Oct. 18, 2001
Vol. 21 No. 3

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    SSA students learn how clients can benefit from design

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Students and faculty members of the School of Social Service Administration are learning a new, unconventional way of addressing social problems: product design.

    An exhibition titled “ARCHEWORKS: 1994-2001,” on display in SSA’s lobby, highlights the works of socially conscious designers, while a Friday, Oct. 26 workshop at SSA, featuring Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman and interior designer Eva Maddox, will show clinicians and administrators in the social services how to use design innovations as a way to assist their clients.

    “Environment has long been acknowledged as playing a crucial role in the effectiveness of services, but the field has not taken advantage of design innovations as an approach to social change,” said Edward Lawlor, Dean of SSA. “This workshop will give us the opportunity to look at another approach to creating more responsive and respectful services for clients.”

    The ARCHEWORKS display, which will be exhibited through December, showcases several examples of socially minded products and design ideas, said SSA alumna Molly Baltman (A.M., ’99), who is the executive director of ARCHEWORKS, the Chicago-based design school that created the display.

    The display includes photographs and prototypes of design projects related to AIDS care, early learning, urban neighborhood planning and micro-enterprises for low-income women.

    Some products displayed include a car transfer seat, specially designed to help the care-givers of people with Alzheimer’s disease; a head pointer, which looks like a hat with a long stick, designed to help people with cerebral palsy, who have difficulties typing; and a box-like retreat space, a 4-foot by 5-foot high cube (See image, Page 1) designed to help children with learning disabilities.

    Baltman explains the use for the retreat space. “They (children) get over-stimulated and have trouble focusing. So this was created to give them a special, personal place to take a break.”

    The idea to bring the exhibition and workshop to SSA was a natural one for the socially minded design school. “No one understands and knows how to help populations in need better than the people at SSA,” Baltman said. “That’s why we’re really excited about what could happen when social workers incorporate the value of design in their work.”

    The three-hour-long workshop, “Introduction to Using Design as an Advocacy Tool in Social Work,” which begins at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, will show further examples of the important role design plays in promoting social well-being.

    Tigerman and Maddox will show clinicians and administrators in the social services how to conceive design solutions, partner with clients and implement projects that assist people in need.

    But design, said Baltman, is a double-edged sword. A popular example, for instance, of how bad design can breed social problems is public housing. “They were created with little environmental consideration in mind.”

    The workshop, which is offered through the Professional Development Program of SSA, costs $55. For more information, call (773) 702-1166.