Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Canadian Brand Proves Generic Packaging Can Be Beautiful

"No Name (or Sans Nom, this is Canada), the private label of the Toronto-based grocery chain Loblaw, has found a way to both stand out on shelves and provide a service to smart shoppers with simple, clean design that hardly anyone could quibble about." (GOOD newsletter Oct.)

While this new design has proved to be effective in increasing sales and creating brand recognition among Canadian consumers, I am not quite sure that I agree that this packaging is "beautiful". The packaging definitely stands out, making it easy to find and it seems to scream "generic and affordable" which is helpful to someone who wants to get in and out of the grocery store without spending too much money. I am just not sure I want my food packaging to scream out to me or practically glow in the dark from my pantry.

I really do like the use of Helvetica and the layout of the type. The clean and simple design is attractive but that radio active yellow is what I find disturbing. It's actually making my stomach churn. I want to think that I am eating something somewhat healthy even if it is generic and cheap. Perhaps a different color could achieve the same effect without being so in your face.

When I think of successful and appealing food packaging for generic and affordable products, Publix grocery stores come to mind. The packaging is clean, creative, simple and fun. It is easily recognizable, good price and I feel like I am getting a decent product. Look for yourself.

What are your thoughts? Do you think that Loblaw's packaging is beautiful? What other examples of good generic packaging do you know of?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Viktoria Harrison of charity: water Quenches Her Thirst for Philanthropy

I found this article in Fast Company's newsletter on charity: water and Viktoria Harrison, who is responsible for the branding and design of the organization. I find her work and desire to help others as an inspiration!

Viktoria Harrison of charity: water Quenches Her Thirst for Philanthropy

"About Viktoria Harrison: Born in Russia to artist parents, Viktoria moved to Brooklyn as a child. The design darling took a leap of faith by leaving the School of Visual Arts before graduating to work at a Manhattan design house, working for clients like Coke and American Express. Tired of fueling retail desire, Vik joined charity: water and now leads design and branding for the innovative organization."

charity: water

While I was in NY over the summer attending SVA for the Impact! Design for Social Change program, we had the amazing opportunity to visit the charity:water offices. Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water, told us the story of how this organization got started and why. I was both shocked and amazed when I learned about how scarce water is in several parts of the world and the extent to which it affects people's lives. Amazed by the efforts and results charity:water has made.

Basically 1 out of 8 people do not have clean and safe drinking water. This means that they are exposed to all types of diseases that can eventually lead to death. Imagine if you were one of those 8!

Scott and his team do a much better job of explaining the urgent need for water as well as show you the impact that having water has on the people who need it the most. Check out the videos and information throughout the charity:water site.

In the meantime, a big birthday is coming up for me and I could not think of a better way to celebrate it than by helping others. I really have no need for gifts, especially if I end up moving, (more stuff to pack) except for maybe a "happy birthday" and a donation to this cause.

So, I guess I am a little ambitious trying to raise 5,000 from the start, but that is what it takes to build a well for a village. Any donation is welcome. $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years! 

Start donating now! Not for me but for the one out of eight that don't have water.

Thanks for your contributions. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

¡Sí Colaboro!


Project in progress

In Bogotá, Colombia as in many parts of the world, there are children begging on the streets. Many beg because they are being exploited or see it as the only solution to their economic problems. Out of pity or guilt, citizens give money to these children, aggravating the problem instead of helping. ¡Sí Colaboro! (I'll help) is a campaign that educates citizens on why they should not give money and offers a tangible alternative that offers immediate and long-term assistance by directing them to the ¡Sí Colaboro! non-profit resource center. The resource center serves as a link between existing organizations, the children and their families.




A citizen often gives money to a street child out of a sense of guilt or empathy. How do you provide an alternative that meets the needs of both the children and the citizens desire to help? How do we make children and their families aware of the help that already exists and get them to take advantage of these resources?



Create a resource center for street children and their families that matches them up with existing service organizations. Have a mobilized team that reaches out to these children to bring information directly to them. Design a campaign for citizens encouraging them to give food with an informational sticker on it.


This project, as well as many others designed to improve people's lives, can be seen on the Design Ignites Change website. For more information on this project contact me at

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Enterprise Community Partners

Enterprise Community Partners is a national non-profit organization and leading provider of capital and expertise for affordable housing and community development.

Their mission is "create opportunity for low- and moderate-income people through fit, affordable housing and diverse, thriving communities."

The company has developed a Green Communities program that operates nationwide developed specifically for affordable housing. "We focus on the use of environmentally sustainable materials, reduction of negative environmental impacts and increased energy efficiency. And we emphasize designs and materials that safeguard the health of residents and locations that provide easy access to services and public transportation."

