Senior Capstone, Visual Communiations :: AIGA Design for Good Case Studies

Designing for social and public good takes place in an arena where designers can maximize their impact by employing design thinking. In order to facilitate this impact, understanding the system in which the change is needed is necessary. Only then can meaningful solutions be drafted, refined, and implemented to convince target audiences of a message or call to action. In understanding how this plays out in real life scenarios, I’ll be looking at two case studies from the AIGA Justified design competition.

  1. Case #1: Education Super Highway
  2. Case #2: Nothing


Education Super Highway

From AIGA.org:

EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit organization with roots in the high-tech industry, was founded to address major weaknesses in the Internet infrastructure in America’s schools. In early 2013, Naomi Usher initiated a meeting with CEO Evan Marwell to explain Sappi Fine Paper’s Ideas that Matter grant program and to explore the possibility of leveraging a grant to advance EducationSuperHighway’s mission.

EducationSuperHighway needed high-impact collateral to tell its story and garner support from a bipartisan coalition of federal and state legislators for aggressive policy reform and the redirection of $7.5 billion in federal spending. The key to success was to put a human face on the issue of Internet infrastructure and education in the U.S. The primary target audience was the Federal Communications Commission, members of Congress, and the White House. The secondary audience was potential coalition members, school superintendents, school boards, foundations and nonprofit partners interested in supporting education reforms. The material needed to have broad appeal—to be sophisticated enough for those with an understanding of the subject, but simple enough for those without in-depth knowledge. It needed to appeal to the technology community, while not alienating teachers and school administrators, constituents who are often initially skeptical about new education reforms.

Did you think their concern was relevant and for good?

The Education Super Highway project focuses on providing high speed internet access for all schoolchildren in the United States, and presents plenty of facts on why this is essential and important for education. President Obama even tweeted “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools.”

What role do you think design thinking/strategy and specifically designers played a role in developing and executing the project?

Raising awareness and convincing target audiences that schoolchildren need high speed internet access could have been approached in many ways.Although the campaign remains simple, the photography of students is what this campaign hinges upon. Simple iconography and typography are supported by a myriad of children staring, creating a deep emotional impact that backs up the message this campaign is trying to send. Since designers identified this element to be one that would communicate the central idea of the campaign, this allows the collateral to remain focused on issues. Materials were designed to be easily accessible, so they could have maximum impact while being minimally intrusive. This was especially important since one of the core audiences was comprised of busy CEOs and wealthy donors.

What unique and interesting ways did the designers approach the challenge/need?

Using real schoolchildren and not stock photos was a meaningful way to capture and redirect the essence of the problem at hand. Combining this with simple “yes” or “no” iconography helped to highlight the immediate need the project wished to address.

How did Human Centered approach and Design Systems Thinking play a role?

By identifying the beneficiaries of the project (schoolchildren) and featuring them prominently, the campaign was able to excise unnecessary and ineffective methods of convincing donors and constituents to pay attention and contribute to this cause.


‘Nothing’

From AIGA.org:

People across America have become great at ignoring charity appeals. And who can blame them? The formula is staid and worn. […]

But how would we effectively present hunger to the people of the world’s richest economy who, quite frankly, struggle with the notion of hunger in Africa, let alone hunger on their own doorstep? And how would we address the fact that hunger, like the proverbial boomerang, always comes back? How would we make potential donors feel that they were making a meaningful contribution to solving this problem? Finally, in such a noisy media environment, how would we give a project with a tiny budget a loud and booming voice? […]

Did you think their concern was relevant and for good?

Not only does this campaign tackle the issue of hunger, it explores the problems that stop ready and willing donors from contributing to a solution. This campaign seeks to solve issues on multiple levels.

What role do you think design thinking/strategy and specifically designers played a role in developing and executing the project?

The research revealed that tired pleads for donations rarely displayed the desired results. In order to ‘trick’ target audiences into buying a ‘product’ that would assist with local hunger issues, the ‘Nothing’ in question had to be branded and marketed realistically, but in a clever way that communicated the issue the campaign sought to address.

What unique and interesting ways did the designers approach the challenge/need?

The main ‘trick’ this campaign pulled off was the identification of what stopped donors from actually making donations. Figuring out how to circumvent this was the second necessary factor in the equation. Four ideas were kept in focus when iterating on solutions to the main problem:

  • To demonstrate the scale of the problem and highlight the concept that food is the solution, behave like a food brand.
  • To overcome the intangible nature of solving hunger (in comparison with building a new wing of a hospital or a school playground, for example), provide a simple and tangible way to opt in.
  • To help dramatize the message, find a way to put the problem near the solution. (How could we put “hunger” near “food?”)
  • Given our small budget, could our concept also be a media channel and/or message delivery system?