Design for Change: 13 Ideas That Matter in HOW Design

Design for Change: 13 Ideas That Matter in HOW Design

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Check out @SappiNA 2013 @IdeasthatMatter winners! And #Design4Change post from @HOWbrand #csr

Multimedia from this Release

Sappi Ideas that Matter 2012 recipient: Tony Ong designed "What to Read in the Rain" anthology for 826Seattle

Sappi Ideas that Matter 2012 recipient: Celia Poirer designed new identity program for Windham Harm Reduction Coalition, Inc.

Sappi Ideas that Matter 2012 recipients: Mary-Jo Valentino and Esther Chak designed ¡Quinceañera Publication! for New Urban Arts

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 9:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ideas that Matter

CONTENT: Article

Design for Change: 13 Ideas That Matter

Posted in HOW on December 7, 2012 by Jessica Kuhn

A few months ago, Sappi announced its 2012 Ideas That Matter grant recipients. Each year, since 1999, designers submit grant proposals and a committee of industry leaders evaluate the proposals to select the grant recipients. Sappi Fine Paper North America started the program to help designers envision and create print projects that move forward charitable missions, and the company has since donated more than $12M in funds worldwide.

After hearing about the 2012 Ideas That Matter grant recipients, intrigue led us to catch up with the inspiring designers at the helm of these projects to learn more about how the awarded funds are bringing their ideas of design for change to life.

Sappi’s Ideas That Matter program was included on our list of 10 Designing Change Influencers.

1. What to Read in The Rain

What to Read in the Rain is an anthology of the best writing of 826 Seattle students combined with writings donated by accomplished Northwest authors. This anthology is part of a unique program that partners luxury hotels in downtown Seattle with 826 Seattle, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center dedicated to helping youth improve their creative and expository writing skills and overall academic success.

Creative team Tony Ong, graphic designer/ Books, Inc.

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The biggest challenge for me was taking an existing idea and bringing a new approach to it while not straying too far from the general look. The idea of the book is a souvenir that has a classic Northwest feel you take home with you. I didn’t want to just slap a title onto a picture of Mount Rainier so I thought about how the title had a “how-to” tone to it. So with that vernacular in mind, I created a sort of guide to Northwestern literature.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
I hope the students at 826 Seattle are encouraged seeing their work published and continue writing. Maybe their friends see the accomplishments these 826ers achieve and it inspires them to look into the writing workshops and become writers!

2.  People Building Better Cities: Participation and Inclusive Urbanization

This would involve a traveling exhibition (January to May, 2013, and September) to six countries. The goal of this project is to generate debate about public participation in the creation of sustainable and livable cities in an era of climate change and inequality. Global Studio, the benefitting nonprofit, is an action research educational program that has worked with local universities, local government, NGOs, and CBOs to collaborate with disadvantaged communities to develop design solutions for more livable, equitable and healthy cities.

Creative Team Anna Rubbo, senior scholar/Columbia University, adjunct professor/University of Sydney; Megan Bullock, creative director/MESH; Matthias Neumann, principal/normaldesign.

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
Aside from the challenge of arranging exhibitions in diverse and far flung locations, our biggest design challenge was to take a very complex topic, which we feel has great importance in the future of equitable cities, and to think how we can communicate this through an exhibition that will engage people across countries and all walks of life — from policymakers to communities of the urban poor. Whether we solve the challenge will depend on the feedback, and the ongoing engagement the project generates.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
We hope that this project will impact a broad range of people in the urban sector, including young and emerging practitioners, by challenging them to work with the urban poor as partners in the development of sustainable and equitable cities. We hope it will create some common ground between disparate groups and that it will encourage critical reflection and action by professionals and educators. We would be pleased if it were to provoke some new thinking in policy makers, local government and NGOs.

3. IDEO, Spreading Human-Centered Design

As celebrates its first anniversary as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, they’ll be using the Sappi Ideas that Matter grant to design and print informational materials that celebrate and share the lessons has learned applying and spreading human-centered design in the social sector over the last year.’s mission is to spread human-centered design throughout the social sector to improve the lives of people in low-income communities across the globe.

