Change-Agents Surmount Styleby Meena Kadri on 26/06/2009
In search of graphic design which participates in bigger conversations I decided to check out Wellington’s Moxie Design Group. They have applied design thinking as a constructive approach to embrace a plethora of challenges from the local regional council to the World Bank.
Disenchantment with style-driven design had left Managing Director Peter Salmon seeking a direction that was more solution-focused. “I felt like I was pedaling snow to Eskimos. There had to be more meaning”. So he began to apply design principles to wider client concerns alongside gathering in-depth insight into sustainability issues and opportunities. This has attracted clients from the public, private and non-profit sectors seeking substance over style in the design realm.
When energy heavyweights Shell wanted to leverage their technological development into solar panels Peter’s team didn’t offer them a die-cut, spot-varnished tri-fold brochure but rather conceived of a solar powered café that served revellers at the Sweetwaters Music Festival. “Innovation is a better argument for sustainability – it extends beyond the usual drivers of efficiency and reputation.”
Coca Cola arrived needing an annual report but soon found themselves in the midst of the Moxie mix exploring ways to enhance the recycling of plastics at events. Initially a communications-based approach was suggested but after extensive research it was discarded in favour of a unique folding bin which included space for relevant branding. This allowed both product and positive behaviour to be promoted while turning packaging disposal into a marketing opportunity.
Moxie has taken design principles and applied them in new ways to new problems – evolving techniques that include scenario building, persona development and experience mapping. “Our background in graphic design has helped us in that it’s a process, its iterative and its audience-aware,” notes Design Account Manager, Rebecca Davies. More recently their transformative NextPlays platform – a comprehensive initiative which engages participants to imagine, plan and build sustainable futures – has taken Moxie from Blair St. to Bangkok to tackle global development issues.
“The role of the designer is in transition,” warns Peter. “Rather than positioning themselves as guardians of style they have the skills to help businesses recognise opportunities. With the growing popularity of participatory approaches they can take a central role as the facilitators of collaboration.” I took from this that as we have a background in telling clients stories we can also catalyse their conversations.
Acknowledging that making things look good is just not enough, Moxie makes a relevant case for extending the skills we use as designers. Using their experience in proto-typing, working with constraints and imagining beyond them, they have developed a progressive approach by colouring way outside the lines.