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The designer’s guide to working with charities

Vala Petursdottir, digital product and service designer at Cast, discusses the barriers between designers and charities and how a set of guiding principles could make the sector better for everyone.

Have you ever been in the position where you love your job and what you do but you’ve sometimes wished that the project you were working on had more meaning? Well, I certainly have.

Then when we finally get the chance to work on a project for a charity, for example, we find ourselves in a position where the agency and charity are not operating on the same rhythm. Often a charity’s work is applaudable, but it has a very old-school internal structure, and it just doesn’t seem to blend very smoothly with an agile agency working environment.

So it seems from the start we’re not really speaking the same language. This can happen with any client but it seems particularly apparent when working with a nonprofit organisation. Charities are addressing real problems that we would all love to help them with, but the collaboration is far from easy.

Remember the moment when you learned about user-centred design? Being able to use design skills to make services and experiences better for the people using them… I mean where do I sign up? Most services in the private sector have known about this for sometime now, and some charities know this and are doing it well, but the rest are lagging behind. There are thousands of overworked people in the charity sector closing their eyes to digital because they feel they don’t need yet another thing on their already endless to-do list. They’re missing out on small things that can be achieved. They need to become responsive organisations, but it’s not always simple to balance user needs with the social needs they’ve been set up to address.

We can’t just go up to charities and say that we will help and build some complicated digital product, hand it over and feel good about ourselves. We know that it takes a whole company to take care of a good digital product and a charity often doesn’t have the resources, time, or understanding of what’s needed. We need to ask questions before we start working if we want to create a viable and sustainable solution for them.

How about sharing what we know by teaching our ways of working, so that they understand why we do and make decisions the way we do? Imagine the charities using design methods in reaching out to their service users. I mean, is that not ten times more valuable than some app that will be floating around in the black hole of the App Store in a few months time?

I’ve recently joined a charity called Cast, which is transforming the nonprofit sector’s approach to digital service delivery by embedding these design methods into charities. Through working hands-on with hundreds of charities over the last three years, Cast has found that while they have excellent understanding of the complex issues they’re trying to solve, charities generally don’t have the “test and learn” culture of speaking to users directly, observing them in context, or making quick, cheap prototypes to test things out with them. We designers haven’t always been working in this way either but we know it’s a hell of a lot nicer than being micro-managed by some random client, because when we start making decisions based on real data and feedback, we know we’re on the right track and not just shooting an arrow in the dark.

Together with charities and funders, we’ve been working on a set of design principles to help them build better digital services that improve the lives of their service users. We recently hosted the launch of the first version, which you can check out at “BetterDigital.Services”:https://betterdigital.services/. They include tasks like “start with user needs and keep them involved”, “build digital services not websites”, “build for sustainability” and “build the right team”. (That last principle, by the way, includes how charities work with designers and tech partners, and Cast has crowdsourced a tool called Conversation Menu to help these relationships be more productive.)

This is nothing new – we’ve all seen all sorts of principles before, but these are designed specifically for UK charities’ needs, language and practice. It’s a starting point for them so it doesn’t all seem so daunting.

They are a work in progress and we’ll be refining them over the coming months, so if you have any feedback or opinions please get in touch. We’d also love to hear stories of the design community using these principles in their work with charities, so if you have any, please send them to [email protected] We hope it’s helpful for any of you that are looking into working more in this space; together I’m pretty sure we can make it better.

Read more about the project’s progress so far here. If you’re a digital designer looking to donate your skills for a good cause, Yellow Team is an organisation that connects charities and non-profits with creative volunteers from the digital community.

Cast-digital-design-principles-charities-itsnicethat
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Earlier this month, Coca-Cola announced it would produce its first ever alcoholic drink, an alco-pop to be launched solely in Japan. The idea is to tap into the lucrative market for chu-hi, canned fizzy drinks given a kick with a local spirit called shochu. The world’s largest soft drinks company making its move into this sector is significant, and symbolic of many other western brands trying their luck in the Asian alcohol world where huge brands such as Asahi, Kirin and Suntory already have a presence. But how do you design the branding and packaging for a product aimed at a firmly established market on the other side of the world, as well as back home? Here to enlighten us is Dylan Griffith, co-founder of Cardiff and Amsterdam-based design studio Smörgåsbord, which recently collaborated on the creation of the first European-made soju, Wihayo.

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In the month of the World Cup, we’re excited to have Felicia Pennant, founder and editor-in-chief of "_Season
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It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch shines a light on 12 emerging talents who we think will conquer the creative world in 2018. From a global pool of creative talent, we have chosen our 2018 Ones To Watch for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work across a diverse range of disciplines. Each of our selections continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible with their creative output. Ones to Watch 2018 is supported by Uniqlo.

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“I draw a lot of what I see in my mind. I usually express things that I can’t say or write. For example, weakness or negative emotions,” explains Seoul-based illustrator Nano. Having previously worked at a company designing game graphics, she’s now a freelance illustrator, filling her time by “projecting life and what I feel into paintings”.

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Folch-braulio-amado-graphic-design-itsnicethat-list-alt Work / Graphic Design Folch and Bráulio Amado's identity for Barcelona Design Week sheds light on issues of consumption

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Chrismaggio-photography-itsnicethat-list Work / Photography Chris Maggio's oxymoronic series The New Age of The New Age in Arizona

Wellness eh? Is it for real? Is it a joke? Is coconut water actually just gross? In our age of sharing every minute detail of our lives online, it feels like everyone is looking after themselves so successfully it’s envy-inducing, following a routine of cold press juices and hot yoga. The accompaniment to this is the concept of “finding yourself” which is warping into a new kind of spiritual group, using methods of 1970s New Age spiritual and religious beliefs but in a current age where switching off means that your smartphone is most definitely still on.

Soufianeababri-art-itsnicethat-list Work / Art Soufiane Ababri's vibrant drawings are driven by political activism

Soufiane Ababri is tired of the status quo. Angry at society’s underlying racist, sexist, homophobic and transphobic biases, Soufiane’s work is characterised by a political agency. The Tangier-born artist has been living in France for the past 14 years since studying at the National School of Decorative Arts and completing a master’s at Lyon’s School of Fine Arts. “My drawings tell the stories of the communities in which I belong. I am a homosexual North African immigrant who is part of a small middle class in a postcolonial generation. My experiences are central to my drawings and I hope they can highlight some of society’s stigmas,” Soufiane tells us.

Main_ident_724 Regulars / The Graduates 2018 Apply for The Graduates 2018, now open to global applicants for the first time!

Each year as university graduates hand in their final assignments, begin building degree shows and place orders for their cap and gowns, we have our own graduation class too. The It’s Nice That Graduates celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, and if you have graduated or are graduating from an undergraduate creative course (bachelor’s or equivalent) in 2018 we want to hear from you!

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Penguin has released an animated trailer by one of It’s Nice That’s Graduates 2017 Katy Wang, bringing to life the opening story from Yrsa Daley-Ward’s memoir, The Terrible. The book by the London-based poet, model, actor and leading LGBTQ+ voice succeeds her acclaimed debut, a self-published collection of poetry titled Bone, and tells the story of her heritage and upbringing.

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Whether you’re hitting up grad shows or making the most of longer days taking in one of the plethora of inspiring new shows opening for summer, June is the perfect time to broaden your cultural peripherals. From the V&A’s blockbuster Frida Kahlo show to a design summer school in Galway, there’s truly something for everyone. The It’s Nice That editorial team has picked out ten, five in the UK and five around the world, to help you choose.h3. Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing and Vanessa Winship: And Time Folds
22 June – 2 September 2018
The Barbican, London

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