Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Designing for good

By the time I finished university, I hated graphic design.

I was someone who would stay up working late into the night (and the next) drinking heinous amounts of Tesco’s own brand energy drink in an attempt to make sure everything I’d done was perfect. My heart, soul and usually tears were poured into everything I did. Design was a true passion, so why was I turning against it?

I remember standing and looking around our university studio one day, looking at everyone’s work. A brilliant 3D sculpture that had been appropriated as a poster for Nike, a beautifully packaged bit of promotional work for one of the world’s largest paper suppliers, ynbelievable illustrations, and all of a sudden I felt really uncomfortable.

Now don’t get me wrong, this work was all excellent, we were a talented bunch and working for a huge company or advertising agency had always been held in high esteem, we were emulating what we thought we needed to be.

And I hated it.

Design, to me, has always been about solving problems and finding a way to improve what already exists. To put my time, my efforts and my talents towards doing this for the rich guys and making them richer in the process seemed pointless and frankly, soul destroying. What was this achieving really? The promotion of more products and services that we don’t really need in exchange for the narcissistic pleasure of maybe getting a bigger budget and potentially more creative freedom? To add a recognisable name under ‘has worked for..’? No, that was not what I wanted at all.

My mantra as I was growing up was ‘I just want to help people’, and as I stood there, wondering what the hell I was going to do with a degree that essentially translates to ‘commercial art’, that phrase came flooding back to me and I knew that there had to be a way to combine my passion with what I felt I morally needed to do.

Fast forward two and a bit years and that’s exactly what I’m doing, every single day. I’m a designer at a digital agency that solely works with charities, non-profits and CSR arms of larger companies and general ‘for good’ companies. Not once have I had to create signage for a discount supermarket brand, a splash site for the next start-up tech company or wonder ‘what the hell is the point in this?’, something I’m yet to hear echoed by my peers. It’s a rare opportunity to work only on things that matter to you and to have the knowledge that everything you’re doing is in some way genuinely having a positive impact on someone's life.

We spend our days figuring out how to help charities raise more money for their cause by using clever UX, making sure designs are accessible to the sometimes specialist users of the sites we make, creating apps that keep people safe, apps that have genuinely saved lives. We give people platforms to work from that make their education easier and create websites that enable people to access education that they need - worldwide, by working with some of the most amazing and inspiring charities and non-profits.

I can't imagine anything better.

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