Creative Team Patrice Martin, co-lead/creative director; Jocelyn Wyatt, co-lead/executive director; Robin Bigio, project lead; Sean Hewens, knowledge manager 

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life? works across diverse issues (from water to financial services), diverse geographies (from Nepal to Pennsylvania), and with diverse partners (from implementing NGOs to large corporations). Synthesizing patterns and themes from across our diverse work to draw relevant and actionable insights that we can share with both the social sector and the design community is a huge challenge. We’re solving this challenge by being as open with our work as possible, sharing what we’re learning across multiple channels including’s website, HCD Connect and social media networks. This approach allows us to create a dynamic conversation with our target audiences, fostering a rich iteration that pushes our articulation of what we’re learning, how what we’re learning is relevant to others’ work, and how the knowledge we’re sharing can be used even more effectively to drive impact on poverty.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
By designing and printing a variety of knowledge sharing materials with funding from the Sappi Ideas that Matter grant, we’ll be able to spread lessons about and cases of the human-centered design process creating solutions for low-income populations around the world, which will enable us to have impact above and beyond the individual design projects we undertake.

4. Comics for Change 

Comics for Change is a series of 10 comics telling the stories of Oregonians working for social justice (a similar project from last year is shown above). The benefitting organization is the Dill Pickle Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to broaden knowledge of Portland’s past, present and future through tours, lectures, publications and school programs.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
The aim of our project is to provide a mechanism for people to understand more about why Portland is the place it is today. We want to honor our unsung community leaders and their contributions to Portland. Ultimately, we hope our project encourages people to become more aware, active and civically engaged

5. Backyard Skills Handbook Series

Backyard Skills Handbooks are a series of pocket sized books filled with sustainable solutions, projects and resources that connect to The Ecology Center’s core subject matters — food, water, waste, shelter and energy. The Ecology Center, located in San Juan Capistrano, CA, provides community and solution-based education to inspire ecologically sound solutions at the household and community level.

Creative Team David Rager, art director

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
We’ve been building up to this project over the past few years, and have a really great working process. The Ecology Center creates amazing content and I do my best to design [it] in a way that respects that content and that stays consistent to the visual language we’ve built. The biggest challenge was pairing down the piles of information into bite-sized chunks and organizing [it] into themes.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
These handbooks are filled with obtainable and sustainable projects that will enable anyone to make a positive impact in their community.

6. Hawthorn Hill—Home of the Wright Brothers’ Family

Hawthorn Hill, home to the Wright family (Orville and Wilbur Wright, the aviation pioneers), is a historic treasure under the care of The Wright Family Foundation that comes with a hefty price tag to maintain: Approximately $130,000 to $180,000 per year just for upkeep. That’s where Visual Marketing Associates steps in. The agency is in the early stages of generating a revenue stream through the merchandise licensing of The Wright Brothers brand, starting with marketing and communication components.

Creative Team Kenneth Botts, principal/Visual Marketing Associates; Doug Knopp, creative director/Visual Marketing Associates; Meg Willke, graphic designer/Visual Marketing Associates

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
With affiliations with Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (to ensure the historical integrity) and Dayton History (to manage the public tours), there is a perception that Hawthorn Hill is well funded. The reality is that a majority of the operating expenses fall upon the Wright family, who doesn’t have the financial means to maintain the grand home. Receiving the Sappi Ideas that Matter grant will allow communication materials to be produced to initiate the funding process.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
Public access to Hawthorn Hill today is offered by the Wright Family in partnership with Dayton History and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. Hawthorn Hill serves the general public in the local regional community and national and international visitors as well. Increased programming is a goal, ranging from educational activities for the students of regional public/private school districts and Air Camp to hosting international dignitaries, for example, the Dayton Peace Accords.

7.  Wellspring Strategic Communication System

Wellspring promotes the recovery of those with mental illness by providing stability to individuals through quality housing and rehabilitation services. Nonprofit design studio Joey’s corner, founded by Michael Osborne, aimed to design, produce and implement a new logo, identity system and print materials for the nonprofit. The purpose of the materials is to better communicate Wellspring’s mission and to grow donor contributions.

Creative Team Michael Osborne, president, creative director/Joey’s Corner; Katy McCauley, designer/Joey’s Corner

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The biggest challenge for our project was designing a brand mark that communicates Wellspring’s multi-dimensional mission, while presenting an approachable, uplifting brand personality.

How do you hope this project impacts the lives of others?
The redesign of Wellspring’s identity will be the foundation to strengthen Wellspring’s voice and increase their brand presence throughout the community. The ultimate beneficiaries of this project will be the clients — adults with severe mental illness and their families.

