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Good Design for Good Reason17:53 with Netta Marshall
Design has the biggest potential for impact in the non-profit space, but much of the world's design power goes elsewhere. In this talk, you'll hear about my experiences designing for good at a non-profit aiming to expand access to healthcare to every person on the planet.
[MUSIC] 0:00 My name is Netta Marshall, and I'm a San Francisco-based UI and visual designer. 0:03 Over my career, I've worked for 0:08 a number of companies ranging from huge corporations to tiny startups. 0:10 And now I lead design for a non-profit called Watsi. 0:16 Watsi is a global crowdfunding platform that allows anyone to donate as 0:20 little as $5 to help fund life changing medical care for people around the world. 0:25 I've always been interested in helping people. 0:30 When I was a kid, my parents tried to make sure I had some general awareness that 0:34 there were people in the world who needed help. 0:38 We would either donate our time to food banks or 0:40 clear out our closets and donate things to charity, and 0:45 the private school that I attended tried to do much of the same. 0:49 We hosted lots of outreach programs. 0:52 We would host bake sales and donate the proceeds to those less fortunate. 0:55 And as a busy adult this desire to do good stuck with me, but 1:00 I unfortunately never made much time for it. 1:04 I remember my very first international trip. 1:09 I was going to Belize for about a week. 1:12 And before leaving, people wished me well. 1:16 They told me to be careful since I was travelling alone. 1:19 And a couple of people told me that rum was cheaper than water, 1:23 which I did not believe for a second. 1:26 I mean, how would that even be true? 1:28 But I got there and, sure enough, water was about half price, 1:30 oh sorry, double the price as a bottle of rum, and I was completely taken aback. 1:37 I mean, I wanted to help the situation somehow, but 1:42 I had no idea where to start or how to help. 1:46 Like most of us, I swiftly got caught up in the whirlwind that is life, and so 1:51 there she fell by the wayside. 1:56 In the spring of 2011, I landed a job at Square on the design team. 1:59 And as part of the on-boarding proces, Jack Dorsey would come by and 2:05 collect $1 form every new hire, and he would use your signature screen and 2:09 your intro and a weekly meeting call Town Square. 2:13 So I was sitting in Town Square, my first Friday at Square and unbeknownst to me, 2:17 I was the one hundredth employee. 2:22 So Jack made a joke that he was coming back at some point for 2:24 his remaining $99 and I blew it off. 2:27 I told him, you know, I have no idea where this money's gonna go, 2:30 you're never gonna get it. 2:32 And he remembered that, and a couple weeks later he showed a video in Town Square 2:35 from charity water, which is where all of the new hire funds are donated to. 2:40 And it outlined that there are over 700 million people in 2:43 the world who don't have access to clean water. 2:48 I was so moved by this video that I even cried a little bit 2:53 into my beer at that Town Square. 2:57 But afterwards, I ran over to Jack and I said, hey, 2:58 I'm gonna donate my remaining $99 and I also gave him a $50 tip. 3:01 >> [LAUGH]. 3:07 >> Moving on from Square, I worked for Audio for about a year, and 3:09 then I freelanced for a little bit, and it was then that I 3:12 realized just how magical of a place San Francisco and Silicon Valley is. 3:16 I mean if I want someone to come to my house and 3:20 install a shelving system, I can have that. 3:24 If I want all of my groceries delivered to my front door, I can have that. 3:28 With the press of a button on my phone I can have a car show up and 3:34 take me anywhere I wanna go. 3:38 If I want someone to come to my house pick up my dirty laundry, 3:41 bring back my laundry neatly folded in a box, I can have that. 3:47 In many ways, San Francisco is a place where ideas for the privileged are bred. 3:52 But, what about those who aren't so lucky? 3:59 Design has the biggest potential for impact in the non profit space, 4:00 but why is it that so much of the world's design power goes elsewhere? 