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Design Day for GOOD

A Day of Graphic Design Volunteerism

Design Day for GOOD presented by Cyan Bold Design and Staples Studio in partnership with Graphic Designers of Canada BC Chapter
Logos of contributing designers, communicators, marketers and design thinkers: Liz Go, Graphically Hip, Vanessa the Hobbyist, Amy Gopal, Designs by Erica, Splash Design, Clever Girl, Work BC Kelowna and Clear Design.

Design Day for GOOD is a collaborative initiative composed of volunteers, designers, communicators, marketers, and design thinkers led by Cyan Bold Design and hosted by Staples Studio Kelowna in partnership with the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) BC Chapter. It is a day of graphic design volunteerism that draws from the GDC SKN Design Day concept and follows the same premise – design as many meaningful assets as possible for local nonprofit organizations to help further their causes and boost their visual voice in one day. The overall goal is to use design and design thinking to build up the communities we live in. My belief is that design can be used as a force for positive change and should be offered for free in certain circumstances. For more on my viewpoint on pro bono work check out my blog – The Importance of Using Design for GOOD.

The COVID-19 Hurdle

Bringing Design Day for GOOD to Kelowna was no easy feat during a pandemic, but it has been successfully arranged twice. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit we were forced to postpone indefinitely. Thankfully, Staples Studio Kelowna was quick to respond with the most up-to-date workplace safety measures for us to follow. With a few adjustments to the original event format, we adapted to a distanced model with remote work options. Using a dedicated Slack channel, Zoom, smartboard, Spotlight (event space), workstations, and a reliable WiFi network we were able to work together seamlessly. Being provided nourishment, beverages, and surprises were the icing on the cake. We owe a huge amount of gratitude to the generosity of Staples Studio as a community partner on this event.

No co-working space would be complete without an engaging and encouraging Community Manager. Matt Stewart, Community Manager of Staples Studio Kelowna has been a rock of support during these uncertain times. For each event, he was the technician, sanitizer, waiter, community connector, public speaker, showrunner, troubleshooter, co-organizer, and problem-solver. He was on board with this initiative since day one and I couldn’t think of a better representative for Staples Studio Kelowna. Thank you, Matt and Staples Studio for being the hosts with the most!

Show me the Graphic Design!

So much great work has been done over the years for Design Day for GOOD. Below is a list of gracious volunteers that lent their skills and talents to local nonprofit organizations as well as their design solutions. Superstar teams became dedicated design agencies for a day. Their collective talents, experiences, and skills were pooled together to accomplish a shortlist of tasks for nonprofit organizations in need.

COMMUNITY MANAGER
Matt Stewart

VOLUNTEER
Christine White

TEAM ETCETERA

Avril Paice – Etcetera Representative
Tory Braun (Clever Girl) – Team Lead
Phred Martin, CGD (Splash Design) – Design
Alex Hennig (Clear Design) – Design
Liz Govier (Liz Go) – Web Design & Social Media
Amy Gopal – Communications/Marketing

Team Etcetera was tasked with boosting community awareness of Etcetera 2SLGBTQIA+ Youth Group and generating financial support for the program through encouraging community donations. They were encouraged to think about ways they might be able to engage the participants (who endearingly call themselves the Glitter Critters) in the design process and give them something they could own as well.

As a result, the digital assets that were delivered far exceeded expectations. Team Etcetera developed a unique design system for social media posts and further asset development. They created designs for logo variations, rack cards, shirts, social media posts, and more.

Etcetera design assets featuring gradient colour schemes and shapes of the design system, rack card, buttons, shirt, and social media posts examples.

TEAM PLAN OKANAGAN

Denise Martell – PLAN Okanagan Representative
Chris Bingham (Me/Cyan Bold Design) – Team Lead
Laura Bonin (Work BC) – Communications/Marketing
Eryca Stirling (Eryca Stirling Designs) – Design
Sarah Tucker (Graphically Hip) – Design
Vanessa Devine (Vanessa the Hobbyist) – Research & Design

Team PLAN Okanagan was tasked with amplifying PLAN Okanagan’s visual voice within the community amongst their participants and supporters. PLAN Okanagan also required new approaches to soliciting donors in the community and encouraging community involvement. It was imperative to consider participants within PLAN Okanagan’s network and their needs when developing materials and assets.

As a result, the digital assets, strategies, and mock-ups that were delivered surpassed the task goals. Team PLAN Okanagan was very inventive and productive in producing designs. There were so many options for PLAN Okanagan to choose from and not everything is posted here. We created designs for retractable banners, table covers, a presentation deck, a letter of asking, shirts, buttons, stickers, wheelchair bags, totes, reusable cups, pop-sockets, and more.

PLAN Okanagan design assets featuring mockups of buttons and stickers, shirt, table cloth, banner, tote, coffee cups, reusable cups with straws, and presentation deck

Congratulations to everyone involved in making Design Day for GOOD such a success!

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The Importance of Using Design for GOOD

The value of graphic design should never be up for debate. It surrounds us and is a valuable part of communicating in a modern world. I guarantee that if you stopped for a few seconds and looked around your office you would see many subtle unobtrusive ways in which graphic design has permeated your workspace. It’s in the layout of the apps on your screen, the logos on your office supplies, the designs on your favourite mug, the colours of your pack of breath mints, and even in the clothes you wear. Products aren’t made on a whim neither. They are carefully illustrated and designed on-screen and paper way before they are ever prototyped. Every part of our modern life is influenced by design be it good, bad, and even ugly. In order to discuss why design should be used for GOOD, we must first talk about the practice of design and its ability to motivate people.

