Article 3: Designing For Good | Special Creative Challenges

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

This is the third in a series of 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 3: Designing For Good | Special Creative Challenges

Our first article examined how and why creatives view graphic design as a powerful force for good, and the second article drilled down on the real world impact of these award-winning projects. This time around we asked several of the “Designing For Good” category winners to describe “the special communications challenges presented and your creative solution.”

On this subject, our cohort argue that  “designing for good” projects share certain fundamental challenges with all graphic design projects: to identify and solve a client’s specific problem, to do so with visual communications that are attractive and engaging, and to clearly and transparently express the essence of the client’s message — product, service, brand, mission — to the appropriate audiences using appropriate media.

At the same time, these award-winning designers do acknowledge that additional obstacles can often arise in this realm:  the scarcity of budget and related resources; the urgency of time and the specter of crises; working with clients who have only rudimentary communications experience or design systems upon which to build; the need to address and educate issues that are often complex, abstruse or controversial; finding ways to project hope and optimism when dealing with serious and often sad  matters; and the special demands of engaging, activating and building trust with volunteers, donors and the public.



Annabel Mangold of Mangold Design, who has extensive experience working with small and non-profit organizations at her Napa CA studio, is eloquent and on point:

“Social good-based projects require a different lens than for-profit projects. So often there are fewer resources and more urgent needs. There isn’t time or budget for beta testing or the need for flashy pitches. The focus is on impact and by nature the act of generosity rather than selling. So the solution is always to do more with less but also truly valuing the people involved while making the information/technology utilized available to others in the space.” Annabel was recognized for her “Tell Your Partner Clinic Poster Series”  for the National Coalition of STD Directors.


Susan Kelley of kelley|fortuno in Ridgefield CT is equally clear about the unique creative challenge she confronted: “Our client’s mission is to educate and promote understanding using a whisper instead of shout. Our greatest communication challenge is to get noticed without yelling. We chose to communicate using grace, beauty, and understated elegance combined with the power of color and simplicity.” Susan was kind enough to also note that “to be recognized as a leading ‘Designer for Good’ by GDUSA and Robert Half has encouraged, motivated and energized us to move forward and continue our objective.” kelley|fortuno’s winning piece for is the stylish “Practice Pronouns She They He We Campaign.”




Of  the need to do more with less, Anne Marino of Studio Three points to her winning brochure for The Windham Endowment: “Marking the organization’s 15 years of impact, the brochure spread awareness and garnered support in the community. Run by volunteers, they didn’t have the bandwidth to write a report and lacked photography. On a shoestring budget, the solution was a distinctive horizontal tri-fold brochure. The graphic joins the pillars of the organization’s mission — environment, culture, education, and recreation — each identified by a different color that connects to the inside. The cover is trimmed short to reveal a compelling impact statement. When unfolded, a 15-year timeline — spanning the left to right panels — visually shows the 38 initiatives aligned with their mission… This piece succinctly captures who this organization is and their impact on their community.”



For Eric Benson of Re-Nourish and Climate Designers, research and strategic targeting helped overcome resource scarcity. He says: “Our biggest challenge was to locate the best ways to share a new podcast with a niche designer audience. There are a lot of good shows out there and it was tough to attract folks to Climify through only social media marketing without a budget. We ended up doing a survey after one season with our listeners, and that helped us choose more specific guests and communicate about the show through more strategic marketing channels.” Eric, by the way, is an absolute pioneer and thought-leader in climate-related graphic communications.





Master creative director, art director and photographer Trevor Messersmith of 80east Design felt motivated and challenged to get people excited to vote. “I’m always shocked at voter turnout numbers and how low they are. If everyone who could vote did indeed vote, our country’s government could be so much different. I am always up for making voting seem as exciting and thrilling as it is!” His high-energy AIGA “Turn Out The Vote” posters speak for themselves.



Alyssa Varsanyi’s special challenge speaks for itself. As they observe: “Suicide prevention is an emotionally heavy topic, and it is very important  to make sure not to cause negative emotions… Suicide Prevention Now (SPN) was a collaboration between three organizations. This microsite presents insights from the biannual 2022 Harris Poll collecting the public’s perceptions of mental health and suicide prevention. Our constant challenge while creating the site was using data to guide people through impactful actions to affect positive change and bring optimism and hope forward from the data trends. We created clear CTAs for each section, ways to spread awareness on social, and kept the focus on the positive changes that can be made. Bright colors underscored the constant optimism these organizations have.”



Joana Miranda Jordao of Cherish Impression, who created a volunteer orientation booklet for the Pet Adoption Center of Orange County, also emphasizes the need to project optimism and keep people engaged: “The booklet had a lot of important information, and it was presented in a way that didn’t encourage volunteers to read. The biggest challenge was to deliver the information in an effective, appealing, and joyful way without removing any communication or overwhelming people during the onboarding process.”




The last word goes to Cassie Brkich of Brkich Design, who reminds us of the unique and disruptive nature of the pandemic. Her winning entry is “Rooted Locally Shop Small Campaign” on behalf of the Beaver Area Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania. She says: “The biggest challenge was a new global pandemic ;)  Businesses found themselves in constant need of pushing out new information to their customers (hours, closed/open, masking requirements) and lacked the resources or time to create new designs at each turn.” Adding perspective, Cassie observes that “most of the biggest problems that I see in our world come down to communication and misunderstanding about key issues. I can be found saying ‘that is a marketing problem’ or ‘that is a communication error’ when people are fighting about major issues. Oftentimes we have the same goal, we are just not communicating properly.”