WORLDSTUDIO, NEW YORK NY
I am the principal and creative director of Worldstudio. We are unique in that we are a for-profit design and communications firm as well as a non-profit arts foundation. This structure allows us to work in two ways; serving clients with a focus on non-profit and civic organizations, as well as entrepreneurially through Worldstudio Foundation. Creativity holds enormous power to impact positive social change. As contributors to the material world, we believe that it is critical for designers to act responsibly. Through a range of initiatives at the foundation we support creative professionals and college students, who want to use their abilities to improve the lives of individuals and communities.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
We live in a culture where social media leads us to believe that a meaningful life has to be glamorous, envious and Instagram ready. When we launched Worldstudio in 1995 ‒ before the social media revolution ‒ we did it to give meaning to our lives by integrating our desire to want to give back to our community with the basic need to earn a living. A recent article in The New York Times indicated that people who see their occupations as an opportunity to serve their immediate community find more meaning in their work. I can attest to this, and while I may not have reaped financial rewards, I feel fortunate that I get to work on client projects and socially-minded initiatives on a daily basis which has given me a deep sense of satisfaction.
ARE THERE SPECIAL CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES IN PURSUING THESE GOALS IN 2017?
Design has traditionally been a service industry. As the creative professions evolve in the 21st century and as the lines between the silos of the profession blur, the range of what design has to offer is becoming more expansive. As the world seems to devolve on a daily basis into one grim situation after another, many creative professionals are looking to incorporate socially-minded activity into the work they do. How we do this can be challenging as there is no set career path. Pro-bono work, while admirable, is not sustainable over the long term.
I see this as a wonderful opportunity to re-define how we as designers contribute to social change. We can develop new models of working, bringing our skills as strategic problem solvers to a range of issues. This means that we often have to make it up as we go along, finding new ways to engage with potential clients by demonstrating the value of design or taking an entrepreneurial approach and creating our own projects and programs to address the social issues we are passionate about.