Why Doing Good Is Good for Your Design Business

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I have come to believe that doing “Good” as a creative or company not only attracts the right people to work for you and with you, but also generates opportunities to engage with great clients. From what I have found, if “good” is part of your internal DNA, it is reflected and manifest in how you treat your team, your collaborators, your clients and most visibly, how you market yourself. It is something to be proud of.

Utilizing authentic goodness (not simply leading with a cause, but truly owning the driving force behind your decision to align with this perspective) is a strong advantage for your design business, reaching and impacting more elements of your operations than you likely realized. By speaking of yourself in terms of goodness, you are aligning yourself with consumers and clients who recognize the value of goodness and creating opportunities to work together.

Do you consider yourself a GOOD company? If so, it’s time to start talking about it. I believe the foundation of a good company is based on Good Culture, Good Work and Good Clients. Now when I’m taking about Good here, I’m taking about Good in the sense of serving others, driving excellence and conducting your company and your work with integrity.

GOOD Culture

This starts within your Culture. The bedrock of an inclusive, team-oriented culture that is able to facilitate the relationships needed for a strong company culture is based on three seemingly simple but paramount questions: Do I Feel Safe? Do I Matter? Do I Belong?

[Related: Passion Projected: Deva Pardue on Designing For All Womankind | Power to the People: Bridging Community through Design]

Creating an environment for employees to be able to answer “yes” to each of those questions is the mark of a good culture, and intrinsically necessary for employees to stay engaged, aligned, and invested in the work their workplace. Why does this matter? Well, here are just three facts:

  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave the organization than the disengaged. - CEB
  • Highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged colleagues by 20–28% - The Conference Board
  • Team member emotional engagement, loyalty, ownership, and focus increases
    67–100% - INC

Spend some time with your team and ask these questions. See where you stand. But one of the most important parts of culture change and alignment is this difficult truth: You can’t shift your culture without being willing to change yourself. Are you ready?


Next is GOOD Work. Work takes up 39% or (much) more of your life. You will likely spend more waking hours with your coworkers on any given week than with your partner or spouse. You should probably be doing something that matters to you. There are so many ways to do this … the great news is you need to do what works for you and your culture. That is key. Some of the questions to explore with the concerns to work are:

  • Can you do a project that is aligned with who you are, or want to be?
  • Does a % of your work align with what your passionate about?
  • Think about the work you are doing now. Does it have the impact you would hope it to have?

Depending on how you answer will determine the best next steps.

GOOD Clients

Finally GOOD Clients play a role in this. How companies and firms select clients is widely varied, and we could spend hours exploring the different approaches and tactics. But lets keep is simple: Do you have criteria for how you select your clients? Do you actually use it when times are tough, meh, and great? These questions can be as simple as:

  • Is this work/company aligned with us culturally?
  • Will this work be profitable?
  • Am I passionate about it?
  • Will it attract other work?
  • Will this challenge you/us?
  • Will it help me/us develop/evolve our career(s)?
  • Will you miss anything important with family or loved ones?

These questions may be more complex or simple but make some gateway test for every project to pass. As a rule of thumb, we make sure each project we take on passes at least three of these questions.

A good measure is to look at your team, work or clients and strive for a balance that works for you. What does contentment or happiness look like for you? One thought is:

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Whatever you do, make sure your GOOD is more than just a mantra or marketing message. Put it into practice and watch the impact it makes on your culture, work and clients.

If you want to join me in further exploring the importance of GOOD in your company and work, follow me on Twitter, Office Hours, Lynda.com courses, or check out my book called Life Kerning.

The 21st century workplace is changing rapidly. How should your management style adapt? In this course you will learn how to avoid pitfalls while engaging and empowering employees. Learn more.

Design for Good: Designing for Social Change, Design News, Design Thinking, Featured Design News

About Justin Ahrens

For over 16 years, Justin Ahrens has led his creative firm, Rule29, in its commitment to “Making Creative Matter®” through great design and by helping others think differently about the world around them. With a collaborative approach to both strategy and design, Rule29’s culture is just as important as the work it creates; the firm is involved in many social causes, including substantial work in Africa. Rule29 has been recognized by major competitions and publications, including AIGA, Communication Arts, Graphis, HOW, Print, The Webby Awards, and many more. Ahrens has been a consistent voice for the design and business community in areas around Design for Good and work/life balance, which he has spoken about for Lynda.com, the AIGA Design Conference, Design Thinkers, Adobe Max, Brand New, and HOW, and has written about in his book, Life Kerning™: Creative Ways to Fine Tune Your Perspective on Career and Life. Justin currently serves as a National Board Member for the AIGA as well.

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