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Interview with Mariana Santibañez Pantoja – Social Impact Designer

I am a college student who has spent the last four years learning from excellent educational designers and experimenting through school projects to understand the scope of the discipline to impact the lives of communities in different situations of vulnerability. Among these projects I have developed product proposals to apply physiotherapy in juvenile chronic arthritis, modules of access to information, and an inclusion system for the visually impaired. A year ago, my teammate, Juan Alvarez, and I started working on the Comparte/lo Simple project, defining a series of strategies to generate support networks for migrants and offer them more dignified mobility. Along with my work team, I am currently developing a business model to reduce youth unemployment in Mexico City in association with a collective of young artists that teach free muralism workshops in low-income communities to rehabilitate the social fabric and improve their public spaces. My time at school has also sparked my interest in redesigning everyday products to reduce their environmental impact and developing low cost prosthesis.

Q: TRUST in design is…

A: TRUST in design only happens when people allow themselves to actively participate in the process of materializing a desirable idea—through designers as mediators—because they strongly believe it will have a positive impact on their own lives and those of others.

Q: Where have you found TRUST in design?

A: In bringing people together to design and as a consequence of design. Watching individuals from different backgrounds and disciplines, with varied knowledge and ways of thinking, working as a team to achieve the same goal brings me a sense of security and trust in the result. The more ground is covered, the fewer unattended factors in the final product, which also leads to equitable benefits for a greater number of end users.

Q: Where do you see a need for TRUST in/ by design?

A: I see it everywhere in my city because the society, the government, the private sector, and the designers themselves still do not have clear focus for what design-focused social innovation can bring to the table. And since it is very common to find scenarios in which there is a great lack of access to resources due to failures in distribution, there are many opportunities to foster trust in design, so that everyone can help create their own future, supporting and sustaining themselves and living in the best way possible.

Q: What inspires you?

A: My parent’s values. Every time I do something I try to mirror them. They are my ultimate guide to be a better person every day.

Q: My favorite thing about my city is…

A: its people’s spirit. Even though we live in an era that pushes us towards individualism, plenty of community ties, generosity, and the desire to help always come to the surface. Despite sharing an endless history of suffering and constantly facing all kinds of threats against us, we always find a way to move forward trying not to leave others behind.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: After finishing my last three months of college I want to focus on making the Comparte/lo Simple project possible along with my partner. I’m also looking forward to designing low cost devices that can help aging individuals take care of themselves more easily, but also that integrate and educate their families to do it.


Learn more about Mariana’s work:
Email – [email protected]

PLUS, don’t miss Mariana and Juan’s project, Comparte/lo Simple, as part of Sanctuary: Design for Belonging, December 6, 2018 – February 23, 2019 @ the Center. Join us for the Opening Night Reception December 6, 6-8pm.