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Do It Better: Design for Social Impact

A year ago, I began my UX/UI design bootcamp at Designation. On our first day, our community director gathered all the eager, anxious students and handed us each an index card. He then told us to map out our goals for the program, and where we envisioned ourselves to be once it ended. I remember having a million thoughts, and wanting to write it all on that small piece of paper. But I ended up just jotting down two things: 1)I wanted to work in an agency or consultancy, and 2) I wanted to work in the nonprofit or social impact scene. I knew I wanted to design for good and design for social impact. 

Polarizing Choices

At first, I was a little worried about the polarity of my choices. I’ve always imagined design agencies to be a grindhouse where work was endlessly churned out at a rapid, unrelenting pace. A place where business goals and profitability reigned supreme, and your own physical and mental wellbeing came second to the overall health of a project.

The first part of what I thought of as agency life wasn’t what scared me. It was what I actually found appealing. I craved a fast-paced, highly collaborative setting and I knew that kind of environment would foster my growth as a designer the most. It was the latter that I was wary of. Maybe I’m a little bit of hippy, or naive, or potentially both. But, what I knew deep down inside was that I wanted to be driven by purpose and that’s why I was drawn to the design for social impact sphere. Helping others and giving back to the community has always been an integral part of my life.

Wanting to work in a place that met both my desires seemed like an unattainable fairytale. Surely, I’d have to sacrifice one or the other for my next role. And after interviewing with several companies, I felt like I would have to compromise. Then one day, an alumni from my program posted about this “awesome” UX agency that was both a B-Corp and woman owned on Slack. In that spur of the moment, I decided to take a gamble and apply. Thus launching my career with LimeRed.

A Gratifyingly Imperfect Experience

Working in design for social impact has been one of the most gratifying experiences that I’ve endured so far. Like any other work place though, it does have its challenges and frustrations, but the good far outweighs the bad. Here are some reasons why I’m grateful for choosing to be in the social impact sector versus corporate:

1. Mission driven passion

Without a doubt, one of my favorite reasons for being at LimeRed are the people and organizations we get to work with. Our clients are pursuing causes they vehemently believe in, and they do so with such an infectious joy – they are true designers of social impact. They know that if their product falters, there’ll be groups of unheard and marginalized people who’ll be left without an organization that champions their needs. It is that admirable fight for the betterment of underprivileged individuals that serves as a driving force of inspiration for the team and I.

2. Pace and Soul

I knew I wanted a fast-paced environment. It’s an added bonus that I not only get to have that pace, but that it’s also fulfilling. For example, one of the favorite things that we do at LimeRed is our immersive program. We tailored this service for nonprofits who can’t afford our full sprints, but meet a list of prerequisites. After four to five full day sessions, they will have a fully built out site. It’s a challenging experience that requires our team to move quickly and efficiently. Working in such close quarters with our clients throughout those sessions is what I love the most. Seeing in person that their faces are full of excitement and awe as we design and build their website during those sessions makes the whole experience worth it.

Know Thyself

Deciding to forgo a corporate setting was not an easy choice. There were concerns from those close to me that choosing the corporate route might be more profitable. However, in the end I knew the decision I made was the right one. If you’re in a similar position, and you’re trying to decide between making that shift, here are some tips to help you make your choice:

1. Know your values

One key exercise we did at Designation was to map out our values in a document. It wasn’t just a quick list, but our community director urged us to give some real thought about what we valued most in the next position we took. It was that exercise that helped me solidify my desire to help others, as well as the kind of work environment I was looking for. Knowing what I valued gave me a center to go back to when evaluating opportunities.

2. Desires vs values

Differentiating between what you desire and what you value is key in assessing if a transition to nonprofit is for you. Desires are fleeting, which means that some of it can be sacrificed. A set of core values, however, will be carried over from different phases of your life. It will be the guiding principles of all the facets of your being rather than just your career. That’s why it’s important to define them, and not to waver on those values

Being able to design for social impact at LimeRed has been truly a dream job. I wake up excited to hit the ground running. I encourage designers to explore their values and live their passion.

Interested in learning more about what we do at LimeRed? Check out our work.