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96black Blog

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Do-gooder Designers

The Dilemma

As a web design and development professional, I often wonder about the challenge of bringing together working behind a computer and making some kind of impact for social justice. It’s a hard mix. Is making the world a better place to look at still making the world a better place? While almost every job type is admirable and necessary (we can’t all be aid workers), many want to contribute to a better world and see a tangible change. Industrial design no doubt has a great positive impact on the world. But what about graphic design and web design?

An Example

A company who is winning at this love-the-world, do design combination in Auckland, New Zealand is Curative; started by Jade Tang and Eddy Helm a little over a year ago. Curative is comprised of a bunch of creatives who believe in balancing creativity with connectivity. Their passion is to connect communities and empower social change, so all of the projects they work on are for social good. Curative work only for community, not-for-profit, social enterprise or social change organisations, and gather sponsorship to assist as helping hands. Thus far, Curative have done work for Oxfam, Fair Trade Auckland, Lifewise Big SleepOut, Creative Mornings Auckland, yMedia and many others. By a similar thread, Curative operates within a shared workspace in Ponsonby, Auckland called The Kitchen. It is a hub for companies focusing on ideas for social change, and offers connection and support for change makers.

While Curative and The Kitchen’s passion is clear and is integrated into their business model, it’s not realistic to expect everyone to change the fundamental reason they do business, namely profit. Not all companies can work purely for ethical partners, but there are ways every company can make a difference.

Last Christmas, we at 96black decided as a company to replace corporate Christmas gifts and cards with support for a good cause. Our team volunteered for a day at Auckland City Mission packing boxes, sorting cans and the like. It was a great way to use our time for something outside of ourselves, and it was an avenue for us to make a small difference in our community. Besides, what better way is there to build team spirit than work together for charity? You can read more about that here.

What Now?

There are plenty of small ways that businesses in our industry can live out the ‘help others’ mindset. Committing to using only Fair Trade tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate in the office, for example, or joining the Fair Trade Association. You could send Oxfam Unwrapped gifts or volunteer with an organisation instead of sending Christmas tokens to clients. As an office you could get on board with social change events such as Movember, Live Below the Line, or for the really brave the Oxfam Trailwalk and blog/tweet about these good causes. Not only is this a help in itself, but it creates positive publicity for others as we use the online space we live in.

As graphic designers, web designers, animators and developers we may not see a measurable difference or experience a tangible change, but if that is what we are after then who are we really trying to serve?

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