4:05 It was at this time that I decided that I wanted to dedicate my time to 4:12 something bigger than myself. 4:15 For real this time. 4:17 So I wrote my friend Gary Tan, who is a partner at Y Combinator an email and 4:19 I said hey, I'm looking for a job. 4:24 Three requirements, it has to be a super small team. 4:26 They have to be working on something amazing, and 4:29 if it's a non profit even better. 4:32 He introduced me to Chase Adam who had the original idea for Watsi. 4:35 We had breakfast that next morning, I met the rest of the team that afternoon, and 4:40 I was hired that night. 4:45 I think Chase's question to me was, so 4:46 do you wanna come with us to Nepal in three weeks, or what? 4:51 [LAUGH] >> No non-profits to my 4:53 knowledge moves that quickly, so I had a pretty good feeling about what was ahead. 4:56 So I started at Watsi a few weeks later, and 5:00 I just spend some time getting my feet wet, 5:05 getting to know the product, the brand, the voice, the donor base, the priorities. 5:07 And at the beginning of my third week, 5:14 I was on a plane to Nepal with the rest of the team. 5:16 We were visiting our very first medical partner located in Achham, 5:20 which is a far western district of Nepal. 5:23 Now getting there wasn't exactly easy. 5:28 We, after flying into Kathmandu took a short additional flight into 5:30 a small town about an hour away. 5:35 Followed by an 11 hour Jeep ride through windy, 5:37 bumpy often unpaved mountainous roads. 5:42 Now keep in mind, we were in large Jeeps with seatbelts and windows that 5:48 rolled down, and plenty of space if you wanted to fall asleep, you could do that. 5:51 But if you were a little kid with a broken leg, 5:56 you would be traveling on those very same roads for 11 hours on a crowded bus. 5:58 That was pretty much our first dose of perspective. 6:05 So, we finally arrived at Bayalpata Hospital, 6:07 which is where Possible Health operates. 6:11 And we got a tour of the grounds where we were super eager to see things in action. 6:14 So, the six of us piled into a tiny patient interview room. 6:20 Sitting along the floor on these floor cushions. 6:25 And we met Hari, and I will never forget Hari's story. 6:28 Hari's a 15 year old boy who lived at home with his parents and 6:32 his siblings but, unfortunately due to the economic situations, 6:36 he had to drop out of school and move away and seek work as a construction laborer. 6:41 He had been living with an ear infection for 6:49 years, but the pain started to become more constant. 6:51 His hearing was impaired, and he was starting to have fevers, but 6:57 the cost of care is more than he would earn in years. 7:01 He'd been brought into the hospital by someone he worked for and just in time. 7:06 Doctors said that, if he had let it go any longer, it would have rendered him deaf. 7:10 He was so happy and so grateful to know that he could have treatment for 7:15 something he had been living with for so long, at absolutely no charge to him. 7:18 My coworker Thomas was sitting on the floor next to me, and 7:25 he turned to his left and said, have you ever done user testing like this before? 7:28 [BLANK_AUDIO] 7:33 I whispered no, as I fought the tears, and 7:36 it was that moment that I realized the opportunity I had been granted. 7:39 I wanted to make Watsi the absolute best crowdfunding platform out there. 7:44 So when we got back to the states, 7:49 I started working on our redesign, which went live to everyone last week. 7:52 That redesign was about a year in the making end to end. 7:57 And we scoped it to be 1:1. 8:01 No new features. 8:03 We knew that we had to do it. 8:05 We wanted a better foundation to build on top of, so that we could 8:06 launch the products and features that we thought were valuable to our donor base. 8:10 We wanted to make the site more image driven, so 8:14 we increased the size of all of our patient photos across the site. 8:17 And we introduced a series of heroes on a few pages to introduce a bit of 8:20 visual appeal. 8:25 [BLANK_AUDIO] 8:27 Now this even goes as far as our 404 and 8:31 our 500 pages, which can sometimes be forgotten about. 