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).