Article 1: Designing For Good | The Power of Design

This winter, GDUSA introduced a “Designing For Good” feature category as part of our 59th annual American Graphic Design Awards™ competition. The idea resonated: we saw several hundred entries and roughly 50 winning pieces were selected.

This is the first in a series of six articles that take a deeper look at the winners of the new category, their motivations, their creative strategies, the impact of their winning projects — and why these creative professionals are engaged in and committed to socially responsible design.

Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions, is the founding sponsor of this initiative which encompasses graphic communications that advance positive social and environmental action and social justice impact; promote diversity, equity and inclusion; and aim to make communities and the world a better place for people and nature. 


Article 1: Designing For Good | The Power of Design

We asked several of the “Designing For Good” category winners whether “the experience of working on your winning piece confirmed your belief that graphic design can be a powerful force for good?”

The consensus response: Effective graphic design is a powerful force for good because it is perfectly suited to draw attention and raise awareness of issues and causes; to tell stories, reveal truths, and crystallize the essence of a message or matter; and to inspire or persuade audiences to embrace the value of a cause, idea or action. The importance of design and designers in this process is amplified by our fragmented and cluttered media environment, and by the changing and challenging times in which we live.

For example, Shane Lukas of A Great Idea, whose winning project is the premiere issue of We Are PHARMA! Advancing Equity, a  publication of Women of Color in Pharma (WOCIP), states:

“Our agency uses the power of designed storytelling to center, elevate, and share stories of marginalized communities who have been historically silenced or suppressed. We believe that graphic design is a powerful force for good because it can expose people to new possibilities, perspectives and ideas. It also can help communicate why change is important, explore the potential impacts of change, and introduce how it can make a better world.”



Speaking for many, Michael Wood of Liberty Mutual, art director for Liberty Mutual Community Investment’s “You Know Homeless Youth” campaign, says: “I have never doubted graphic design can be a force for good. We are the heart and soul of bringing powerful messages and stories to life with the impact they need and deserve.”



Adds Joshua Barnes of Blue Barn Design Co, who designed this logo for the JOY Community Center & Soup Kitchen: “The win has reinforced my belief that graphic design can be a powerful force for good. I have had the good fortune to be able to work with other organizations in the past that also contributed to helping others, environmental awareness, and the arts. Good design can inspire, and that inspiration can lead to action and making a difference.”


Calvin Wilkins of CTW Design, who served as creative director for the Queer Renaissance Fundraiser sponsored by Southwest Center for HIV & AIDS, explains: “This experience confirms my belief that graphic design is a powerful force of good. I was able to use my talents to bring visibility to a nonprofit that cares for LGBTQ+ community members in a state that’s considered unsafe for people like me. By crafting visual messages that resonate with my community, I can inspire people to take action, promote awareness, and advocate for social justice. I’m honored to use my skills as a designer to help create a world that is more inclusive, accepting, and compassionate for all.”


Steven Palmer of GM Financial, creative director for the company’s 2022 Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Annual Report says: “Graphic design has had a tremendous impact on social and cultural change for decades. As designers, we can craft content and data that may otherwise be difficult to consume and turn it into something that communicates a clear message through an enjoyable experience. That’s an incredibly powerful tool.”



Contends Craig Calsbeek of CCGD, recognized for event branding on behalf of The San Diego River Park Foundation: “The power of graphic design is a proven commodity. And when executed effectively it has the potential to deliver powerful communication that transcends the bombardment of messages while raising awareness about important social and environmental issues, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality. This can inspire people to take action and contribute to positive change.”


And, finally, Beth Ponticello of CEDC, who scored wins for the Catholic Climate Covenant and for the Catholic Mobilizing Network, presents a provocative thought and a challenge to her fellow designers:

“My winning pieces are a small example of the work I do in daily collaboration with nonprofits and faith-based organizations ‘doing good.’ Design is a powerful force for good, it’s one of the best ways to inform, educate, motivate, create change, or inspire a reaction – because design touches everything we see. Unfortunately, for those same reasons, design can be used ‘for bad.’ In today’s world design is often used to confuse, misinform and incite division. It is the price we pay for having such a powerful tool, and we as designers have a big responsibility in wielding it for good.”


Next Article: Designers Discuss The Impact Of Their Winning Projects