Good Causes Need Great Design

Good Causes Need Great Design

by Gretchen Schisla

Never doubt that a few committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

You’ve most likely seen this famous quote and been inspired by it. In some way, each of us wants to ‘do good’ for others and for our environment, but it can be difficult to know where to begin. Designers have a unique opportunity to serve nonprofit and cause-marketing associations, by creating work that builds awareness and activates an audience.

Design for Good is an initiative that was launched in 2011 by The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). It’s a “platform that supports and sustains designers who play a catalytic role in communities through projects that create positive social impact.”

A recent study revealed an interesting fact — that an affiliation with a cause is more important to the millennial generation than to any previous generation. This influential group shows a preference for companies that support causes, even if it means paying more for a product. It's no surprise that this generation of cause-enthusiasts will take action. I witnessed this first hand with a talented group of UMSL graphic design seniors in my class. Each chose a cause-based topic for their senior capstone project, I invite you to take a look.

Stash by Nick Mantia

Stash is a campaign dedicated to informing college grads of the importance of saving for retirement early. Nick understood that young adults starting out have more immediate concerns of launching a career, repaying student loans and establishing credit, so it’s not surprising that saving is lower on the list. His goal was to explain ‘compounding interest’ and how age is a huge advantage, so that little contributions now can equal big returns over time. Nick chose to create humorous animations and a website to engage this young audience and tested the results with success.

Pause by Laura Heidotten 

We use apps every day to track our hectic lives, but what if we had an app that helped us to slow down, pause and be still? Spending time with her grandparents growing up, Laura was interested in showing young adults how to ‘live more like their ancestors,’ in a time when people lived practical and purposeful lives, through gardening, crafts, cooking, reading, collecting, etc. The design of the app and journal captures a nostalgic photo look with active, contemporary type. Features of the app and journal include daily activities to engage you in the process of slowing down. 

Designship by Mio Yoshigiwa

Designship is an on-line platform that pairs designers with small-scale nonprofits who need help. A passionate designer, Mio is also interested in social work and improving the quality of people’s lives – so when she learned about social impact design, she was thrilled to combine both interests in her project. The motion piece explains how the program works and the website details how nonprofits and designers can get started on their first project. This professional level tool will allow creatives to get involved in causes where they can really make a difference.

Exodus, A Mass Departure by Alicia Arnold

Living abroad last year, Alicia saw first-hand how the refugee crisis was unfolding in Europe and how countries overseas were helping absorb the mass influx of people. Upon returning home to the US, she felt that many Americans were unaware of the magnitude of this global crisis. Exodus is a website that explains facts and offers insight into the lives of refugees. The goal is to help us gain a better understanding and to get involved with organizations that support this issue.

Cahoot by Kyle Ian

Looking for an opportunity to chat or collaborate with professionals in your career field? Kyle wanted to create these opportunities in real time, so he created Cahoot, a social app that gives purpose to the offbeat workspace (cafes, bars, coworking spaces). By searching a demographic area and location, this app connects writers, web developers, designers, data scientists, engineers and more – creating opportunities for collaboration, skill sharing and networking. Once you join Cahoot, you choose a place and search by filter to see what type of professional is in a current location. Check it out.

Social Self by Hannah Miller

Hannah chose a campaign to bring awareness to youth – that what they see on social media is not always real and urges them not to compare their lives to what can be an unrealistic reality. Since teens often evaluate themselves through comparison, Hannah researched social psychologist, Leon Festinger’s work on comparison in human nature. She found studies linking depression to social media, which led her to create a campaign to help teens be aware that SM can damage their self-esteem. The posters, postcards and website utilize ‘transparency’ in the images, to suggest that social media can become transparent and real.

Wanderlust Revival by Jon Dickinson

Jon is interested in both nature and motion design, so this topic was a great fit. The population of the Monarch butterfly has decreased by 90 percent in the past two decades, from one billion to 35 million. The far reaching annual migration of this species has been noted as one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world, which is why Jon entitles his project: Wanderlust Revival. His awareness campaign is a motion piece that talks about why the butterfly’s population is declining and what we can do about it. Their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants and monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs. We are encouraged to plant native milkweed in our backyards, on roadsides, in parks and public places to provide an oasis for monarchs and other pollinators. 

Design matters. It’s all around us. It’s a critical tool to communicate a purpose, to educate, to bring awareness to a problem, to inspire individuals, to unite communities – and to act as an agent for change. For designers in particular, now is the perfect time to get involved by channeling the power of great design.