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Book cover for The Intergalactic Design Guide
October 2018
Island Press
ISBN 13: 978-1-61091-881-7

College or Unit:

The Intergalactic Design Guide

Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design
Cheryl Heller
Edited by: 
Courtney Lix
Illustrated by: 
Cheryl Heller

Social design is a new kind of leadership.

It offers innovative approaches for increasing creativity, strengthening relationships and developing our capacity to collaborate — with the potential to transform everything from corporate cultures to cities. It pushes us to become comfortable with uncertainty, to design ourselves for change.

Many years ago, environmentalist David Orr wrote, “As homo sapiens’s entry into any intergalactic design competition, industrial civilization would be tossed out at the qualifying round.” This book is the answer.

The future is our responsibility.
The Intergalactic Design Guide illuminates a process for change that contradicts the prevalent assumption that the future is “someone else’s” responsibility. Leaders are using social design to do what others consider impossible. This is a map for how.

It’s ourselves we need to change.
Social design is a system, first and foremost, for designing fundamental changes in ourselves: a shift in who we think we are, how we perceive and treat each other, what we believe is possible and can work together to create.

The principles are universal.
The principles of social design are self evident, universal, and counter intuitive for traditional organizations. They include:

A change in language from generalities to specifics.
A change in orientation from them to us.

A shift from knowing to learning and participating.
It’s all a matter of design.


Cheryl Heller is director of design integration for the W. P. Carey School of Business, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She advises global leaders on design and creativity, received the AIGA Lifetime Medal, was a Rockefeller Bellagio Fellow and an adviser on Cooper Hewitt exhibit Design for the Other 90%.

Praise for this book

“The Intergalactic Design Guide is a call for entries to design our way out of the civilization we have created, by using our collective creativity to change the human condition. Readers will come away transformed by the realization that we can use the invisible forces of social design to create a future where we live in a state of mutuality with one another and nature. This is one of the most critical design books of our time.”

Ivy Ross
vice president of Google, hardware design

“This book fills the cavernous gap between our awareness and understanding of ‘design thinking’ and ‘design doing.’ The first truly useful guide for those of us working to have impact, it shares numerous case studies of people and organizations that have transformed reality by combining the skills of thinking and acting in a design context. An absolute must-read for all of us looking to change the world in our own special ways!”

Len Schlesinger
Baker Foundation Professor, Harvard Business School; president emeritus, Babson College