Through the Impact! Design for Social Change program at the School of Visual Arts, our group was assigned to help Enterprise Green Communities solve the following challenge:

After visiting two buildings that were in the process of becoming Green Communities, speaking to many of the tenants, and sending out a survey, it became clear that the tenants had a global view of a green community but were not aware that they were living one or exactly what that entailed.

We spoke to tenants to find out if they were aware of the changes made in their building and what benefits these changes provided. We also asked if they were aware that they lived in what was considered a green community.

After gathering data, the problem became clear. We would not be able to change people's behavior in regards to conserving energy, water, recycling etc because they were disengaged. There was an obvious gap in communication between tenants and Property Managers who were not communicating effectively the changes in the buildings. Efforts had been made but people were not reading the information or it was not enough for the tenants to feel informed.

Tenants were thrilled with some of the obvious changes, like new appliances and kitchens but they did not know exactly why they were getting new items or how they really benefitted from them. Tenants also felt like they were not being heard. Therefore the challenge had to be reframed.

The solution was to focus on improving communication and keeping tenants informed. We proposed a solution that included signage...

that addressed new items in the building such as dimming lights in the hallways to conserve energy, to tips on how to reduce waste like signing up to stop receiving junk mail. The signage was created in a very simple format that could easily be reproduced and changed into another language.

Another part of the solution is for Enterprise Green Communities, the CDCs and Property Managers of the building to organize a kick-off event where people would have a chance to gather in a friendly environment and open the paths of communication. The idea is that the CDCs will explain what is happening in each building in cases where remodeling or construction is taking place. They will then talk to tenants about a Green Communities Campaign and selecting a leader to implement this campaign throughout the building.

The leader would serve as an intermediary between tenants and Property Managers which would improve communication since the tenants would now have someone representing them. Having a leader would also diminish the feeling from the tenants of having someone impose something on them.

The Green Communities Leader will be selected through a voting process. Once again a poster was created to be easily customized and edited without the need of having to use a computer or a designer. The candidates can write down their information and provide a photo to be pasted on to the poster.

A toolkit was developed to be given to the leader. The kit provides materials, recommendations and information created to empower the leader and help him implement challenges that will engage the community and encourage them to participate in activities that will improve their environment. These challenges address recycling, reducing energy consumption, etc.

All the templates, posters and signage that were created were intended to be printed on a home or office printer or place like FedEx Kinko's to reduce costs and waste by printing only on an as needed basis. The Property Manager should be able to print materials easily.

Enterprise Green Communities received the proposal enthusiastically and are exploring opportunities to incorporate the suggestions in their final product.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


During the Impact! Design for Social Change program, we had the opportunity to meet several designers professionals and innovators in the fields of social change and different fields of design.

On one occasion, we headed to the meat packing district to meet with Giuseppe Lignano of LOT-EK, a design studio that is recognized mostly for their architectural designs created out of objects that originally intended for another use. LOT-EK "upcycles" instead of recycles objects by using pieces that already exist and incorporating them into their designs for another use rather than decompose them to their original state and then transform them into something else. The company has a strong emphasis on conserving materials and energy by coming up with innovative solutions.

"LOT-EK has achieved high visibility in the architecture/design/art world for its sustainable and innovative approach to construction, materials and space through the adaptive reuse of existing industrial object and systems not originally intended for architecture. LOT-EK is also recognized for the use of technology as an integral part of architecture, for addressing issues of mobility and transformability in architecture and for blurring the boundaries between art, architecture and entertainment. Its projects are published in national and international publications, magazines and books, including The New York Times, The London Times, Herald Tribune, The Wall Street journal, Wallpaper, Domus, A+U, Interior Design, Wired, Surface, Metropolis, Vogue, Graphis and more. LOT-EK’s first monograph, URBANSCAN, was published by PAP in February 2002. LOT-EK MIXER, by Edizioni Press, came out in 2000 and MDU Mobile Dwelling Unit, published by DAP, came out in June 2003."

Taken from SVA website

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Action Center to End World Hunger

Once again, I am somewhat behind on my blog but I wanted to share my experience with Mercy Corps and Ed Schlossberg last Monday. Our class headed down to Battery Park to visit the Action Center to End World Hunger which was developed for Mercy Corps by Ed Schlossberg's design firm ESI Design.

"Mercy Corps works amid disasters, conflicts, chronic poverty and instability to unleash the potential of people who can win against nearly impossible odds." Their Action Center was created to educate and empower visitors by allowing them to experience many of the challenges faced worldwide via interactive programs. The center consists of several stations that inform the visitor and then encourage an inmediate call to action by providing ways of helping if you only have a few minutes, days, weeks or years to contribute and help the cause.

