Want to Change the World with Design? Work for Huge Companies.

May 26, 2017, 2:05 PM UTC

Designers—especially those working for large companies—can’t really fool people anymore. Design needs to be authentic. It needs to be real. It needs to be convincing.

So how do you reconcile that with ultimately selling something to a prospective customer? Can you?

Paola Antonelli, senior curator in the department of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and Mauro Porcini, senior vice president and chief design officer at PepsiCo, joined Time Inc. international editor Clay Chandler at a Fortune Brainstorm Design dinner in Manhattan to explain how to walk that line.

It’s easier than people think, they said.

“In the design world, often the intellectual designers have a very snobbish relationship with the mass market,” Porcini said to Antonelli’s mock protests. “The reality is, we designers, we are people in love with people. Everything that surrounds us—this chair, this building, those glasses—is designed by somebody. In the moment we designers design something, we add moments of joy or fun or convenience or safety, depending on what you’re designing, to delight people. These are fragments of a broader social happiness. As designers we have this beautiful opportunity, and with that the responsibility, of designing that broader social happiness. It’s amazing the opportunity we have. So I really believe, to do it in a powerful impactful way, you need to access as many people as possible. My wish is that we start to respect a little bit more design for the masses. In a way a corporation gives us a stage to reach as many people as possible.”

He added: “Selling stuff is not bad. It’s about reaching many people as possible. If you really have a mission of creating something positive for the world, then you can really change the world.”

Antonelli agreed. “I don’t think there’s any division between academic designers and [corporate] designers like Mauro,” she said. “They just follow different paths and end up in different places. It’s all about the same purpose which is truly to make the world—oh my God, it sounds so corny, but—a better place.”

For more, watch the video above.

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