8:33 [BLANK_AUDIO] 8:37 We even used a series of photos gathered at one of our trips earlier this year to 8:40 Kenya and Tanzania to better tell the story of how Watsi works. 8:44 Presenting a co, compelling and emotional narrative. 8:49 Appealing to everyone can often be challenging, but also very rewarding. 8:51 We put a lot of time and effort into what our brand represents, 8:56 how we showcase it visually, and what our voice is. 9:02 At Watsi we see design as a necessity, not a luxury. 9:06 We put design first, and strive to have everything we produce and 9:10 present to the world be beautiful and memorable. 9:14 From our marketing imagery, to our copy, to our site interactions. 9:17 And not enough nonprofits do this. 9:20 In fact, very few think that design is actually worth investing in. 9:22 We wanna be as upfront as possible. 9:28 We make a concerted effort to make transparency a priority. 9:31 Across the site, you'll find numerous mentions of our transparency document, 9:35 which is an encapsulated place for all of our financials, our funds transfers, 9:38 screenshots to our medical partners and updates on patients. 9:44 It's our goal to clearly communicate that Watsi donates 100% 9:48 of funds to the medical partners for life-saving treatments. 9:53 We never, ever, under no circumstances take a cut. 9:56 [BLANK_AUDIO] 10:00 Watsi is similar to [UNKNOWN] profits in a number of ways. 10:03 We strive to be innovative. 10:07 We move fast and we makes, 10:10 make sure that we place high value on design. 10:14 Our sense of urgency isn't necessarily a competitor with 10:21 a similar product or VCs breathing down our necks. 10:25 It's lives, human lives that need saving. 10:30 And that's more than enough motivation for us to get shit done. 10:33 Over the past year, I've realized that one of the biggest differences with working 10:38 for a non-profit is that our goals and our culture are completely different. 10:42 We're not selling a product, or services, or goods. 10:46 We're trying to get people to make a genuine connection with the patients. 10:50 We want our donors, both existing and potential, to feel happiness and 10:56 empowerment when they visit the site. 10:59 Like they're part of a movement, part of a solution. 11:02 And if you've ever been watching television in the late night hours, 11:05 you might see commercials from non profits who often portray the problem that 11:09 needs solving, versus the outcome that is possible. 11:13 They often ask people to prevent a problem from continuing, 11:17 versus being a part of something incredible. 11:21 And that's the reason why you might see so many bright, smiling, 11:25 happy faces on Watsi and why the stories are so rich, lively, and relatable. 11:27 I was actually born with a fairly common condition, I had a herniated navel. 11:34 Tons of babies are born with this, it's basically a protrusion of the navel and 11:40 it usually corrects itself within the first years of life. 11:45 But, for whatever reason my doc, my doctor became concerned with mine and 11:48 suggested that I have corrective surgery at the age of one. 11:52 So, whenever I see these cases on Watsi, it hits me a little bit closer to home. 11:57 And I'm more inclined to donate to them. 12:01 Same with atrial septals effect. 12:04 My kid sister was born with this. 12:06 And it's basically a hole in the upper two chambers of the heart. 12:08 It usually closes during pregnancy, or shortly after birth. 12:14 But hers didn't. 12:17 So some of her blood pumped from her heart to 12:20 her lungs in a loop instead of oxygen-rich blood flowing to her body. 12:23 She, too, had surgery when she was one, so 12:27 whenever I see these cases on Watsi, I connect and I donate. 12:30 And it's not just the conditions that I connect with. 12:34 Sometimes I just wanna help a kid grow up and 12:36 fulfill his or her dreams, or give sight back to a grandparent. 12:40 I love working at Watsi. 12:46 I've been a designer since I was 18, and 12:48 I've worked on some incredible products with some incredible people. 12:50 But I've never really had the sense of fulfillment that I do. 12:54 And this constant perspective in life. 12:59 I remember once I was having a bad day. 13:04 It was pouring raining and I couldn't get a ride home. 13:05 There were no Ubers or whatever. 