We asked each of our students to examine one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; a framework for the most important challenges that we are facing today as a society, with a wide range of topics such as access to clean water and healthy food, safety and security, sustainability and climate change, gender equality and many more. These are identified as ‘Global Goals’ but they exist on our doorstep, and Information Designers have the unique capacity to make sense of the complex overlapping systems that these challenges are borne out of and to present them in a way that helps people understand the problem and why they should care.

One of the most difficult but vital aspects of this project was asking the right questions. The students used the Human Centred Design Process, engaging both subject matter experts and people with first-hand experience of the problems they were examining, to ensure that assumptions were corrected and that they were getting to the root of the problem.

In order to fully understand how a challenge of this nature came to be and the forces that are maintaining it, our students employed ‘systems thinking’; revealing and recognizing relationships and influences between the people, organizations, and environments that make up the systems that perpetuate these problems. Using systems thinking, leverage points can also be identified– areas where design interventions would have the biggest impact. This publication features a collection of evolving understandings of global challenges that we are facing locally in Calgary and the surrounding area. The problems that are visualized here are the result of deep research, including fieldwork, interviews and literature review. Students have synthesized and organized their insights from this research into new frameworks and mental models.

Our hope is that by approaching these problems with systems thinking and by using the Human Centred Design Process, that these projects can be a catalyst for change-making.