Sandra Wolfe Wood | Designing Change


Sandra Wolfe Wood on the values behind her practice:

“I was motivated to become a graphic designer because the clever work of legends like Herb Lubalin and Milton Glaser prompted people to see the world differently. Over the course of 25 years, I grew increasingly interested in the intersection between design and social change. How can design contribute to the social good? In 2011, I launched Minnesota’s component of Design for Good, the AIGA initiative devoted to raising awareness for social impact design. At the same time, I pursued and completed a Master of Public Affairs at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. Building on Design for Good — and determined to demonstrate that social impact design can be a sustainable (i.e. paid) career choice — I created Designing Change, a for-profit practice. I am interested in developing a constituency for good design and design thinking in the social sector, particularly in the areas of environment and energy, electoral reform and voting rights, literacy, and food justice. Design thinking opens the door to creative problem-solving by 1) stressing simple ‘why?’ questions which strip out underlying assumptions, and 2) never losing sight of the human needs at the center of the problem.”




Designing Change recently completed a project in collaboration with The Common Table and Linda Henneman of ThinkDesign Group. Together, they engaged twenty-five designers, writers, and local food partners to create an interactive exhibit about sustainable food systems at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. The core leadership team developed the problem statement for the entire exhibit — People don’t understand where their food comes from — and two key takeaways — People should leave this exhibit with 1) more knowledge about where their food comes from, and 2) inspired to take one or more actions that can ultimately lead to a sustainable food system. The team then divided participants — designers, food experts, writers — into groups organized around six specific actions laid out by the Common Table: buy local; eat local; grow your own food; nurture healthy soil, reduce food waste, and promote food justice. Over the course of 7 months, each group went through an intense design process that began by putting themselves in the shoes of average Minnesotans and asking questions like, “Why don’t I buy my food from local sources?” They answered this question through research, ideation, prototyping, and testing. The exhibit ran August 27-September 7.




Photo of Sandra Wolfe Wood by Ken Friberg