D&AD New Blood Awards | 'BlackOut' by Rachel Holt & Madi Chan
Young designers coming into this profession can sometimes face an internal battle, one that makes them question whether or not, as a designer, if they can make a difference or a change in the world. Rachel Holt, designer from issue 8, is one such designer. For the fresh designers coming through you can think of your role or skills learned as a designer as a tool, a tool to design for change—to design for good.
While on surface level our industry may only appear to make things look ‘aesthetically pleasing’ that is not all that there is to it. Behind every project is a mountain of research, thinking, planning and careful consideration (our magazine is the embodiment of this process) to bring an idea to life and some of these ideas can affect our lives for the better.
In their quest to design for good, Rachel Holt, in partnership with fellow designer Madison Chan, took it upon themselves to participate in and be challenged by the D&AD New Blood Briefs designing a solution to make climate action ‘cool’ to young people.
I’ve wanted to participate in the D&AD New Blood program since second year uni. I remember telling a peer it was my dream to pursue what is coined design for good—designing with purpose, intending to spark social change. He told me the only way to prove my dedication to this was through D&AD.
For a while I have faced an internal conflict: I want to make a difference in the world for social, economic and environmental justice, yet the career I’ve chosen centres around aesthetics. I constantly ridicule myself—am I doing enough? Why aren’t I a human rights lawyer? Why am I not planting trees for a living? After finishing the program, though, I realised just how much of an impact a good design can make.
D&AD New Blood involved six weeks of intense workshopping and design thinking to solve a design brief. This means six weeks to understand the brief, identify the root cause of the brief’s problem, create a viable solution and visually communicate this solution. This experience of ‘problem-solving’ would become the most valuable skill I would learn throughout my three year degree. I was in a pair with fellow designer, and friend, Madi Chan. During the project, Australia was being ravished by bushfires, so the Connect4Climate brief seemed like a no-brainer pick. The brief was: ‘develop an idea that advertises the power of a sustainable lifestyle’. We were tasked with marketing climate action to young people as being the ‘cool’ thing to do, suggesting small actionable changes that would lead to big impact.
First step? Analyse that brief! We spent a whole week dissecting the constraints of the brief, identifying all the aspects to cover. From there, we spent another three weeks finding the root cause of the issue: what was the for barrier preventing young people from acting on climate change? This involved conducting surveys, reading academic journal articles about global warming, and employing design thinking methodologies such as customer journey mapping and personas. The goal was the get inside the mind of a young person who didn’t think they could make a difference to our planet, so weren’t bothering to try. And how does a young person (myself included) spend majority of their time? On their smartphone.
The realisation that Madi and I concluded after collating responses from more than a hundred surveys was that while many young people made a conscious effort to be eco-friendly in their daily life, they did not realise how much of an impact their internet usage was having on the environment. With 1GB of data emitting 27kg of Co2*, and The Cloud being the most pollutant city in the world, we need to close this education gap.
We propose a blackout (N.B. this name was chosen before the rise of the #blackouttuesday movement!). BlackOut is a proposed carbon neutral app that optimises the settings of your phone to produce as few carbon emissions as possible. We know how important convenience is for consumers taking climate action – so simply onboard BlackOut, and there’s nothing more to do! The app also tracks an individual’s data usage, keeping the user aware of their habits and literally ‘blacking out’ their phone (i.e. eliminating all colour from the screen) once their daily limit has been reached to save power and energy. With BlackOut, there is literally no excuse for not lowering your carbon footprint – you don’t even have to alter your everyday user behaviour, because the app will do it for you! BlackOut aims to get young people to extend their climate action further by committing to a sustainable digital lifestyle.
As designers, we’re taught unique approaches to solving problems, overcoming challenges and identifying the root cause of an issue. This is a unique skillset, that can extend further than creating aesthetic images: we can employ these skills to make meaningful societal change. I am a firm believer in using design for good. I suggest that by employing this mentality, anything you design can be truly powerful.
I’d like to especially thank our mentors, Mel Baillache and Kinal Ladha from For The People and Canva, and James Gilmore and George Adams from Design Studio, as well as UTS’ Nicky Hardcastle, for teaching us these incredibly important skills and methodologies. They were an immeasurable help to Madi and I in the ideation and design of BlackOut!
So, remember: you can make your actions count with BlackOut.