biz ladiesLife & BusinessPodcastsradio

After the Jump: How Design Can Change The World

by Grace Bonney

This week marks the the 85th episode of After the Jump and the last show before our radio station takes a quick summer break to gear up for fall programming. So I wanted to dedicate this show to a topic that is not only applicable to anyone in the creative community, but one that sends us off on a note that inspires further thinking, collaboration and ultimately, action.

For some people, myself included, the desire to do good and make a bigger difference in the world can be hard to juxtapose with our desire to create beautiful objects, whether they’re paintings, pottery or a brand new website. The art and design community at large is sometimes dismissed as nonessential because, in the bigger sense of survival and meeting your basic life requirements like water, food and shelter, most of us aren’t producing things on a daily basis that change those survival essentials for people around the world.

But while there are indeed parts of design that aren’t tied to everyday survival, there are so many parts that are. From product designers making water filtration devices for people without clean drinking water sources to graphic designers and illustrators creating artwork for nonprofit groups that need help raising awareness, there are an infinite number of ways that the skills, passion and vision of the creative community can be used to do good.

So for today’s show, I want to walk through some of the ways artists and designers are giving back to the world, talk to a few people who are making it a part of their daily life and break down the steps that all of us can follow to use your creative abilities to do good in the world. I’m pleased to be joined on-air for this episode with two incredibly talented women who have made giving back a big part of their professional life, Dawn Hancock of Firebelly Design and graphic designer Sharlene King. Their ideas inspired me so much and I know their examples will be a great inspiration for anyone else who’s been wanting to find a way to use their design skills to give back to those in need. [Painting above by the talented Zoe Pawlak] xo, grace

*I also wanted to point out cause/affect, a biennial, international design competition that celebrates the work of designers and organizations who set out to positively impact our society. It’s a great list of design studios doing great work.


Click through for a summary of my ideas from the show and a list of just some of the companies mentioned on-air that are using creative talents to help those who need it.

Models of Giving Back

1. Donate a portion of profits or 1-for-1 goods. Some of my favorite examples are: Warby Parker, Toms, Housing Works and Moorea Seal.

2. Donate your time and expertise. Some of my favorite examples are: p:ear in Portland (they mentor homeless youth on creative skills that will serve them in the professional market), Tina Shoulders created Exposure Camp (which teaches students in the Bronx design and art skills and software associated with them) and Dawn Hancock devotes a full year of time and service to a nonprofit or in-need organization through her company Firebelly Design, as well as a scholarship and summer camp to teach young designers.

3. Raise Awareness. Sharlene King, a graphic designer in Chicago, banded together with friends to sell artwork to raise awareness and money for victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

4. Use your art to educate. Artists throughout time have used their work to spread awareness of social issues like Walker Evans, Kara Walker and handmade artists on Etsy like Allison B and Kay Bee Studios.

So How Can We All Get Started?

1. Make a clear list of what you have to offer: time, skills, product, promotion, etc.. This will come in handy when you reach out to people.

2. Research: research the needs not being met in your community and research causes you already care about deeply and organizations or areas that need help.

3. Make a high-low list of ways to help: from something as small as donating a print or piece of artwork to creating a section of your business devoted to helping that cause. Then turn that into smaller goals you can chip away at day by day.

*I find it’s easier to get these big projects off the ground if you team up with someone – plus you double the amount of work you can do and the exposure you can give a cause you care about

4. Reach out! Talk to people/groups/organizations and see what they need. Send them a link to your work and your list of skills/time to offer.

5. Strike out on your own by going through your high-low list and offering to help on your own or to other sites and publications that can help you get the word out.

No matter what field you work in, there is always a way to give back and help people who really need it. Whether you clear aside a few hours a month to do work pro bono for a nonprofit group or commit to donating a more permanent piece of your time and income to giving back, doing work that benefits the greater good always comes with benefits that are hard to find in other places. Not only will you get a chance to use the skills you’ve earned through hard work and have let you pursue your passion, you’ll be showing the world first hand how any individual can take a moment to stand up and do something for their fellow neighbor.

Thank you to Dawn and Sharlene for joining me on today’s show and thank you to everyone out there who is already using their creative skills to make a difference. And to all of you who are about to start and try something that puts your talents to work outside of your normal day-to-day setting, thank you for leading by such a wonderful example.

Suggested For You


  • Congratulations on your 85th show! I can’t wait to listen to this episode when I get home from work. I really appreciate the care and work you put into each peisode of ‘After The Jump’. I always feel inspired (and often am thinking about things a little differently) after I listen. It truly is one of my favourite podcasts.

  • Oh my goodness, I’ll admit that I teared up when I heard you mention my name & the name of my store. Recognition for the mission of my business, what moves my heart beyond anything else just really really means a lot, Grace. Thank you SO much for your mention of our store and the work we are doing to try and give back more and more to others. Really, it’s so moving and encouraging to be mentioned in that way.

    xo Moorea