As principal of Worldstudio, designer Mark Randall has done branding and design for everyone from JP Morgan to Estée Lauder. But on the side he's also managed a design scholarship program that has awarded $700,000 in college money to 500 students, published a magazine about artists and designers who were doing socially responsible work, and launched a mentoring program with AIGA for New York inner city high schools. When he looked to merge those two practices, he said at last weekend's Y Conference, he realized he could help teach other companies how to incorporate socially-responsible programs into their corporate ethos at the same time.
Randall added a new partner, Andrea Pellegrino, and launched Design Ignites Change this month, a new initiative that hopes to prove not only that designers can make a living by working for social causes, but also that corporations can advance causes much faster and more efficiently than non-profits alone. For its first project, Design Ignites Change partnered with creative software company Adobe for a project where they'll teach design thinking to underserved high school youth as a way to affect social change. "The students are encouraged to develop actual projects that are visible in, and beneficial to, their local communities," said Randall.
Previously, Worldstudio had a pretty great track record with connecting companies and causes. You may have also seen their project with Times Square Alliance (the company that runs everything in Times Square from the New Year's Eve ball drop to initiatives like Design Times Square), that wanted to do something that promoted Times Square's commitment to greening itself. The Urban Forest Project recruited designers to create banners around the theme of sustainability that went up in Times Square and were then recycled into totebags by Kate Spade. The idea has taken root, so to say, and now it's going global, to Baltimore, Denver, Albuquerque, San Francisco, L.A., Istanbul, Africa, and more.
Some companies have been working this way for years, said Pellegrino, American Express, for example, has social responsibility entrenched in its business model since the 1980s. But as more companies are finding that this concept should be an important part of their work, many don't know where to start; similarly, causes already in action could use a burst of resources and high-profile marketing (as well as potential funding) that come with being partnered with a national company. "This shouldn't be like separation of church and state," Pellegrino said, describing the traditional relationship between corporations and social responsibility. If you're itching to get your corporation involved, they've already got plenty of projects rolling that need smart companies to partner with...maybe even yours?