Using Design To Do Good For The World with John Cary

In this episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke to speaker for both TedTalk and FRESH Speakers as well as author of the book, Design for Good, John Cary about his education, experiences, and what he’s doing now to make a difference for all architects and designers. In this episode, John shares why design can make a difference and how emerging architects can use their skills to make the world a better place.

Using Design to do good for the World Using Design To Do Good For The World with John Cary Podcast

John Cary

John’s story of how he became interested in architecture and design was also a story of self-discovery. He grew up in a very large family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and always wanted some peace and quiet, but that was very difficult when living with so many people. However, he does thank that experience for heightening his awareness to his surrounding environment and how it helped him become more self-aware of how he felt and perceived different environments. Being raised in a suburban community, he became curious about the outside world and joined Habitat for Humanity with a passion for helping others.

Not only has John made it his mission to help people be able to live in comfortable, safe housing, but he also aides emerging architects in any way he can.

After studying at the University of Minnesota for Architecture, John became the National Vice President of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIA). He quickly realized that many young architects, including himself, didn’t even know all of the steps they needed to take to become licensed.

He began to help young architects and emerging professionals be better represented in the AIA through the non-profit organization, ArcVoices. He has since studied Architecture at the University of California -Berkley and worked with several organizations including the Public Architecture organization and the OnePlus program.

John is very passionate about helping architects to be able to take control of their careers and do great work for the world by providing incredible works of design and architecture.


What You’ll Hear on This Episode

How he has helped improve the licensing process to make it easier to understand, quicker, and more efficient for emerging architects to become licensed.

  • The fact that many young architects don’t even know all of the steps they need to take to become licensed.
  • His experience as the National Vice President of American Architecture Student (AIAS)
  • What he did while studying abroad in Italy during his graduate school years, traveling for work, and taking part in residencies to study in Europe.
  • His transition to professional life after serving as the AIAS Vice President.
  • How he began to help young architects and emerging professionals be better represented in AIA through the non-profit organization, ArcVoices.
  • Why he was so interested in focusing on the culture of the architecture profession while at Berkley for his PhD.
  • The systems he is creating and putting in place to help designers be able to do more good for the public.
  • What he’s worked on with the Public Architecture organization.
  • How he’s contributed to the OnePlus program, how the program works and how they’re keeping track of its progress.
  • Working with the public and teaching them about the benefits of better design.
  • The past inaccuracies and data provided by AIA and NCARB that John helped to uncover so that they could help make them better.
  • How he’s helping emerging architects to get through their architecture licensing as quick and efficient as possible.
  • Why the NCARB still has a long way to go to improve the ARE testing and licensing process.
  • How we can use better communication to overcome people feeling isolated and uninformed.
  • Design Thinking vs Human Centered Design – How they’re related and different in various ways.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  • With programs like the OnePlus program, better design is possible for any organization in any location. You can make the difference to many people by helping with these design projects to help improve their lives.
  • All architects deserve the support throughout their path to licensure. If you have a question or not sure of your next step, reach out to people in your industry or other organizations for assistance. No one is left behind in the dark.
  • We all have the ability to make the world a better place. To think that we cannot or we’re not able to is a myth. Through design, architects can provide people the environment they need and deserve to do great work.

 John Cary’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Just follow your passions and really make sure that the work you’re doing day-to-day fills you, excites you, and makes you feel like you’re contributing in some way. I’m not saying that everyone has to go out and build housing for the homeless or hospitals and clinics in places around the world. I think you can do a lot of good by working on some of the projects that architects traditionally do. By doing that, you can still push for small and incremental changes that make those sort of classic project types more than beneficial to society.”

Favorite Quotes

“I went to the University of Minnesota because of architecture, but I really didn’t know anything about it. I literally thought, “I’ll go to architecture school, I’ll graduate, and then I’ll become an architect.” I had no idea that you needed an accredited, graduate degree and all the other steps along the way. As I came to understand that by my senior year, the more perplexed I became by this. If I didn’t know any of this, how would other people know about?” – John Cary on the fact that many young architecture students don’t really have a good idea of what it takes to become an architect.

“Both my MArch and PhD at Berkley were focused on the culture of the architecture profession. I was interested in answering, What can the architecture profession learn from other professions? What I found is that all of these professions are imperfect. We can try to be more like other professions, but no one wants to be exactly like other professions either.” – John Cary on his interests in studying the culture of the architecture profession and how it compares to other careers. 

“Designers, both in school and out of school, want more opportunities to put their best professional skills forward to work for the public good and yet, that is a very difficult and complicated thing to do. So, I set about to create systems that would allow designers to do exactly that.” – John Cary on helping more designers do amazing things for the public.

“You can walk into a non-profit organization or social agency and think that these places could totally benefit from better design. However, a lot of people who work there don’t realize how design can A) Transform their experience and B) It’s within their reach. So, the industry has a long way to go when it comes to creating the demand for design.” – John Cary on the importance of creating demand for better design from organizations who can benefit from it.

“Those who have been trained with design thinking as well as human centered design thinking have put human beings at the center of their design in a way that I have not seen architecture and design training do. This human centered design works because it starts with actual human beings – getting to know the people, their names, and who they are as individuals. I believe that part is still missing from architecture and design training.” – John Cary on what changes can be made in architecture and design training and education.

Resources Mentioned in the Show


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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