Why Design Matters to Non-Profits and Everything Ever

By Mollie Thompson, Graphic Designer, World Vision’s HungerFree Team

One of my first jobs out of college was as a barista for Storyville Coffee, a Seattle based company that began in 2013. From the day they opened, they were off the ground running with incredible customer service, mouth-watering food and drink, striking design, and a highly desirable downtown location. People came in droves and the line has been spilling out the door ever since. Two years after opening, Storyville made it public that they donate 100% of their profits to organizations combatting human trafficking. They offer their employees competitive pay and allow opportunity for growth, while providing incredible products and service which create intense customer loyalty. I met people who refused to go anywhere else because of the quality alone. The desire to fight human trafficking was always at the heart of the company and effortlessly shone through, but for customers it was actually just a surprising little cherry on top.

I studied Industrial Design in University but fell equally in love with Graphic Design. Somewhere along the way I also developed a passion for non-profit work, within which I’ve seen quite an array of design philosophies. If your company’s ultimate goal is to change the world, it makes sense that the impact would be your focus. However, just like a traditional business, it takes more than a good mission to be successful. A focus on quality products and conveying those in compelling ways will have greater impact in the long run. To create a trustworthy brand, design must shape the audience’s perception of the brand’s values. Colors, shapes, style, symbolism, and photography must all come together to create one cohesive visual brand.

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The perception that design is a luxury and not a necessity hinders many non-profits and organizations from becoming the credible and appealing brands they could be.

Dieter Rams, a leader in Industrial Design, wrote a sort of ten commandments of good design. He insisted that design must be useful, innovative, beautiful, honest, long-lasting, thorough, unobtrusive, understandable, and environmentally-friendly. That’s a lot of good things, and not exactly the kinds of things you want to push to the backburner. Rams’ final principle is the most memorable: “Good design is as little design as possible.”

Design is problem-solving. Design is not icing- it makes up the cake just as much as the product, sales, and communications do. There is a reason every successful company and corporation invests in creative teams. Design has the power to shape the audience, reach and entire mood of a company.

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Good design makes you feel pleasure or it makes you feel nothing. It must by nature be functional. If its aim is to catch your attention, everyone had better be giving that billboard a second glance. If its goal is to educate, there must be no obstacles- neither boring nor distracting the viewer from learning. 

Much like the first few seconds you have with a new potential employer, design is the crucial first impression any brand makes on its audience. The world is full of attention-grabbing, beautiful things, and if you can’t compete with them, you lose to them- even if your cause and mission are worthy. Good design gives your brand legitimacy and relevancy – necessities to compete in today’s market, especially if you are fighting for an important cause.

 

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At Hungerfree, we’re prioritizing good design and using it to invite people into the vision of a Hungerfree world. This has come to life in a new product: HungerFree Quarterly. As we began to map out what Quarterly would be, we knew we wanted the quality of the product to stand on its own. We could fill a box with air and sell it in the name of helping the world, but that would depend on people’s goodness of heart alone. While we choose to believe humans want to do good on their own, it doesn’t hurt to motivate them with something more. We wanted to offer an experience, a bigger story, and quality products that have personal stories behind them. In this connected world, we have the opportunity to know exactly where the products we buy come from, and there is opportunity for great integrity in this. 

After selecting artisan products, it was crucial for the magazine and website to reflect their value. This meant bidding adieu to the visually mediocre in pursuit of a greater design experience all around. We needed photographs telling great stories and clean design to organize information. We needed to make it an enjoyable experience from start to finish- the box on your doorstep, the magazine on your coffee table, and the recipes on your counter. It needed to be not only up to par with, but even better than other subscription boxes, magazines, and online retailers. 

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For me, designing HungerFree Quarterly was an opportunity to make something that was appealing to an audience I am familiar with: my own generation. I researched design trends, observed existing styles, and figured out how to draw them into the topic of hunger in the developing world. This was an incredible project for me because it fell into two very different but very important categories: good design and world change. While I knew that both mattered to me, I was also confident that I was not the only one. I am not the only one who buys fairtrade chocolate based on its ethics as well as its wrapper. Great design and great impact do not need to be kept separate. At Hungerfree Quarterly, we want them to work together hand in hand.

Design changes experiences. Non-profits change lives. Together, they can change the world.

Check out the rest of Mollie’s handcrafted work at PrettyBirdPaper.com

Check out HungerFree Quarterly – currently only available in Canada! If you order by December 14, you will receive your first box in time for Christmas.



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