Design Champions: 3 ways design is creating impact around the world


Caroline Bartlett

Research Executive, London

Categories Blog Design Champions

Given our design specialism, a love of thoughtful and inspiring creativity runs deep at The Big Picture. Our eyes light up when we see ideas brought to life in smart and impactful ways. We often come across great examples of the power of design, particularly its ability to hold a mirror to society, so we wanted to share a few of our team’s recent highlights from around the world.

The Big Picture’s Vickie Landell-Mills, James Murray and Caroline Bartlett introduce you to their Design Champions 

Despite big shifts in the awareness of historical exploitation and environmental impact of the global coffee industry, can ethical and sustainability messaging always be trusted?

Phyllis Johnson is a coffee industry titan who noticed throughout her career how POC workers were excluded from the top of the coffee industry chain, but make up almost all of the farmers and growers. She started the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity to combat this disparity and empower the producers.

As such, the brand have skilfully deployed a deeply impactful design language to suit such a powerful mission. A bold, modern execution is saturated in both ecological and cultural meaning. Colour tones beautifully reference the natural ripening coffee cherries. Typefaces effectively evoke Civil Rights protest signs of the 1960s and 70s. 

Design Director at ThoughtMatter, Wednesday Krus, responsible both for this work and as their raison d’être explains that 2022 will be about subversion.

Much like Brutalism was a disruptive reaction to the over-designed, over-analysed designs of the generation before – a style born to evoke bold reactions – 2022 will move from disrupting to transforming […] Subversive design asks for an action and demands participation. It begs you to question your own practice as a designer or as a user. It also steps away from dark patterns, aggressive persuasion and dishonest branding. It will no longer cut it to design with the intent of contesting or rejecting popular opinion.

Wednesday Krus

Can such an ‘everyday’ product honour society’s ‘everyday’ heroes?

In recognition of the courage and strength of frontline workers throughout Covid, PepsiCo China teamed up with People’s Daily to launch the new “Salute Our Heroes” campaign. 

These new limited edition Pepsi cans feature 4 key heroes (medical officers, delivery-persons, volunteers & front line workers) who stand front and centre. Depicted in an intentionally vivid, illustrative style to command the respect they deserve.

The newspaper typesetting-look is a clever, and stylish choice – it features bold headlines from People’s Daily reporting that touch the heart of consumers, telling the brave story of our heroes, for example: “None Are Born Brave, Yet We Choose Not to Fear,”. 

All this culminates in a modern and highly emotional visual language blurring the lines between pack design and cultural art capturing the mood of our time

And finally, what does ‘waste’ actually mean? Could a societal redefining of the term help to save the planet?

During our recent visit to the Waste Age exhibition at The Design Museum (London), local designer James Shaw’s work particularly struck a chord.

His work is a great example of mixing playfulness with purpose, and uncovers the transformative potential of scrap materials and our relationship with them.

An environmental interest, fostered throughout his life and honed through economical necessity in college, now manifests in his material of choice. ‘Useless’ plastic waste is remodelled into ‘useful’ everyday objects. The up-cycled aesthetic and bright colours give a sense of childlike wonder and wistful naivety to his work. As the world reimagines our relationship with waste, the lifecycle of products is less and less linear. Shaw’s work raises questions around the fundamental value of the products and materials around us – if something can be repurposed, can it truly be called waste?

It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by Gemma Curtin, curator of The Waste Age at the Design Museum, who has said:

We must face the problem of waste – we can no longer ignore what happens to things when we get rid of them. Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end life, they can have many lives.

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These ‘Champions’ show us the innate power of design to unify, rise up and invoke change in both mindsets and behaviours. We encourage you to have a think as your week progresses, who might be your Design Champion?