Archive for February, 2012

Interview with Carol-Anne Ryce-Paul: Multidisciplinary Creative Designer

This week’s Designing for Good Interview is with Carol-Anne Ryce-Paul, a Graphic Designer at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street. She has studied at both Parsons School of Design in New York and the School of Visual Arts.  

DF: As someone who has worked in the non-profit industry, how has design impacted the causes and organizations you are involved with?

CR: Design is crucial to our call to action and to the presentation of our work. Our sponsorship, corporate collaborations and our internal understanding of our global work is enhanced by a good, clean and clear design approach. Our message must be enhanced by, not made fuzzy by the use of design.

DF: What are your thoughts on how your organization would function with poor, default, unthoughtful design and branding?

CR:  Until recently (the past 10 years) the use of poor design choices and even the confusion about the name of the organization in relation to its most well known product, created brand confusion which lead to poor results in sponsorship/fundraising and collaborative efforts.

DF: Do you feel that non-profits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives can survive and compete for attention with the visual branding of large companies?

CR: Of course! Design should not be the way you do your work, but like everything else in business, an adjunct to the way your business and brand succeeds and is represented/accepted in the world. It is the choice of design, the strategy, and the consistent use of a design choice that best works for the organization that is key.

DF: In your opinion, should all designers have some sustainability or social conscious in their practice and philosophy?

CR: Well, personally, I believe all humans should have a sustainable and social practice in their daily lives. Once that is established, the way design is practiced and implemented will be more than a philosophy.

DF: Do you think that a physical storefront (or space or studio) dedicated to offering design services for “good” would be a useful idea?

In this day and age physical storefronts are needed only for actual product transfers. Virtual services don’t need storefronts as they may not even reach those most in need; and good design services may profit most from a direct and smart marketing strategy.

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02 2012

Interview with Steve Virtue: Public Affairs Specialist

This week’s Designing for Good Interview is with Steve Virtue, Director of Communications at PDAC and former Marketing and Communications at OCAD University, who has a background in political management, higher education, and government policy development. 

DF: As someone who has worked for various non-profits and public institutions, how has design impacted the cause or organization you are involved with?

SV: Clear, concise, and authentic communications (be it graphic or language based communications) is critical. Society is bombarded with a high volume of communications material on a daily basis – and in particular, for non-profits – ensuring your message is heard/seen above all others  is paramount (specifically because they are most likely to have been done on a limited budget).

DF: What are your thoughts on how an organization would function with poor, default, unthoughtful design and branding?

SV: They would not function. Many organizations run on flat, stale, outdated branding and don’t give it much thought. Understanding the very essence of a ‘brand’ is to realize that its nothing short of a promise, a value proposition – and if you let that exhaust its own contemporary value, what are you left with? The spill over is poor design and more than likely deviations from brand architecture that has ‘offshoot’ branding or those that choose to or attempt to be unique because the parent brand is so terribly old or outdated.

DF: Do you feel that non-profits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives can survive and compete for attention with the visual branding of large companies?

SV: The reality is that they shouldn’t have to compete with the global brand. Rare few not-for-profts have the experience capacity or value proposition to deliver at the highest ranks – so perhaps trying to be a global brand is an objective that is unrealistic.

DF: Are there any non-profits or social causes that you would identify as examples of good design having a positive impact overall? Do you know of any causes, movements, groups or non-profits specifically that lack great design, and could benefit from some assistance should the services be provided?

SV: All of them need better design, but the bigger question is value proposition, strategy and context. I think you want to be careful not selling ‘design’ as the answer to the woes of an organization that has ‘systemic’ issues. Keeping in mind that in absence of substance, individauls such as executives and board members will often jump to tactics – design, marketing, communications – as a means of finding ‘quick wins’. More often than not, if someone starts with ‘we have a marketing problem’ there are much, much deeper issues.

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02 2012

Design Excels Youth-Run, Non-Profit Organization

ACCESS is a non-profit organization I started 6 years ago as a high school student. As an organization, we have acknowledged how significant it is to have well-designed materials and identifiable branding.

From early on we had a website that has been constantly improving, and receive many comments about its design (creating a pleasant experience for donors and supporters would result in more support for the organization and increased likely hood to share). Having these materials designed from day one of our initial School Supply Drive in a suburban church foyer has helped ACCESS gain recognition and credibility, even as a smaller grassroots group.

Recently, ACCESS had a student designer through the Designer Combiner program of ArchiTEXT Inc, which gave us the opportunity to experiment, give direction and try several options without accumulating a massive bill (or any bill). A detailed article on the process and launch of the new logo is available at this link.

Design has been an asset as a grassroots, youth-run, non-profit group, especially in a field with so many new organizations sprouting up and expanding. The branding and design has helped us to receive grants with additional design standards for two of our major programs; Speak Up for Change and Youth Making a Difference.

Without consistent design work and branding, ACCESS would not have been able to grown nearly as fast, and may have had a much more challenging time in acquiring sponsorships, grants, and booking presentations at various schools and conferences.

