DJ Haddad


I graduated from Parsons School of Design back in the dark ages of 1999 when a “cloud” was simply a form of condensation and “working from home” was nothing but a European myth. After consulting in NYC for a few years, I started my own small digital agency with some friends, and we got to work on some awesome brands such as Citigroup, ING Direct and Novartis. That same core team from the early days is still in place today and makes up a part of our remote, full-service creative agency, Haddad & Partners.

What started out as a small and nimble endeavor has now grown into an awardwinning global creative agency with over 120 designers, copywriters, animators and project managers with diverse mindsets and backgrounds, all scattered across 15 countries and at least 7 different time zones. We take pride in what we do and the majority of our return business and referrals come from past clientele. Our clients are as diverse as our staff, and we work for household names such as Microsoft, Amazon and Charter Communications, as well as smaller brands like Eco Style, Harlem Gateway Waterfront Initiative, and Wear Ya Mask!

As a father of four kids under the age of 13, I’ve learned how to juggle and multitask. This skill has proven especially helpful as I’ve also started a SaaS company in the automotive industry called 321 Ignition.

How did you become involved in socially responsible communications and why do you believe design can be an effective tool for this goal?

Growing up, I was an “art room kid” with charcoalsmeared clothes who didn’t quite know who I wanted to be. Thankfully, I found graphic design, but even with all the tools for success, finding my way was still bumpy. I thought if that was the case for me (a white, middle-class man) it must be that much harder for inner-city kids, and/or students of color.

To me, being involved in socially responsible design means showing the next generation that working in graphic design is a feasible goal, no matter their background. It’s a great way to give back — showing young people ways to allow their passions to fuel their careers. That’s why I’m so proud of Summer Studio, a four-week program my agency recently launched, where high school students learned the basics of graphic design in a college setting. We gave them Microsoft Surface Pros, introduced them to design programs, and had experts in the field guest speak.

Our hope is that this sparked a bit of excitement as they started building a portfolio to help them in their future career goals. One hundred percent of our talented participants graduated this summer, and we couldn’t be prouder, but we’re not done! With help from our sponsors, my own amazing team, and a little luck, we hope to expand the program to other cities in 2022. We’re going bigger, we’re breaking barriers for better design, and we’re hoping to diversify the creative industry of tomorrow.

Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces, does 2021 present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?

2021 has more opportunities to make an impact than any other year I’ve ever experienced. People are looking for reasons to believe in a common good, feel solidarity behind a shared goal, and believe in something greater than the challenges and divisiveness that seem to permeate every facet of life right now. Design is a universal language that knows no bounds, and when you use the visual arts in a way that compels people to pay attention, you can get your message across in a political and philosophically agnostic way that words alone never could achieve.