Pre-interview questions for Mr. Jon Kolko:
Recently there are many calls for the ‘social turn’ in Design field. Also we can see many new terms arising such as “Social Innovation”, “Design For Social Change”, “Design for Social Impact” ,etc. How do you see and what do you think about this phenomenon? Do you think such ‘social turn’ in Design field is a necessary trend or a new paradigm?
近來設計界有不少提倡社會實踐的呼聲，諸如「社會創新」、「為社會變革而設計」（Design for Social Change）和「為社會影響而設計」（Design for Social Impact）等新字眼紛紛出現，想請教你對此現象的看法如何？設計的社會實踐究竟是必然的趨勢，還是一種全新的派典（paradigm）？
Design has always been focused on making the world better – through aesthetics, usability, or emotional branding. It seems like a logical next step for design to focus on large-scale social and humanitarian problems. This is aligned with a view of design as a strategic way of solving problems, rather than just producing artifacts. When designers strive to solve problems, and focus their energy on social and humanitarian problems, they can leverage systems thinking in order to drive empathetic, thoughtful solutions to big problems.
What motivates you to start AC4D? What’s the real purpose for building a school like AC4D?
How the idea of AC4D was developing and how’s it going?
AC4D teaches Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship. Why these two realms are emphasized on & What are their relationships?
Austin Center for Design (AC4D) grew out of a perceived gap in design education. I had a number of alumni from other schools, who were wondering how they could apply the things they learned in school in meaningful contexts. And, they were asking for guidance about education around elevating their practitioner skills to a more strategic, thoughtful level. AC4D attempts to teach students those things: to elevate their practice in order to become a more critical part of an organization, and to simultaneously redirect their efforts from driving consumption, towards problems worth solving.
The school is now in its fourth year. Our students learn interaction design, social entrepreneurship, service design, and a thoughtful way of approaching wicked problems. Alumni who choose to work in traditional circles after graduation have found jobs in large corporations and in agencies, where their process is respected. Those who choose to start companies are able to drive a double-bottom-line focus through their product and service design.
About Asia & Taiwan:
In terms of social innovation, do you see any social or cultural opportunities for designers in East Asia?
How do you see interaction designers doing social entrepreneurship? What would you suggest for Taiwanese people (or Asian people) doing social enterprise in East Asian countries?
Do you have any words or suggestions for general Taiwanese designers?
Social entrepreneurship is highly contextual, and extraordinarily local. The idea that a designer in America can somehow solve a problem unique to another country is ridiculous. Asia – like the United States – is struggling with issues of growth, sustainability, and economic inequality; but a solution that may work in a city in the US will not work in Asia. And so these solutions need to be developed by designers working in Taiwan, China, or other countries; the solutions should be local, in order to support the people that will benefit from these local solutions.
4. Could you tell us a bit about your current plan / on-going project?
In addition to running Austin Center for Design, I run product design and innovation at an educational software company in Austin, Texas called MyEdu. I’m working on completing my fourth book, and continue to explore topics related to innovation, social entrepreneurship, and product management.