Transdisciplinary Design

Responsibility // Designers and Clients of a System

Posted on October 26, 2012 | posted by:


Although some young adults practice responsible financial decisions, there is a growing young community lacking the financial literacy to take on new, intensive, and often abrupt financial responsibilities. Can design methods be employed to devise transparency with the financial responsibility associated with taking on these culpabilities? The answer is yes. There is an inexhaustible amount of tools aimed at resolving the complexities of financially associated issues. Digital instruments and online platforms have already ventured to clear up the confusion. By transcribing convoluted personal financial data into something seemly understandable, financially literacy may be acquired, resulting in better fiscal planning. However, in spite of the numerous financial tools readily available, many still struggle to manage their finances and economic future. This perpetuating systemic problem necessitates a strategy for identifying areas of intervention, and initiating a viable solution. The conflict comes with identifying whether a manageable area is situated within the individual or the system it inhabits, as well where the obligation and responsibility lies.


Recently, I attended a discussion on debt and economic growth presented by a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University addressing this inquiry. The event was part of a discussion series put forth by Occupy Student Debt Campaign, a coalition stemmed off of Occupy Wall Street aiming to put an end to the debt financing of higher education. The theme of discourse regarded the negative implications of economic growth on the local, national, and global community. The benefits of economic growth may be evidently imbedded in politics and the market economy, but are often detached from any social or personal advantage.


The discussion highlighted an interesting dichotomy between individual and organizational responsibility. If we say that the student debt crisis can be mitigated by financial education, does that discount the institutional liability affiliated with the issue? The relationship between the individual and the system it inhabits does not illustrate a clear district of intervention, but rather the complexity of the expanding problem. The initial question of design’s utility to devise transparency with the financial responsibility is focused on the individual. Perhaps the resolution requires a broader application to the system, necessitating transparency with all inter-relational components of the student debt machine.