Design skills, much like creativity can be nurtured and developed. I’ve seen students that knew very little of design, become excellent designers through perseverance, desire to learn more, and practice. Another reason I believe design is a unique skill that can be developed is based on the fact that it doesn’t rely solely on artistic merit. Some people would even argue that art and design are separate in their focus and function and should not even be compared. Although the goals of art and design can be similar one would argue that design aims to create pragmatic clarity in the world around you while art focuses on creating a profound emotional response. Furthermore, there’s a fallacy of thought going around that ALL graphic designers can draw (paint, sculpt, photograph etc…) and vice versa. But, I know this is not true. Sure there are a lot of graphic designers that can draw and a lot of traditional illustrators that can design, but these skills are not mutually exclusive. So where am I going with this train of thought…Oh yeah… NOT EVERYONE is a graphic designer. Yet some of the tools that people have at their fingertips can make them think they are. If everyone is using the same tools the same way creativity stagnates and no one is making anything worth paying attention to. It is this recognition that improves the value of professional graphic design.

Graphic design is considered a profession by those that value its power to influence perceptions and change minds. You need to look no further than a political campaign to see how much emphasis is placed on looking the part. Patriotic, confident, trustworthy, readable, legible, simple and in the correct party colours are all characteristics of good political campaign graphics that can help influence opinions and reinforce party values. Some graphics have become synonymous with a specific community or group. For example, just seeing the rainbow flag in a storefront is an indication that the store is LGBT-friendly. Similarly, some colours have become synonymous with specific political parties and to deviate would be confusing to their constituents. Heck, even evil regimes know the power of design in trying to add legitimacy to their twisted causes, commanding attention, and instilling fear of dissent. It is for these reasons that I am careful and deliberate in how I apply my design skills. If you aren’t using your skills for good what’s the alternative?

Of course, every designer has to squeak out a living from their craft. But I don’t think a compromise of values has to occur to make it work. Honesty and authenticity is a mark of good design. Social enterprise is on the rise and more companies are adopting a truer approach to design. Yes, there’s always going to be hyperbole, metaphor, allusion, and humour to help point out comparisons and convey visual messages in relatable terms, however, when the end goal is rooted in truth it can be argued that this is good design. I would also argue that so long as the design doesn’t seek to do harm, but instead brings a smile to our faces or makes us think then it is GOOD.

Imagine if every humanitarian nonprofit organization saw enough funding each year to keep staff and do the best work possible for the communities that they serve. We would likely see poverty decrease, health and well-being improve, education systems get better, greater equality, cleaner environments, sustainable growth, and an improvement on the happiness index. However, this is not the case. In fact, we see many nonprofits struggle to keep going or settle for something less than ideal in order to keep doing the valuable work that is required of them. Of course, there are a number of nonprofit organizations that do overwhelmingly good for themselves, the costs of their marketing and overhead are often quite high, but the amount of money that gets invested into their projects is also high. These high earning nonprofit organizations are often the ones that can afford to run national campaigns and work with an agency of record or support an entire marketing department complete with their own dedicated graphic designer. They’re polished, legit, and make their donors and contributors feel special. They have a name that people have heard of and know. It’s great to help them and contribute to their causes but a small contribution doesn’t go very far. Consistently volunteering will go further, but it isn’t always possible to carve out the time (especially if you’re an independent contractor). This is why I will sometimes offer my skills and expertise on a limited basis to projects of importance for nonprofit organizations. This is why I choose to use my graphic design skills for good. By empowering organizations with fresh design work based on their immediate needs you are able to give them confidence, legitimacy, professionalism, and a visual voice they otherwise would not be able to afford. The hope is that in turn, they will be able to raise the funds necessary to grow their profile, do more for their community, and become successful enough that they can afford to pay for professional services when required.

Design Day for GOOD initiative connecting nonprofit organizations with graphic designers and marketers for one day of free work.

However, there is a set of criteria for nonprofits that I follow in assessing whether or not I will do the work pro bono:

  1. Is the nonprofit organization improving lives? Their cause needs to be something that is for the betterment of people within the community and the organization cannot be seen as discriminatory in any way.
  2. Does the nonprofit organization employ other creatives? The organization can’t have an agency of record or currently work with a graphic designer. If an organization has paid for graphic design in the past or can afford to pay they do not need my help for free.
  3. Are they registered? They must be a registered nonprofit organization or be in the process of becoming one.
  4. Are they a large nonprofit organization? The nonprofit organization must be small. If there is a large number of people on staff or the funds that are raised each year are such that marketing should be within their budget I likely won’t work with them. This may seem harsh, but I want to work with nonprofits that really need my help and avoid being taken advantage of or stealing a job from someone else.

I also have to consider my approach and what gives my services value by asking myself a few questions first:

  1. Do I have the capacity to take on the task? I need to have the means to help and make a difference. I am by no means a social enterprise. I need to make a living with my creative skill set, which is why I need to limit how much work I do for free over the course of a year.
  2. Does the nonprofit organization I want to work with know the value of my services? It is important to place value on the services rendered even if no money changes hands. I try to dedicate $5,000 or more in free services to nonprofit organizations each year. I will usually send an invoice even if the invoice is just a statement of costs with a 100% discount.
  3. Is this something I believe in and will it be FUN? Finally, a pro bono project needs to have a fun factor. If the job is going to allow me to be my most creative, be experimental, add to my portfolio, and allow me to learn more that is often payment enough. The job also has to help do some GOOD for a cause I believe in.

To conclude my ramblings, I have found that it is important to realize the power of design in making positive changes in the community. By helping those in need while following specific criteria we can help to direct focus where it is needed most to make the biggest impact. If we are always seeking to convey messages of truth we can feel good about the work we do. This is the importance of using graphic design for GOOD.