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 Many organizations run on flat, stale, outdated branding and don’t give it much thought.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has ‘offshoot’ branding or those that choose to or attempt to be unique because the parent brand is so terribly old or outdated.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.

About The Author

Daniel Francavilla

Daniel is a graduate of OCAD University's Graphic Design program. He is the founder of Now Creative Group, and is inspired to make positive change through design and youth organizations like ACCESS and Speak Up for Change. Follow him on Twitter @Francavilla and @NowCreates.

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02 2012

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  1. 1

    thanks for share!