Design will continue to play a key role in the success of ACCESS as we move on to new partnerships and funding opportunities.

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02 2012

Interview with Kanika Gupta: Social Entrepreneur and Community Engagement Advocate

This week’s Designing for Good Interview is with Kanika Gupta, a social entrepreneur and community advocate who co-founded SoJo, an online platform that combines social innovation, youth empowerment, technology and online media to inspire and inform youth to initiate social projects by providing them with the tools and resources to turn their ideas for social change into action. 

DF: As someone who has worked in the non-profit and social enterprise industries, how has design impacted the cause or organization you are involved with?

KG: As an organization that is building a consumer-facing product, design is important for first impressions and engaging the audience to interact with our product. Design is integral in delivering content and effectively reaching out to our audience.

DF: What are your thoughts on how your organization or project would function with poor, default, unthoughtful design and branding?

KG: For a product such as SoJo, good design and branding is crucial. For example, our logo was created with thought and purpose and is actually symbolic of our entire organization and what we represent. It is amazing how powerful something as basic as a logo can have on engaging our audience and stakeholders in our product (which it has).

DF: Do you feel that non-profits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives can survive and compete for attention with the visual branding of large companies?

KG: Absolutely. Any organization with a compelling message can get the attention it merits. It is important that this message be communicated effectively to its audience, and design can play a big role in this – however I do not think a big budget is needed to compete with the big companies. Creative and fresh thought is enough (in my opinion) to engage an audience.

DF: In your opinion, should all designers have some sustainability or social conscious in their practice and philosophy?

KG: Design needs to be viewed in a holistic sense. In sense of students contributing 10% of their time to nonprofits or social-purpose organizations, they should be responsible and engaged in all of the projects they do. For example, even if a designer is creating a product for a large company they should look at the design project in a larger ecosystem and design accordingly (ie: reduced packaging, honest marketing, positive emotions, etc.)

DF: Do you think that a physical storefront (or space or studio) dedicated to offering design services for “good” would be a useful idea?

KG: I think that’s a great idea. Design is not accessible to startups or nonprofits (as all their funds are focused on delivering on the programs/mandate and there is limited cash flow).

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02 2012

Interview with Jayson Zaleski: Design Educator and Communication Designer

This week’s Designing for Good Interview is with Jayson Zaleski, a Communication & Design faculty at OCAD University and partner at creative collective Kolor

DF: As a designer, how has design impacted the cause or organization you are involved with?

JZ: Designing for clients, institutions, organizations, and companies that I have worked with in the past has generally brought an additional layer of understanding and focus of these institution’s clients/causes/audiences/research focusses, in part, as a result of the design processes that are implemented within the development of the project. After development, when design research and development has been implemented, the results of the process generally fosters an increased awareness of the issues and people involved as a result of the more strategic and clear-sighted design-related improvements within the overall framework, whether that be aesthetic, communicative, strategic/infrastructural, or programmatic/systems related.

DF: Do you feel that non-profits, social enterprises and grassroots initiatives can survive and compete for attention with the visual branding of large companies?

JZ: I believe that they have adopted many of the branding strategies that corporate institutions have used in order to widen their scope, and this has had both positive and negative impacts. If the name of the game in survival is obtaining as much market share as one can in order to advance one’s cause, then branding and design programs serve the function.

DF: In your opinion, should all designers have some sustainability or social conscious in their practice and philosophy?

JZ: I believe that the definitions surrounding “sustainability” still require more clarification in order for designers to respond accordingly. If, for instance, an industrial designer legally requires only 3 percent of a reclaimed or reused material within a mass produced product to be labelled as “green”, then I think there are gross loopholes within the system. Clarification around many of these topics and definitions, which by the way can be highly polemic, is required in order for all actors involved to be working on a level playing field.

DF: Do you think that a physical storefront (or space or studio) dedicated to offering design services for “good” would be a useful idea?

JZ: Any organization dedicating itself to “doing good” is advisable, and would no doubt positively benefit communities and the social institutions therein.

DF: Are there any non-profits or social causes that you would identify as examples of good design having a positive impact overall? Do you know of any causes, movements, groups or non-profits specifically that lack great design, and could benefit from some assistance should the services be provided?

JZ: One of the most intriguing examples of a design company devoting itself to social causes is a Slovak firm called Dizajnna Kolesach. They have a design program titled “Design on the Wheels” whereby they devote a stated number of weeks per year to exchanging design services for room and board from organizations who cannot pay for professional design services. In their words, “We went to uplift the visual culture of the surrondings of Slovakia with the slogan: ’you pay, we camp’.”

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02 2012

Designing for Good Project Inspiration

The topic of Designing for Good, which focuses on how graphic design can be used for social good, was based on my continued involvement in various non-profit organizations and initiatives.

The spark for all of this was an exposure trip to the developing world, which lead to the formation of ACCESS (a youth-run, non-profit organization focusing on education in developing nations, and inspiring youth activism locally).

This video was made by Kevin Saychareun to profile my involvement with ACCESS, touching on the effect design and being an OCAD University student has on it.

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02 2012