D&AD Graduate Academy: Design A Difference

How can we inspire creatives to build sustainability into their design practices?

As another crop of graduates are set to become the creative community’s newest employees—Collaborative Change has been working with the cream of up-and-coming talent as part of D&AD’s annual Graduate Academy programme.

With ethical and sustainable design principles joining a marker pen and creativity as essential parts of a creative’s toolbox, we were asked to deliver our ‘Design A Difference’ course to jolt the Grads out of their creative comfort zones.

The full-day session introduced the team to  the social and ethical impacts of advertising and design, balancing the need to minimise the negative consequences of our work with the huge potential we have to impact positively by tackling social issues head on.

With brands becoming increasingly aware of the need for their creative to be more considered, the economic imperative for agencies and creatives alike to become more socially and ethically aware is clear. As part of the Graduate Academy’s programme of professional development, Collaborative Change were given the opportunity to work with the team to embed these important principles in their process at this formative stage of their career.

Moving from yellow pencils to sharpened principles—the graduates were immersed in a full-day programme of social design theory and practice, before being set to work on a real-world social change brief. Shrinking violets were left with nowhere to hide as lively debate echoed out from the basement of an East London café, and values and attitudes were challenged. Can design save the world? Why should we bother? Whose responsibility is it anyway? Whilst there’s no clear answer to these questions, one certainty emerged—a stance on the issue will define those that make a difference, and those that remain part of the problem.

“Today’s session made me realise that I can make a real difference through my work”

Graduates were challenged to respond to a real-world social issue by designing an intervention to encourage heroin users to call for ambulance assistance in an overdose situation—a life or death issue occupying a world that the graduates had very little knowledge/ direct experience of. Given nothing more than a blank sheet of paper and a brief, the team were asked to brainstorm a rapid response to the issue based only on preconceptions and assumptions before being asked to re-approach the brief with the benefit of genuine research insights during a session structured around the five Collaborative Change principles.

“This session has strengthened my belief in letting research guide my creative process throughout”

Whilst early ideas proved encouraging—we were delighted to see that communicating the benefit of approaching design briefs with empathy, a rounded understanding of the issue, and an awareness of the range of factors that influence behaviour resulted in the team moving far beyond traditional communications to design a range of interventions which spanned communications, product, system, environment and partnership working.

“Tonnes of valuable information. Really learned a lot”

We were equally pleased to hear that the graduates were suitably inspired by, and understood the value of the session for their future careers as creative professionals. We wish them all the best of luck with their careers and look forward to hearing news of how they are applying Collaborative Change® principles to real-world briefs.

Find out more about D&ADs Graduate Academy and view the graduate’s talent profiles here.

If you’re interested in running the ‘Design a Difference’ session for your team or as part of your course, email us here.


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