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Design for equality

In 2001 I worked for Sydney Mardi Gras as Marketing and PR Officer. A great gap-year job if ever there was one. It was a transformative time of my life, and I still wear the pin-badge of their logo, based on the sails of Sydney opera house, on my lapel as one of the first purposeful brands I connected with. So I am delighted that Australia has (finally) voted in favour of marriage equality last week, which has inspired this quick blog on design for equality.


Marriage Equality

Similar to my Sydney experience The Human Rights Campaign logo is one of the most recognizable symbols of the fight for equal rights in America. A strong beacon of hope, which I saw explode across my friends’ social media accounts at the key milestones in the US campaign for marriage equality.

In 2002, not a single US state granted same-sex marriages. By 2015, 37 states allowed same-sex marriage, shortly followed by a Supreme Court decision that granted marriage equality in all 50 states. So what changed? The insertion of a “Field Catalyst”.

A new survey of 15 social movements such as reducing obesity, decreasing malaria deaths, and dramatically reducing teen smoking by The Bridgespan Group identified a common denominator: a core brand providing leadership and support to other groups tackling the same issue. These brands often act behind the scenes, influencing the actions of others to create change, to shift the scales in their favour.


Disability Equality

Every year, the Design Museum recognises worldwide excellence in it its Designs of the Year exhibition, across different disciplines including product design, branding and campaigns. Here are just three entries that stood out for championing equality on a recent visit.

Scewo is a heart-warming stair-climbing mobility devise developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which gives its disabled users greater independence and the hope of a barrier free life, everywhere, every time. Using a retractable set of rubber tracks, the wheelchair can travel up and down stairs smoothly and safely. The fact that it was self-funded by students is even more inspiring.


Racial Equality  

In 2004, the artist Yara Said graduated from Damascus University. What should have been a time for celebration was dominated by civil war. Fleeing by boat, Yara wore the orange and black lifejacket that has become the signature of the staggering exodus. Safely settled in Amsterdam, Yara was approached by The Refugee Nation to create the flag for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Her bold design, inspired by the lifejackets, became a global symbol of humanity for refugee athletes.


Gender Equality

Women only make up 23 per cent of the workforce in Egypt. Amongst the lowest percentage anywhere in the world. ‘Finding her’ is an advertising campaign that mimics the scenes of Where’s Wally. Readers are asked to find women among the crowds of male workers to highlight the gender disparity in Egypt’s three biggest industries of science, politics and technology.

I work in branding because I love the spark between strategy and creativity and what design can achieve. These are just a few examples that show how design-led thinking can make great things happen. So let’s do more.



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