The world’s most talented designers are inspiring others, provoking change, and even saving lives for nonprofits. In my new series Designing for Good, we’ll chat with these innovators about their inspirations, challenges, and favorite tools. In this episode, we’re talking with Josh Tabb and Pratima Mani of Malaria No More in New York City.
WHAT DO BOTH OF YOU DO AT MALARIA NO MORE?
Pratima: I’m the Graphic Designer. So, I design all of our in-house print and web-content, including proposals, email templates, social media posts, logos, invites, everything.
Josh: I’m the Digital Strategist, which means I am in charge of everything that touches the internet. I usually don’t create the UI, design or do development myself, but am in charge of concept and strategy.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST INTERESTING PROJECT AT MNM?
Josh: Its 100% the Power of One website. This was very different from the typical nonprofit websites that I’ve worked on. With a hard focus on conversions (donations), and a more interactive and advanced fundraising toolset made available to all Power of One members, we had to make a strong shift from information design to user experience design. It’s a very different line of thinking, and in this case, much more rewarding.
Pratima: Designing the collateral for our MNM’s International Honors in November was a pretty intensive project because it covered everything from the invite collateral, appeals material, web-promo-content, slides, program book, banners. It was nice to design the whole package.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE DESIGN PROCESS?
Pratima: Although my role is mainly executional, there’s usually a little bit of room for concepting in the initial stages of any design, which is fun because that’s the time to take more risks. Even if we don’t go in those directions, the challenge of figuring out how to push something new whilst staying true to our voice is enjoyable.
Josh: I’m most intrigued by the evolution of an idea. You need to be open to new ideas and willing to let go of what’s in your brain, so open mindedness is key. I’m also a big fan of the teamwork that oftentimes goes into design. But everyone knows that too many cooks in the kitchen can be a dangerous situation.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO FEEL CREATIVE?
Josh: I was recently inspired by Kickstarter’s 2013 Year in Review, and I’ve had a lot of ideas related to their design. I also read up on a lot of web design blogs, which explain the things you might already be seeing but help identify what’s working and what’s not.
Pratima: I mostly just collect things as I come across them, whether it’s invites or postcards or screenshots or menus. That being said, I do like looking at illustrative type because it gets me out of the vector headspace which is refreshing. I also have a picture of Richard Armitage with photoshopped cats up by my desk.
WHAT’S ONE DESIGN DECISION WHICH MADE A DIFFERENCE AT MNO?
Josh: The move to responsive web design was a major upgrade for us. On top of the fact that more than 40% of our website visits are on a mobile or tablet device, many of our stakeholders look at our stuff on the go. Mobile isn’t the future anymore; it’s the painstakingly obvious present.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN DESIGNING FOR MNM?
Pratima: A big design challenge, which we’re in the process of tackling, is standardizing our guidelines regarding style, voice, tone, etc. An unrelated challenge, but a perennial one nonetheless, is getting used to very rapid turnaround times for designs. Sometimes you’ll get an emergency brief that needs to be delivered on in a few hours. It’s just the nature of the workflow.
Josh: Collecting good photography. Storytelling is one of the most important ways for us to spread awareness about the threat of malaria, and pictures are invaluable when it comes to telling a good story. We have been lucky enough to work with an amazing photographer named Esther Havens. However, getting good, quality pictures of the day-to-day work on the ground in Africa is a definite challenge.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR DESIGN IS SUCCESSFUL?
Josh: There are lots of ways to measure design success, but as a digital strategist, it’s easy for me to quantify success with analytics (Google Analytics and Facebook Insights). For example, when we launched the redesign of MalariaNoMore.org, we immediately saw our web traffic to donations conversion rate more than double. On the old website, the donation page was a bit difficult to find, but the new design gave the donate button clear visibility and attention.
Pratima: It’s less technical for me. I just feel warm and fuzzy inside when a design works out.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING FOR MNM?
Josh: That’s easy. There’s nothing more enjoyable than going home at night and knowing your efforts are helping those in need, and oftentimes even saving lives. It’s a feeling we hope to share through our Power of One campaign, every dollar given provides a malaria test and life-saving treatment for a child in Zambia.
Pratima: The people are nice. That’s such a trite answer, I know. But it’s true. If you’re going to be collaborating, debating design, getting feedback, going through what sometimes feels like a billion iterations of something with a group of people every day, it really helps if you get along.
WHY SHOULD A DESIGNER CONSIDER DESIGNING FOR A NONPROFIT?
Pratima: More often than not, you’re designing in a non-design environment, so you have to care about the end destination of your work, and be comfortable with it serving something larger than itself.
Josh: On top of the obvious reasons involved in the rewarding nature of the work, designers are highly valued at nonprofit organizations. Not many nonprofits are lucky enough to have someone with that skillset in their office, which is really unfortunate because the way good design can elevate nonprofit work is absolutely incredible. Pratima is a fan favorite around our office, and it’s only partly because she tells good jokes.
Do you have a designer or organization you’d like us to profile for #DesigningForGood? Please share below.