It’s no secret we live in a time of heightened social tension. There are issues all around us we’re inundated with through the media and around the dinner table. It’s overwhelming to consider how we should address issues including racism, foster care reform, recidivism rates, and healthcare. Today’s guest is tackling these issues with a unique kind of ammunition: human-centered design. Durell Coleman is the founder of DC Design, a social impact design firm that uses human-centered design to fix some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Durell starts with his childhood and shares of his upbringing in Texas.
His passion for design goes all the way back. He told his mom he wanted to be an inventor at the age of eight, and he made grand plans to own his own company.
Durell’s brother was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when Durell was nine. His brother fought the disease for five long years, and he even played varsity soccer and graduated high school. However, he passed away at the age of 19.
Durell’s brother’s battle with cancer challenged him to evolve his dream. He wanted to create, and he wanted to do so in a way that improved quality of life for others. He wanted to give people a chance for success.
As humans, we’re able to see our highs after going through lows. In short, we learn from our failures.
Durell’s first company designed renewable energy sources in the developing world. The plan made sense, but he lacked funding, and the vision was compromised. Durell began designing low-cost wind turbines for homeowners in America, and unfortunately, there wasn’t a need for that particular solution. He drew strength from his failure, and he studied it as well. As he started DC Design, those lessons became valuable pieces of insight.
Immersion is a great tool for learning. Durell emphasizes his working class background forced him to design by necessity. He knew there was no alternative solution if he couldn’t build or learn something himself.
DC Design is a social impact strategy and design consultancy. They help people on the front lines of addressing social impact. From criminal justice to foster care, DC Design wants to help world changers deliver on their mission.
The goal is to utilize the process of human-centered design. DC Design wants to understand the needs of people who live through a particular challenge. Going straight to the source helps organizations to shape the process for change.
It’s the Average Joe who effects change, and we’re all impacted by social issues. We’re all in it together as we’re trying to make change happen.
Durell’s journey began when his first company failed. He’d been focused on his work in other countries. However, he realized many social issues affect us right here in the U.S. He wanted to design ways to fight for social justice, address poverty, fight wildfires, and champion prison reform right here “at home.” Durell realized the need to equip the people and organizations on the frontlines of these issues.
We’re not equipped to fight every issue, and DC Design wants to help individuals realize which specific issues they’re called to champion. He also wants to learn from the experiences of those in need, and use their insight to design change. The most effective strategies for change come from within.
The notion of privilege exists in many forms. Your education, background, and physical appearance can all leave you with privilege. Remember the Spiderman quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” How are we using our privilege to call out injustice and fight for restoration?
Justice and redemption go together. We’re quick to judge yet slow to forgive. We need to create a space for restoration. Rather than wanting people to suffer, we should focus on giving people the opportunity for rehabilitation.
Durell Coleman is the founder of DC Design, a social impact design firm that uses the design thinking process to address the world’s biggest problems. In his journey as a designer, Durell has collaborated with international non-profits, large tech companies, and small businesses to create products and services that solve the problems they face.
Trained in mechanical engineering (B.S) and sustainable design (M.S.), he is a two-time alumnus of Stanford University and its famous Institute of Design. He partners with diverse clients to help them successfully overcome challenges and capitalize on the opportunities before them. His clients include governments, foundations and nonprofits working to address challenges in the criminal justice and foster care systems, Syrian refugees designing solutions to challenges in refugee camps, students at Stanford University designing a more inclusive campus, and corporate executives from Sony, Oracle, and Santander.
He is an expert in multi-stakeholder, human-centered design and is one of the subjects of the PBS documentary: “Extreme by Design,” which is used as a design thinking teaching aid all over the world.