NIEDERMEIER DESIGN, SEATTLE WA
Kurt Niedermeier is an award-winning graphic designer who partners with clients around the world to help them deliver on mission, achieve greater impact, and simply put, make things better. His portfolio consists of projects covering a wide range of communication disciplines, but a majority of his work focuses on visual branding, knowledge reports, and identity design. His client list includes a Who’s Who of non-profit agencies and organizations such as The United Nations, The World Bank, UNICEF, The MacArthur Foundation, The Packard Foundation, The IFC, Heifer International, The Kellogg Foundation, NASA, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and The Ballmer Group.
How and why did you become involved in socially responsible communications and why do you believe design can be an effective tool for this goal?
In 2010, after working independently for 10 years, I began to question how my career was evolving. Who was I really designing for? What role did I play in helping for-profit companies grow and prosper without any regard for sustainability, social issues, or the environment? Coincidentally, it was around this time that The Gates Foundation came across my work and reached out. Soon after, the idea of using my skills for good, to support worthwhile causes and partner with purpose-driven clients, started to take root. Today, I’m proud to say I enjoy relationships with many organizations making huge impacts around the world, and I like to think I’m doing my part — albeit a small one—to help move the needle.
Through the art of visual storytelling, designers can help build awareness around important social issues. When we share our experiences and fill our social consciousness with stories that move people, we invite others to come inside, to listen, and to engage. The result is often dialogue and an exchange of ideas that bring us closer to a place of understanding— where we can observe each other’s humanity and, together, begin to walk a new path. Design connects people and creates shared experiences. This is where design can play a critical role, but it starts with a conversation.
Please give us an example of a project you are especially proud of.
Waterborne diseases and poor sanitation are responsible for millions of deaths every year in low- to middleIncome countries. In 2021, I designed “Connecting the Unconnected”, an information and instruction guide from The World Bank to help planners, engineers, decision makers, and other stakeholders navigate the process of increasing household connections to sewers. I am especially proud of this work because of its potential to improve living conditions in hundreds of cities around the world. You can view this guide here: www.kngraphicdesign.com/connecting-the-unconnected
Given the confluence of events and challenges our society now faces – e.g., dealing with the postpandemic era – does this moment in time present any special opportunities, urgencies, obstacles to designing for good?
I think there is heightened awareness surrounding a variety of urgent social, economic, and environmental issues that didn’t exist pre-pandemic. How can we design cities, workspaces, and education environments to optimize wellness? What are the mental and emotional consequences of prolonged isolation, especially on vulnerable populations? What role should technology and the virtual world play in healthcare? What does inclusive design look like in our homes, schools, at work? How will technology impact human connection and change how we interact with one another? There is absolutely an opportunity for creative thinkers across all design disciplines to influence how we shape our future, and it starts by asking questions.