Eason Yang


I’m a designer, creative director, and educator. I founded Not Entirely Dead, a social enterprise championing cancer survivors, named both 2023 Innovation by Design Award and 2023 World Changing Ideas Award by Fast Company, and 2022 Winner of Social Design by AIGA.

Today, I lecture at universities and global companies on how to design for social change and innovation. I’ve also spoken on international platforms, including NPR, TEDx and CreativeMornings addressing workplace belonging issues.

I earned my Master of Design degree at the University of Washington, and taught and mentored the next generation of creatives.

I’ve also trained myself to run marathons ever since I defeated cancer.

Tell us how and why you became involved in socially responsible communications, any thoughts on why design can be an especially effective tool for this goal, and, if you wish, give us an example of a project of which you are proud.

I was a rising creative leader in Silicon Valley when a cancer diagnosis shattered my life and took my social existence. At age 35, after a long fight against cancer, I was told by prospective employers that I was not hirable anymore, and my best years were behind me.

That directly contradicted what I knew about myself and other survivors — our hard-won competitiveness, determination, strength in crisis, grit, resilience, tenacity, and empathy make us more valuable employees.

I willed my way into design entrepreneurship and social innovation — I went back to graduate school and started the organization NED (Not Entirely Dead) to hack the inherently biased systems against cancer survivors, fill employment gaps, fight the “damaged goods” stigma in the workplace, and create inclusive career pathways.

Now, NotEntirelyDead.org provides free coaching service for cancer survivors on life and work transitioning, so everybody will be even more hirable than before.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, or obstacles to designing for good?

Workplace development topics have never been so relevant to everybody as today. Companies are building and rebuilding cultures, employees are looking for communities, everyone is finding their belonging. As the industries are working on the Future of Work, disrupting the old ideas of work and life is timely, so that we can design the workplace that everyone feels we belong to.

For example, a career gap isn’t just affiliated with people who have dealt with severe diseases. Most of us have faced a gap on our resumes, whether due to maternity or paternity leave, sabbatical, or any life transition. Some gaps aren’t by choice.

I will quote Benjamin Franklin — ‘Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.’ That’s how formidable any social problem always is.