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Interview with Jon Kolko of frog design about SOCAP10

Cameron Campbell September 22, 2010

Jon Kolko, the director of the Austin Center for Design, spoke with blogger Emily Goligoski in advance of his first SOCAP conference about encouraging a new generation of social entrepreneurs with an eye on design. The associate creative director at frog design also serves as editor-in-chief at Interactions Magazine, a publication that covers human experiences with technology.

frog’s partnership with Movirtu, a telecoms service provider with social aims, will be one of the focus of the mobile track this October. What can we expect?

While both organizations are for-profit, we both think that there’s huge cultural importance in mobile and empowering a new level of entrepreneurship. Through MXShare, a cloud network that uses shared phones, there’s now a market in Nairobi for mobile sharing that enables small microbusinesses for everything from keeping track of phone numbers to travelling with handsets on the street. It’s a good opportunity to help everyone who’s involved, and many of them make less that $2 or $3 a day.

What makes this work exciting for you?

I’ve been amazed by what we can do when we enable people to do anything they want with their phones. New opportunities for peer-to-peer exchanges and the ways that mobile crosses economic boundaries are really exciting to me.

Also, the sheer amount of influence that design can have when we work with Fortune 50 companies is powerful, and a bit intimidating. When your work impacts 100 to 200 million people at a time, it’s important to be strategic about the minutia of all possible interactions.

You previously taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design before leading the Austin Center of Design. Tell us about your work there.

Our program is focused on interaction design and social entrepreneurship. While a lot of design schools focus on getting their students jobs, we’re different in that we encourage looking at and starting double and triple bottom line companies that drive social change.

I hear a lot of people who work as designers say that they love design but aren’t happy with what their day-to-day entails—they feel that they’re really adding to a consumption culture. But those jobs aren’t the only option. Designers under 26 seem to be especially drawn to this work with a social impact. Maybe there’s something in the water or it’s the effect of a 24-hour news cycle that tells us the world is going to hell. But it’s great to see this interest.

-By Emily Goglioski

Check out the next post featuring a blog by Jon Kolko.

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