeks,
students from across e New School ran capacity-
building workshops focused on skills in the areas
of business, marketing, and design. Teams of
students led workshops in work-time valuation,
pricing, inventory, quality control, the association’s
organization, new product development, pat-
ternmaking, sewing, marketing, computers, and
English. e goal of the workshops was to introduce
the members of the Mayan women’s group to all the
elements essential to running a sustainable income-
generating organization. A final evaluation of the
month-long collaboration indicated that substantive,
active learning had occurred in at least eight areas:
work-time valuation, inventory, quality control,
new product development, patternmaking, sewing,
computers, and English. In three of the areas (pric-
ing, marketing, and the association’s organization),
the evaluation demonstrated some learning, but
with a need for further instruction.16 Furthermore,
although the project was initially focused on
developing a “Designed by” model (in which the
weavers eventually acquire all the skills needed for
a sustainable enterprise), the faculty recommended
continuing the collaboration under its original
stated goals, while at the same time engaging in a
pilot “Made by” model. Although initially resistant
to this latter approach, faculty advisors observed
during the project that training the artisans to be
designers would entail a much longer process than
they had originally anticipated. erefore, the
faculty advisors decided to test the hypothesis that
making, under the supervision of a professional
designer, could more quickly enhance the artisans’
skills and facilitate their training towards becoming
more eective makers and designers.
A grant from the Amsterdam-based arts organiza-
tion W13917 has supported further work between
two Parsons faculty members and the women of
Ajkem’a Loy’a. is yearlong project, initiated in
December 2008, is clearly framed within the “Made
by” model: One of the faculty members is working
with the women on weaving experimentation with
the goal of designing a two-piece outfit, of which the
association agreed to produce 139, to be purchased
at a higher-than-fair-trade price. Although the num-
ber of garments has recently been reduced because of
the collaboration’s challenges, it has already yielded
observable positive outcomes: e Mayan women
are being paid 1.5 times the fair wage calculated
for Guatemala; the “design expert,” in this case a
Parsons faculty member, has been able to engage the
women, through their own craft, in weaving experi-
mentation to which the artisans had previously never
been exposed; and the artisans have been able to
develop new design variations on their own products
(putting the summer 2008 workshops into practice).
is is consistent with a shift exhibited by Sop Moei
Arts in ailand: After several years of working on
designs provided to them, artisans started to inno-
vate their own product variations.18
In summer 2009 a new team of students from
Parsons, Milano, and International Aairs traveled
17. W139 website, http://
18. Carolyn Jongewar d, “A
Search for Sustainable
Livelihoods Within Global
Marketplaces: Stories of Learn-
ing and Change Among Rural
Artisans in Thailand,” in CASAE-
ACÉÉA National Conference
2001—Twentieth Anniversary
The “Designed by” approach
allows artisans to develop their
own products and move up the
value chain of design, rather
than merely subsisting as
16. Cynthia Lawso n, “The New
School, CARE & Ajkem’a Loy ’a:
A Case Stu dy in Learning in
Intensi ve and Immer sive Global
Programs and in Cros s-Cul tural
and Bilingual Collab orative
Work,” conf erence pr esenta -
tion, Glo bal Interactions in
Design E ducation 2008, Online
and Renss elaer Poly technic
with faculty advisors to Guatemala to continue the
project New School Collaborates: Guatemala. is
time half of the group worked on developing new
collaborations and partnerships with new artisan
groups in other Guatemalan towns, while the other
half followed up on the work with Ajkem’a Loy’a in
San Lucas Tolimán from the previous year. is lat-
ter group observed a change in two principal aspects
of the association’s work. First, the summer 2009
design team observed that women in the group have
begun to see themselves as designers and are now
better able to describe the creative experiments they
are engaged in with their weaving (SEE FIGURE 3). On
July, 16, 2009, one of the students illustrated this
change on the project’s blog:
We began our work with Ajkem’a Loy’a by intro-
ducing a series of “inspiration” images for them
to look at. Each of the women selected a few of
their favorites, explained to us why they chose
them, and began experimenting with their weav-
ing, using the images as “reference.e outcome
was very pleasing: each of the women explained
what elements they used from the images in their
weaving (most of whom were initially attracted
to the colors). Mayda, drawing inspiration from
a picture of the ocean, not only incorporated
colors from it, but also created a dotted pattern
in her weave that represented the rocks under-
neath the water. ose of which were closer to
the surface and thus received more sunlight were
translated into brighter yellow dots in her weave,
while the other rocks further from the ocean’s
surface were more subdued in her design.
FIGURE 3: A new scarf design by Ajkem’a Loy’a— San Lucas Tolimán, Guate mala, summer 2009
e second major change is in how the association
works as a group. Interestingly, they did not adopt
the proposed horizontal model for their roles and
functions, yet they have been able to strengthen
their group work. ey are clearly well positioned
to take on larger responsibilities as a group, as there
is a clear and shared understanding of the various
tasks and roles involved in running the association.
ese two major changes led this year’s group of
students to focus on preparing Ajkem’a Loy’a to
begin exporting their goods (the long-term goal
around which the collaboration had been estab-
lished). A team of students prepared and led an
exporting workshop, which was divided into three
parts. e first focused on what needs to be in place
before exporting begins, including high quality
products, a communications plan, and a struc-
ture of specific roles for carrying out the various
operational aspects of the organization. e second
addressed the development of a print or online
product catalog, and the third focused on receiving
and fulfilling an order. Summer 2009 culminated
with the definition of a product line that will now
be test-marketed in New York City as the first phase
of a wider import strategy.
e New School Collaborates: Guatemala is just
one of many recent projects that shed light on the
important role design can play in social entrepre-
neurship initiatives. In theory, a “Designed by”
model is more likely to lead to ongoing sustain-
able development, but in practice the challenges of
working with artisans of very dierent educational
levels and cultural backgrounds can lead to serious
problems of implementation.19 e New School
research group’s experience in Guatemala suggests
that short-term “Made by” initiatives can actually
help pave the way for more ambitious “Designed by
development models, since they present opportuni-
ties to put into practice design skills and concepts
that are not easily integrated via workshops alone.
us, with some artisan communities, a combina-
tion of the two models may be the optimal means of
promoting design-based sustainable development.
19. See Jonge ward, 5.
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