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7 Questions, 7 Designers – Day 6

posted by Matt Ward on Dec 23, 2009.

This is the sixth in a seven part interview series in which I put a number of design related questions to seven awesome designers including: Chris Spooner, Sneh Roy, Mike Smith, Jeff Finley, Brad Colbow, Grace Smith and Nick La. Come join the discussion!

This is the sixth (and second to last) in the “7 Questions, 7 Designers” series, in which I throw out a different question each day and compile the answers from seven different designers. There are participants from all over the world, each offering a different and unique perspective on the realm of design.

Today’s discussion is about something that is very important to me – the concepts of charity and social justice as they relate to design. I was really interested to read our designers opinions. I hope you will be too!

We’re rapidly approaching the holiday season, when people seem to think more about the needs of others and the less fortunate – Peace on Earth, Goodwill Towards Men. With that in mind, what do you think is the role of the design community when it comes to issues of charity and/or social justice? Do you think that we can play any unique or special role? Are there any causes or organizations that you support?

Grace Smith
Grace Smith
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The design community can be incredibly generous and supportive when the issues of charity and social justice arise. I’ve seen designers raise five and six figure sums through Twitter alone for causes ranging from Cancer to equipment for their local school.

The web community is an incredibly generous one at it’s heart. People enjoy giving back to a worthy cause. I think design and designers can play an incredible role when it comes to Charity, from the more obvious like designing a charities site and branding to physically volunteering and helping to raise awareness. Organisations such as as the Taproot Foundation enable professionals to work alongside organisations in need of their expertise in a logical, well organised manner that is truly beneficial to all those involved.

Committed artists and designers who want to offer their services on a pro-bono basis or volunteer ‘for the greater good’ do have a unique role to play when it comes to social justice. Design is ultimately a tool and it has the power to generate emotion and become part of a universal ‘shared experience’, especially when that is used for the benefit of others and to raise awareness for specific issues.

I support several charities that I have had personal experience with, including; Epilepsy Action, the Chest, Heart & Stroke Foundation and the Meningitis Trust. I also contribute to worthy campaigns online, most recent was Movember.

Nick La
Nick La
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I think the design community can help bringing awareness of these issues by blogging. Some of the organizations that I support are FreeRice.com and BlogActionDay.org.

Chris Spooner
Chris Spooner
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It’s always great to see causes springing up every now again. Blog Action Day has been a success over the past years, and another that springs to mind is the ‘grow a mo to help a bro’ cause for Movember which seemed popular this year. With resources like Twitter it helps the word spread quickly, and soon captures the interest of the online communities.

Sneh Roy
Sneh Roy
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Christmas is a time of giving and sharing but I think a lot of the people in the developed world don’t really wait until the holiday season to give. People are becoming more aware and educated about the sufferings of the less fortunate, in third world countries and in their own backyards. As designers, we can make a small difference in a variety of little ways. I have offered my website designing skills to the local community school in the past. I know of other designer friends who have developed logos for non-profitable, charity organizations for free. Throughout the year, every month I support Save The Children. It is a fantastic organization that works very hard to build schools, rehabilitate children after natural disasters and man made calamities like war, houses them, clothes them and educates them. They work hard at eradicating child labor by educating people in the civilized world and by active development in the affected areas of the world. Besides that every alternate month I support The Royal Institute for the Deaf and Blind Children and our local Rural Firefighter’s Association [I live in the bush!]. Especially at Christmas time, we make our boys fill up a box of old toys that they have out-grown to give to less fortunate children. The sense of pride at giving and the kindness they have dealt to a total stranger is amazing to watch on a little child’s face.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
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The holiday season is always a time that people put the “charity” hat on. In my opinion, I can’t stand when people do that. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they’re doing something – but what about the rest of the year? If you’re only doing charity around the holidays, what are you doing it for? To genuinely help or to get the credit from your peers?

I support a few different charities and organizations that help the homeless, the Veterans of our armed forces and children with illnesses. I’ve done things for the past few years for each of them and donated as much as I possibly could. This year I am going to be doing things a bit more publicly through the launch of GIANT Themes with a couple contests in the upcoming months.

Jeff Finley
Jeff Finley
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I think that’s all fine and but it’s a tough sell. In America, most people are looking out for themselves. It’s not likely you’ll find a designer more interested in helping charity than padding his or her portfolio. BUT, having said that, designers are in a superior position of influence. We have the ability to create any message we want and get it out there.

However, when you’re stuck at your desk day in and day out – completely enveloped in your niche – you might not realize some of the issues going on outside or even down the street. Sometimes I get tunnel vision and only see my peers and competitors in the design community and sometimes forget about politics or other issues that people struggle with every day.

I think as designers mature and grow these social issues will become more prevalent. Young designers out of college, their focus should be on improving skills and establishing themselves in the field. I think once you’re established and your skills become second nature, you’ll grow more interested in using those skills for the greater good.

Brad Colbow
Brad Colbow
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I’m a fan of individual charity over community charity. Maybe I’m jaded, but doing things like turning your avatar green for a cause or putting a badge on a blog just seems like a hollow show of support. I don’t think it makes much of a difference.

This year for Christmas my family is buying toys for a local kid who otherwise wouldn’t have anything. It’s something our church organizes every year. Those are the kinds of efforts I feel good about getting behind because I know it makes a difference in someone’s life.

Awesome! It’s great to see all these different perspectives on these issues, and to read about some of the different causes that our designers support. What about you? What are your views on the relationship between design and charity/social justice? What causes do you support? Be sure to check back tomorrow for the last post in this series!

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Dec 23, 2009

Azterik Media says:

Great and timely question Matt! It is always great to read about how people are reaching out to help their fellow human beings. Now we just need to find a way to get everyone to keep the same attitude all year round. I agree with Jeff those of us in the digital professions (web design, graphic artists etc.) can tend to forget that there is a world beyond our monitors, but as with anything we’re all learning. In case I don’t get a chance to pop by this blog tomorrow, Happy Holidays to all of the Designers and thanks again to Matt for bringing us this great series!

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