8. Think Positive: A New Identity for the Windham Harm Reduction Coalition

University of Connecticut student Celia Poirer will put her Ideas That Matter grant money to use by implementing an identity program for Windham Harm Reduction Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit, community health organization that provides vital HIV prevention services in Poirer’s town.

Creative Team Celia Poirier, student/University of Connecticut

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The biggest challenge I faced when developing a new identity for the WHRC was the fact that the group lacked a budget for any and all materials. I could easily show them a pdf mock-up of the business cards, posters, or T-shirts I had designed with their new identity system, but the reality was that every cent of their barely-sufficient budget was needed for harm reduction supplies. After a recent federal ban cut funding to syringe exchange programs across the country, the WHRC has run on donations alone. In order to educate the community about the benefits of harm reduction and encourage local financial support, the WHRC would have to spread their name and mission in a positive way. That was the goal of the identity system I designed, but due to lack of funds, would have been unable to execute. Receiving this grant will break that futile cycle, and help the WHRC be recognized in a positive light.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
Syringe exchange programs like the WHRC impact lives every day by preventing the spread of HIV in their communities. Unfortunately, many of these life-saving programs struggle with federal funding and the stigma associated with the practice of syringe-exchange, despite its proven benefits. I hope that using this grant to promote the WHRC will not only help people realize the significance of their work, but also encourage people to contribute to fundraising efforts and help advocate the lifting of the federal ban on funding for programs like the WHRC.

 9. LOOKLOOK Animal Trading Cards and Research Journal

Kestrel Education Adventures is a nonprofit dedicating to improving science education in school curriculums around the world, by emphasizing nature. Nicely designed trading cards that feature animals local to the New England area will be distributed in local schools. Students in the visited classrooms will be given packs of the cards to collect and trade. Teachers will then connect homework assignments to the information available on the cards.

Creative Team Tim Ferguson Sauder, designer/creative director; Return Design alums and interns, designers/illustrators

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
Working with a large group was and is the biggest challenge. I started LOOKLOOK myself, but we’ve had more than 30 people weigh-in on this project — design, illustration, research, writing, consulting, etc. It’s difficult to have that many people working on a project while keeping things looking consistent.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
We hope that the LOOKLOOK project will help more students to gain an understanding and love of the world around them so that they go outside, enjoy the amazing world around them and do whatever they can to take care of it.

10. ¡Quinceañera Publication!

Each year, New Urban Arts’ year-in-review publication serves as both an impact report for the organization and its supporters, as well as a yearbook for the students and artists who participate. The organization is an arts studio for high school students and emerging artists in Providence, RI. To celebrate NUA’s 15th anniversary, a more robust publication was created with a quinceañera theme—15 is a big deal to high schoolers! In addition, this is will be the first issue in both English and Spanish (28% of the target audience is Spanish-speaking).

Creative Team Mary-Jo Valentino, Esther Chak, Imaginary Office

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
As a former participant in New Urban Arts studio programming, and as a continuing member of the studio community, Imaginary Office knows first-hand the “good” that New Urban Arts is doing in Providence, RI and beyond.

The printed materials from this project will help the studio share methodology and expertise with peer organizations nationwide via its communication materials, helping other organizations to grow as well.

11. together+

In the spirit of “Ubuntu,” the together+ campaign seeks to unify communities. “Ubuntu” is an ideology rooted in the South African culture that roughly translates to “I am because we are.” The project seeks to address xenophobia in South Africa’s largest urban center, Johannesburg, and has the potential to be scaled for other South African communities. There are four projects contained within the campaign that will be distributed to schools in January 2013. The following organizations are collaborating to bring this project to life: The Kgosi Neighbourhood FoundationPellegrino Collaborative and the University of Notre Dame design program.

Creative Team Robert Sedlack, principal/Sedlack Design Associates, associate professor/University of Notre Dame; Brandon KeeleanRyan Belock, community mural direction, Alison TourvilleKassandra RandazzoLisa HoeynckDan Azic, Paul Horn, Lynn Yeom, Tré Carden, Amelia Bernier

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The biggest challenge for together+ was cross-cultural communication. The project developed at the request of the Kgosi Neighborhood Foundation, a nonprofit in Johannesburg, South Africa. The project was executed by a team of American designers. Communicating across not only American/South African cultures, but among refugee populations as well was quite a challenge. To overcome this, we relied heavily on feedback given by audiences in South Africa. User-testing and research conducted on the ground was essential to inform the project’s solutions. Furthermore, designing print and environmental materials for a challenged socio-economic and cultural environment required solutions that carefully considered form and function for both longevity and ease of use.

