A Little Help Goes A Long Way: Amnesty International’s Daniel Schutzsmith on How UX Designers Can Make an Impact
Since Daniel Schutzsmith was young, he’s had a burning desire to make the world a better place. Several decades later, that same desire led him to make a big change in his professional life, leaving a successful commercial practice working as a UX designer to become the digital technology manager at Amnesty International USA.
Now, he oversees all of Amnesty’s UX for its website, microsites, and an upcoming mobile app, helping the organization in its mission to inspire people to act against injustice and to protect human rights around the world. Schutzsmith also regularly travels across the world, giving talks on how other UX designers can use their skills to creative positive social change. We asked him for some of his best advice on taking that first step toward changing the world.
What’s your advice for UX designers who want to use their skills to help others, but don’t know where to start?
Don’t only focus on the big, hairy problems that you want to tackle because it would look good in your portfolio! It’s often the simplest problems that non-profits and other causes really need help with and will move the needle in increasing support or donations.
Start small and consider dedicating part of your week to helping a cause with their user experience. It could be an audit, research, or testing. All can be helpful for a cause with limited resources.
What made you decide to devote your design career to ‘doing good’?
Since I attended my first protest at seven-years-old, I’ve always wanted to use my talents to help causes get the spotlight. The first decade of my career I focused on working with literal rock bands and entertainment media websites, so I wanted to focus my second decade on helping non-profits become the rock stars.
What’s the best part about being a UX designer in an organization like Amnesty International?
I’m able to see real impact quickly, based on the work we do. We’re constantly thinking of how our supporters will need to interact with our products. It’s a little bit different than thinking of them as consumers, because a supporter may or may not ever give you an actual monetary donation but they might help support your organization in other, equally important ways.
How can UX design change the world?
There’s no limit to how UX can help create a positive impact in the world! Similar to my career path of starting in the private sector and moving to help non-profits, I see the biggest possible impact we can make as UX designers is to dedicate part of our career to helping causes become great.
What’s your hope for the future of design and its potential to impact positive social change?
My hope has nothing to do with design at all, but rather resources — we need more leaders and businesses in the design world, stepping up to provide time for their staff and apprentices to work with causes on a regular basis. Not just doing a quick pro-bono then leaving the non-profit to handle follow-through themselves, but really sticking with them for the long-haul and providing guidance along the way.
At Amnesty, we’re inspired by the greats like Ideo, Pentagram, and Nielsen Norman Group. They all give us real practical ways to use UX for social impact while still maintaining their bottom line as a business.
Learn more about Daniel Schutzsmith on his website and see more of his work at Amnesty International USA. And for UX insights sent straight to your inbox, sign up for Adobe’s experience design newsletter.