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How Economics Can Help Us Design for Social Good

Whether it’s a building or a city, our design projects have a lot to learn from economics.

Here at GOOD, we believe that design can be used to create positive social, environmental, and economic change. So we're joining forces with our friends at Impact Design Hub to share compelling stories about design that's moving the world forward. The article below is an excerpt of “The Future of Design is Economics.” Get the full story here.

[new_image position="standard large" href="https://impactdesignhub.org/2014/09/03/feature-the-future-of-design-is-economics/?utm_source=GOOD&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=economics" id=" 554192"]Displaying a 3D model of the downtown in the lobby of Boston City Hall was part of New Urban Mechanics' initiative to activate and enliven this important civic space.[/new_image]


In recent years, a common thread has emerged among leaders in the design field: an attention to economics. That's especially true when it comes to projects developed with social good in mind. Though firms engaging in public interest design still make up only a tiny fraction of the market, they're helping to set a new course for the entire industry—one that's rooted in a much deeper understanding of economic mechanisms.

Whether it's housing for the homeless, innovative healthcare systems, or even the way entire cities deliver services to their residents, designers are using economic models to more deeply understand what it means to design for impact. Such projects tend to fall into one of three broad categories in terms of their economic impact: They avoid money, save money, or make money.

Avoid Money: Design as Strategic Problem Solving

Government budgets are consistently tight and cuts are always on the horizon. But what if citizens could help the government avoid some of those costs? This is exactly the idea that sparked a small arm of the Boston City Government called New Urban Mechanics, which focuses on delivering transformative city services.