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“As homo sapiens’ entry in any intergalactic design competition, industrial civilization would be tossed out at the qualifying round.”
— David Orr, Earth in Mind

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.

In The Intergalactic Design Guide, business strategist and designer Cheryl Heller explains eleven common principles, a step-by-step process, and essential skills for successful social design. She illustrates the social design process with in-depth examples—from the CEO of the largest carpet manufacturer in the world to a young entrepreneur with a passion for reducing food waste. While change-makers like Paul Farmer and Oprah Winfrey have instinctively practiced social design for decades, Heller organizes concepts applied by leaders in diverse fields so that they become accessible to all of us, no matter the focus of our work.

From start-ups to global NGOs, The Intergalactic Design Guide provides both inspiration and practical steps for designing a more resilient and fulfilling future. Thought leader David Orr wrote, “If our industrial civilization was entered into an intergalactic design competition, it would be tossed out in the qualifying round.” This book points the way for us to change how we relate to our world, and to each other.


“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


“There are design problems and there are human problems. Cheryl Heller’s genius is to see them as one and the same with the goal of building human capacity, not just buildings. This is the framework for designing the design process.”

—David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Oberlin College


“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

Additional Resources:

Cheryl Heller on Dollars and Change, Wharton Business Radio

Cheryl Heller for Harvard Business Review. How can architects use social design for better health outcomes?

Cheryl Heller for Thrive Global. Ideas Come From The Inside, Not The Top.