I ended up giving "one minute of my time" by becoming a fan of Mercy Corp via facebook but there are many other simple ways in which we can help. I intend to go revisit their site and make a more substantial contribution and so can you.

Ed Schlossberg and Michelle Milleneux explained to us the thought process behind creating the Action Center and Ed walked us through many of the stations to show how each one worked and the problem that it addressed. Perhaps, what I found most interesting is that he mentioned that the aim was "less education, more action". I guess sometimes we get bogged down in trying to educate everyone that we forget to create important and effective solutions that will engage us and cause to act right away.

I was also very interested in the comment made by Robert Sherman's, Executive Director of the Action Center, where he mentioned that Mercy Corps sees each country's instability as an opportunity for grass roots efforts to rise. I couldn't agree with him more. It is the challenges that force us to think differently and come up with solutions that probably hadn't been though of in the past. It also forces those who had left the problems for others to resolve, to take action and ownership of the problem. I was also happy to hear a comment that emphasized positive thinking rather than that of defeat.

NOTE: My camera's battery had died and I had to find a replacement for the charger, therefore I was unable to take photos for several days. Peyton, who is also participating in this course, has taken some great shots and is sharing them along with her experiences on her blog She has been very gracious in allowing me to post some of her photos on my blog as well.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum

I am trying to keep up with the posts while trying to read several books, attend classes, write elevator speeches and think about my Big Idea. It has been a challenge but here we go.

The Impact! Design for Social Change class visited the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum last week. The museum currently has their National Design Triennial on display. This year, the curators and collaborators decided to theme the exhibition and focus on the work of designers who are addressing human and environmental issues in the fields of architecture, fashion, furniture, etc. Cynthia Smith, one of the curators, showed us around the exhibit and gave us a brief explanation of some of the projects.

I was surprised to find that one of the projects on display included a map of Colombia highlighting Medellin and many of the new buildings that have been built in the past few years. There was also a model of the library and several photos showing the community making use of these public spaces. The buildings were built to address the problem of violence and lack of community in the poorest areas of Medellin. The schools, library, metro cable and other buildings have not only made education more accessible to many but they have also been beautifully designed and they create an environment that the people of Medellin can be proud of.


Another project shown in this exhibition is this 88 unit affordable housing complex near Madrid, Spain. The Carabanchel Social Housing building opens up to a garden on one side and a public park on the other. The facade of the building is ever changing since it is made up of bamboo shutters that tenants can open or close as they please. 

The NYC Hoop Rack is an item that is on display and one that many of us have seen and will be seeing throughout NY. These minimalist designed bike racks are being installed around the city in order to encourage people to ride their bikes as a main form of transportation in urban areas. Not only do they provide security from having our bikes stolen but they look great too.

To see the rest of the designs on display, visit

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Art of Possibility

Last week in our Fundraising class, we watched this inspiring and entertaining video of Benjamin Zander giving a lecture at a PopTech. Mr. Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philarmonic Orchestra and has also written a book with his wife Rosamund Zander called The Art of Possibility. In this video, he speaks about some of the points in his book, like giving everyone an "A" from the start. I read the book a few years ago and highly recommend it. The information in the book was very useful on a daily basis but also had great insight that was helpful when working in a sometimes limited environment such as a non-profit organization and helping see beyond those limitations.

PopTech : Popcasts : Benjamin Zander - PopTech 2008

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lecture with Milton Glaser

Last week we had the great privilege of attending a lecture by Milton Glaser. Those of you who do not know who he is, may recognize him as the designer of the "I (heart) New York" logo (below). He shared his experiences and his work related to the non-profit and or social fields (more examples below). It was a truly entertaining lecture and Q&A session and it was inspiring to see someone who has the ability to choose exactly the work he wants to do!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Recommended Reading for Big Idea

One of the classes we are taking is called the Big Idea with Bob McKinnon. The purpose of this class is to give us the opportunity to work as entrepeneurs in social change. Each one of us has to think of what it is that we want to change and why as well determine what the barriers will be and how to overcome them. The idea also needs to be sustainable.

These are some of the questions to consider:
What are we changing?
Who is doing the changing?
How will it work?

I will be honest, at this point I have several ideas but am having a hard time narrowing down the problem and thinking of ways to make it work. I am hoping that by the end of this week, my Big Idea will be clear.

In the meantime, Bob has recommended several books that so far I have found to be very informative and fun to read.

Here are some from the list:

Nudge, Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness
by Richard Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford