Sarah Williams


Outside of running an agency, my other passion is running in the woods. When you are out there it gives you time to absorb the beauty of our world, and realize our fragile place in it. A few weeks ago I came face to face with a bear, alone. One “mama bear” to another. Having an existential moment like this is a powerful reminder that we have one life and one chance to make in impact.

One thing that I’ve always found to be true is that big creative ideas come from defining big challenges. This is how we illuminate the possibilities, and how transformative design takes root. Start from a place of listening, empathy and collaboration to build together — then “go big” and make it real.

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

Step inside the “Invisible Worlds” exhibit at American Museum of Natural History, and you are immersed in the interconnectedness of all biological life. As humans we all share 99.9% of the same DNA. Zoom out from all the design deadlines, products, and profits — and there is a clear “WHY” — we all depend on each other to survive and thrive.

Like everything else, brands must adapt (or die). Co-creating with brand communities, and fluid innovation is a must. The “top down” approach is no longer viable.

Beyond that I’ve had the honor to work with some incredible organizations that are true champions of social responsibility.

Enterprise Community Partners is the nation’s largest non-profit working to solve the crisis of affordable housing. We dove deep with them to relaunch their identity. In order to succeed, the expression needed to be emotional and speak to systemic barriers. We created the brand idea “Home is where life happens, where plans are made and futures begin.”

In my work as Vice President of Programming with AIGA New York, our mission is to “Champion the Future of Design for All” and ensure we are creating a platform and space for elevating new voices in our industry, and advocating for transparency.

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

The clock is ticking, and the world of consumer brands has cracked open, creating the opportunity to re-examine everything from the messaging, imagery, and the materials used. From our work with global brands including Danone, Colgate, and Hyatt — we see there is a greater sense of urgency to tackle big challenges. When companies of this scale make investments in being socially responsible, it moves the needle forward significantly — paving the way and putting pressure on their peers to do the same. It requires us all to keep asking the tough questions, and defining challenges to be solved, that keeps the momentum going forward.