In addition to co-founding his own creative consultancy, Foossa, and working with the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Lee-Sean Huang has been teaching Technologies for Designing Change at DSI since the program began! We are so grateful to have him on our team. Here’s an inside look on his take toward design and innovation:
What is design for social innovation to you?
Let me take that one in reverse order. I’ll start with “innovation,” which I see as ultimately about new behaviors and norms, in other words, new ways of living and working. The “social” part is a reminder that we are not just designing for the good of individual consumers, but for citizens, communities, and ecosystems. This requires us to consider equity and sustainability, balancing the good of the few and the many, the short- and the long-term. In terms of design, it’s everything around us, everything made by humans that wasn’t already there in nature. Design is the choices that we make in shaping our culture and environment. As designers, we are in a unique position to use our expertise to inspire new possibilities, and shift people’s understanding and behaviors. Put another way, design is a form of future-making. Today’s design decisions will shape tomorrow’s world. Then comes the question of what kind of world do we want? How do we deal with different agendas and visions, identify trade-offs, and find compromises?
What would you like to say to prospective students about the program & the course you teach?
If I were to generalize, the program helps students see the big picture of how change happens through the lens of understanding systems: social, cultural, economic, and technological. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with your classmates and communities on real-world issues. The class that I teach, Technologies for Designing Change, equips students with the tools to understand the social and cultural implications of technologies, how innovations change the way we interact and understand the world. We use storytelling and narratives to help us understand systems, anticipate the consequences of our design decisions, and to inspire participation and collective action.
Can you talk a little bit about your background and the work you do outside of DSI?
Back in 2013, I co-founded Foossa, a community-centered service design consultancy, with David Colby Reed. We have worked with corporations, governments, and nonprofits on four continents. A couple of the projects that I am most proud of include a project with New York City to redesign financial counseling services to work better for residents, and a collaboration with UX for Good and the Kigali Genocide Memorial to harness storytelling for action on humanitarian issues. Before Foossa, I started the design practice at Purpose, a creative agency that helps clients harness participation for meaningful social impact. I studied political science in undergrad and interactive media for my masters.
Can you talk in more detail about a project that you are working on?
I’m currently working with AIGA, the oldest and largest professional association for designers in the US, to produce online content and events that help the design community navigate disruptive technological and economic shifts. I produce and host a podcast called Design Future Now, and am working on a content series called Restart that looks at ways design and designers will play a role in creating more resilient futures as we adapt and recover from the pandemic.
If you could give one piece of advice to students starting DSI, what would it be?
Allow yourself to get lost in exploration. A masters program is a unique opportunity to find the space and time to explore new interests, to find new challenges to address, and to make unexpected connections.