How do you hope this project impacts the lives of others?
Research revealed that South African children have very negative perceptions of foreigners, but when exposed to other perspectives were open and able to accept them.

Sedlack Design Associates chose to target young people because their worldview is impermanent. Currently, the South African curriculum contains very little about the culture and social challenges in other African countries. Instead, a child’s view of other African people is shaped by popular sentiment. By integrating educational materials into an already developed network of schools, together+ can reach a large number of students and change their perceptions. In addition to educating young South Africans, together+ will provide refugee populations with information about their rights within South Africa so they have the knowledge necessary to advocate for themselves.

12. Where’s Daryl?

“Where’s Daryl?” is an anti-gun violence educational tool for educators and middle school youth. This project emphasizes prevention and asks youth to consider the real negative impacts guns can have on their lives and goals. After materials are finalized with assessment experts, the pilot program will launch in conjunction with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Creative Team Thomas Banuelos, director; Damon Casarez, photographer; Alex Cheng, art director; Maria Moon, graphic designer; Rhombie Sandoval, photographer; Allison Goodman, Elena Salij, supporting Art Center College of Design faculty members.

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The biggest challenge for this project was figuring out a way to communicate the message to the students. It has been a while since any of us were 12- to 15-year-olds, so we were constantly asking ourselves, “If I were a 13-year-old, would I get this?”

How can design give students the language and tools to talk about the consequences of gun violence? In the end, the answer to how we should approach the issue of gun violence came to us in a session where we got to hear directly from the students. What we heard was: gun violence was abstract and statistics and numbers really meant nothing …detention was negligible and long-term repercussions did not feel likely or real. What mattered more was missing a best friend’s birthday, getting to drive a car  and hanging out with family and friends—to name a few. In short, students were telling us that missing out of life now or the ‘near-now’ was a loss that was immediate and real — and guns just weren’t worth losing out on life.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
“Where’s Daryl?” will have impact by enabling teachers to guide students into discovering and understanding why getting involved with guns is just not worth it — and by empowering students to develop their own language to dissuade themselves and others from getting involved with guns. By doing so, our hope is that the message reaches the right kids and prevents them from making a mistake that will forever change their life and the lives of those around them.

13. Telling the Story of the Cahaba River

The plan for this project, a joint venture of Alabama Engine, The Cahaba River Society and The University of Alabama at Birmingham, is to weave together video, photography and content into a book to educate people about the Cahaba River’s importance, and encourage them to engage by enjoying it and helping to save it. This project will benefit the mission of The Cahaba River Society, which aims to promote solutions to restore and protect the Cahaba River, a drinking water resource to Alabama and home to freshwater wildlife.

Creative Team Douglas Barrett, assistant professor/University of Alabama at Birmingham; Matt Leavell, project director/Alabama Innovation Engine

What was your biggest challenge when bringing this project to life?
The Cahaba River is a beautiful place of recreation, education, community and history. The river and her watershed represent a complicated system whose balance is fundamental and necessary for the people living around her. The challenge is communicating all the ways that the river impacts everyday life in the surrounding areas.

Our goal with this project is to build river pride and stewardship within the state and surrounding communities by providing real and virtual opportunities for people to engage with the Cahaba River and experience her natural wonder and beauty.

How do you hope that this project impacts the lives of others?
This project will frame the Cahaba River as a personal story. The Cahaba is already a recognized global treasure for freshwater biodiversity with more fish species per mile than any other river in North America. But it’s more than a waterway — it’s also a figurative artery.

This project aims to tell the story of Cahaba River in the terms of the people who live around it and remind Alabamians what a unique treasure they have right in their backyard.

About Jessica Kuhn

As senior and online editor of HOW, Jessica has learned that designers are some of the most interesting, fun-loving and innovative people around. She sees stunning work all day long and is surrounded by creative energy from the readers of HOW, whether she’s perusing Twitter, at HOW Design Live, or looking at HOW Competition winners. This inspiration encourages her to pursue her own passions. Part of that passion is writing about creatives who are Designing Change.