About a month ago, The Huffington Post published an interview with me with the hopes of getting to know the background story of my business, a verynice design studio, because we had just hit our first major milestone: 100 pro-bono clients. Funny enough, towards the end of the interview, the discussion shifted gears and started relating, in a more specific sense, to my thesis and research interests of diegetic business.
An Xiao Mina: Tell me a little about how you’ve worked to create in-house design firms as well.
Matthew Manos: Marketing and design are crucial assets to any businesses, but especially non-profits due to the necessity of engaging an audience in order to spread awareness around a cause, or build trust in order to raise donations or recruit volunteers. Now a very problematic aspect of working with a non-profit client on a pro-bono basis is a lack of sustainability — just launching a brand or website really is not enough, and can lack the consistency in brand awareness and marketing tactics that are necessary in sustaining a successful social enterprise or non-profit organization.
We have worked with numerous non-profit organizations such as The $100 Solution and Youth Leadership America to contribute to not only the design of their promotional materials and branding, but to the design of their business model by incorporating marketing divisions and building teams / filling the seats for those positions for these organizations.
These two organizations as well as other small non-profits we have done this for are now able to sustain themselves with the help of these designed divisions within their existing infrastructures.
AXM: It’s easy to see how an organization focused on social action might want to pour more resources toward fundraising, or programmatic operations. Can a design team also play a role in the bigger picture of a nonprofit?
MM: Yes. The role of a designer is changing — the overall process of a design project (conceptualization, prototyping, execution, iteration, feedback) is synonymous to that of an entrepreneur. Designers have a natural ability to understand systems, and to (most importantly) find the gaps or voids within those systems. Designers understand the importance of “user” feedback and are in a constant working cycle of iteration.
All of these qualities make a designer an ideal leader, if they want to. Now this is not a new idea, *design-thinking*, but I think there have been a lot of missed opportunities to guide entrepreneurs and designers in both the conceptual phase (anomalous object), and in the implementation phase (solid object).