13:09 The buses were slow and they were packed by the time they actually got to me so. 13:12 So I said, screw it. 13:16 I'm just gonna walk home. 13:17 So, walk home and I'm super tired and 13:17 really hungry, by the time I get there, and no food. 13:20 So, I'm eating ramen, which sucks. 13:24 But it's what I had. 13:27 [LAUGH] And I decided to hop on Watsi and read a few stories. 13:28 And I found one profile of a seven year old girl named Nolari who had 13:33 just been fully funded. 13:38 And she had the most incredible story I'd ever heard. 13:41 She's seven, and she was burned really badly in a house fire. 13:46 She lost her two parents and her five siblings. 13:50 She was the only survivor, and she had scar tissue that built on her left arm, 13:54 which limited her mobility, but, you know what? 13:59 She was still smiling in our photo, and I realized I don't have it so bad. 14:03 My life is actually pretty good. 14:11 Things could be so much worse for me. 14:15 I try to be really cognizant of complaining about first world issues. 14:17 But I think that's increased so much more since working at Watsi. 14:22 We took a trip to Kenya and Tanzania March of this year, and we got a brief 14:27 chance to meet [UNKNOWN] and she was still that happy kid that you see in the photos. 14:31 And I was so moved that I had to sneak off for a bit to prevent the tears. 14:37 On a separate trip to Cambodia recently, 14:44 we visited a partner who also has an on-site eye clinic. 14:47 It's mostly elderly patients with cataracts who 14:51 are having their sight restored. 14:55 All the procedures are super low cost. 14:58 They're about a 100 bucks. 15:00 Now, for some reference, 15:02 that same procedure would be $6,500 in the United States. 15:04 The patients are so happy. 15:11 They're able to see clearly for the first time in years. 15:13 [BLANK_AUDIO] 15:16 That's my favorite. 15:26 >> [LAUGH]. 15:27 >> But that's not the instant, that's not the extent of your impact. 15:29 When you donate, you might be helping their family members get back to school, 15:32 since they no longer have to help grandpa get around town. 15:36 Or you might be helping out their local village because they might have a farmer 15:40 who's back at work. 15:44 Your contribution goes so much farther than just this one person. 15:46 And it's not our mind to be part of a movement to provide a basic human right 15:51 to people. 15:55 Designers have far more power than they realize. 15:59 David Berman says, the same design that fuels mass overconsumption, 16:03 also holds the power to repair the world. 16:08 And just to go on a brief tangent. 16:11 I noticed lots of designers will pour tons of time and energy into unsolicited 16:14 redesigns of things where they had no idea of the brief, the constraints, the goals, 16:20 how it fits into an existing framework, or if it can actually be implemented. 16:26 If that same energy were spent for something good, 16:34 we might be able to break this vicious cycle, that is, designers not spending 16:38 enough time with nonprofits and nonprofits thinking design isn't worth investing in. 16:42 So here's the question. 16:48 If design and marketing can make people crave sugar water, or maybe persuade them 16:50 to switch from one brand to another, or urge them to buy something they probably 16:55 don't need, imagine, just imagine what the world could be like if you used 17:00 that same time and talent for something that's legitimately world changing? 17:06 Now, when people talk about design changing the world it tends to 17:11 sound a bit grand. 17:14 And I don't mean in one fell swoop, 17:16 what I mean is design can solve problems on a case by case basis around the world. 17:18 And with that, it changes the reality for 17:25 the people who live where that situation is happening. 17:27 And that's the reason that I design, that I value design so much. 17:30 What I hope to leave behind with our generation is the notion that giving and 17:35 helping others can be cool, and designing for a nonprofit doesn't have to be boring. 17:40 Cheers, thanks. 17:47 [APPLAUSE] 17:48
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