design

Design for People, Not Brands: TGW’s Lead Designer, Lily, on Representation and Inclusivity

Elements of design surround us and guide us daily, but design can also teach us something about how we process information and the impact it leaves on us. We chatted with TGW’s lead designer, Lily, who has been with the team for over three years. Let’s look at how the design process works in social impact marketing, from concept to finished product.

DM: How do you approach meshing your design ideas while aligning them with the target audience?

LG: A lot of design (and marketing) is psychology. You need to be able to understand your audience’s perspective before even beginning the creative process. Hot take: relating to the audience is far more important than what ‘looks cool.’ It doesn’t matter how groundbreaking your design is; if someone can’t even read the text because it’s too small, you need to reassess your work.

“First, you need to know design rules.”

DM: Can you explain your process for designing that aligns with the client’s brand and marketing goals?

LG: All brands have guidelines you need to follow when it comes to visuals, type, photography, language, etc. First, you need to know those rules. Once you’re creating design concepts, your priorities are brand alignment, clear messaging, and relatability with the audience. Once those boxes are checked, you can inject some variety. Sometimes, design is just figuring out what you can get away with 😉.

DM: Do you have an example of a project where your design significantly contributed to campaign success? 

LG: Well, to begin– anything I make is a result of a team effort. Every project, even if I’m the only one touching it, started as a team conversation and collaboration! I think some amazing projects (and my personal favorites to work on) were with Planned Parenthood. RAE has a special place in my heart and I loved making brand concepts, web mockups,  and illustrations for it—special thanks to Raven, TGW’s web designer, for making that website come to life.

DM: In what ways do you think design influences the overall effectiveness of a marketing strategy for social impact?

LG: Color, type, shape, lines, etc.– they all sound super basic, but with their powers combined? Gasp! They set the tone for the whole campaign. It’s instant, universal communication. It’s your first impression with your audience. If the design is messy or hard to read, people won’t even read what you have to say.

“Design is all about creative problem-solving."

DM: What are some common challenges you face as a designer in social impact marketing, and how do you overcome them?

LG: If I’m being honest, it’s really difficult to find good stock photography! For projects where we aren’t taking our own photos in-house, scouring the internet for anyone except buff, 25-30-year-old, cis, white models can be… disheartening. When I’m having trouble, it can be worth taking a step back and reconsidering: maybe we can crop these photos to make them appropriate? Is there a way illustrations, graphic elements, or typography can communicate this message better? How long have you been searching, and would it be worth asking for help?

DM: How do you continue to develop your skills and stay inspired as a Designer?

LG: Maybe it’s just the stage of life I’m at, but I haven’t been doing much to develop my skills outside of work. But that’s okay. There are more ways than just sketching and freelance work to help you grow. Look beyond that– maybe you’ve been reading more to expand your worldview, or you’ve been surrounding yourself with friends to nourish your heart, or you’re taking a break from the pressure to constantly progress to remember why you’re here at all. It’s essential to be inspired by the every day first, and the work will come after.

Founded in 2012 by Lisa Kribs, TGW Studio is an LGBTQ+/non-binary/women-owned and -operated social impact marketing firm that partners with forward-thinking brands to tell their stories. We’re a full-service marketing firm proudly creating and communicating purposeful experiences for businesses and organizations across sectors and society.

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