Bon Karma, a Montreal-based French creative firm, was one the Winners of the 2020 So(cial) Good Design Awards in the area of Sustainability, Ecology & Climate. With Social Good at the centre of their practice, they share their perspective on designing for social good and the importance of celebrating this area of work.
Design for social good is inherent to our identity and an integral part of Bon Karma. Without this concept, our creative co-op for positive impact projects* would not exist. Our mission is completely intertwined with this notion in our two main objectives: the first is to put 100% of our talents at the service of nonprofits, agents of change and initiatives that have a positive impact. The second is to create a horizontal, conscious and inspired workplace. With these two purposes, we work each day with meaning, knowing that we are contributing to what we believe in.
At Bon Karma we believe that doing design for social good is saying no to projects that do not meet our core values. It is taking the time to raise awareness and educate our clients and peers on more ethical and conscious practices. It is rethinking not only who we work with, but how and why we work in our industry. It is prioritizing the pressing needs ahead of appealing visual style. It is being aware of the message that we put out and promoting the well-being of the people and the planet over power and profit.
*We have, at our heart, the individual and collective contribution to a better world and we work towards a positive impact from the inside, locally, socially and at an environmental level.
2020 SoGood Award Winner / Non-Profit Category: Youth for Water & Climate Brand, Bon Karma
Considering how the world has evolved in the past 2 years, what changes would you like to see in the design industry, either in Canada or internationally?
We hope that all sectors of society will continue to reflect on the importance of placing people and their environment at the centre of things. We believe that the past two years have allowed us to reevaluate our relationships with our clients and colleagues and our roles within our jobs by shifting our focus to patience and attentiveness. We feel our work has more meaning when it is synchronized with our own rhythm, values and convictions.
As for the design world, we hope that the current situation has underscored our need for slowing down, taking care of our health, both mental and physical, and focusing on what's truly important. At Bon Karma, we feel the urgency to act and care. We hope to see more designers take a stance for what they believe in, even if it’s not the easiest road. We dream of design centred around societal change, solutions for all and equality. We dream of agencies not falling into the habit of social washing, but really taking the time to reflect and implement changes for more conscious and healthy workplaces.
In your opinion, what is the best way for designers to communicate the value of design to non-designers?
We work daily with clients in domains that have little connection with the design world (social economy, institutions, municipalities, etc.) and often do not have an in-house communications manager. They usually know that it could help them to achieve their goals of funding or visibility, but rarely know the amount of work that is needed for high quality and thoughtful design.
A main concept we use in our practice, Collective Intelligence, allows us to build bridges between all parties involved. When our clients are highly participative in the early stages of the process, this results in the construction of a solid foundation and an in-depth understanding for the creation that follows. Clients come away confident, reassured and better equipped to understand the creative process. We take this step to heart and it is why we initiate all our projects with participatory workshops in order to build a cohesive common ground.
What is a project you are working on or recently completed that you are excited about / considering entering into the RGD's Social Good Awards this year?
"Les Zailés” is an innovative space dedicated to speech therapy with respect for everyone’s individual pace at the centre of the practice. Their interventions are playful and personalized in a sensitive and reassuring way to allow all ages and their families to develop and flourish. The project was born following a professional retraining and an undeniable need to do things differently after experiencing the situation in the field. It was essential for them to bring care, space, time and playfulness to all aspects of their service, while also creating a work environment that would be infused with continuous collaboration and peer-learning.
From our first participatory workshops, we were struck by the warm, sensitive, rigorous and dedicated nature of Caroline and Mathieu. We were guided by their motivation to make this a unique and significant project in all aspects: the typographic choice, the colours and the creation of the soft and colourful graphic universe. Whether it is the delicate movements of the website, the hiding spot in the waiting room or the signage that engages the child before even entering the intervention room, the work has been conceptualized and integrated with purpose into a collaborative and interdisciplinary process.
Why do you think it’s important to celebrate the work of designers in the area of social good?
When starting a new business, thinking outside the box can be quite a challenge. Creating a business that is in line with your values can also be challenging and choosing to work with only "social good projects" is definitely not the norm in our field. For many creatives and the design community in general, so-called "social purpose" clients don’t always seem the most attractive. Social good projects are often misunderstood and perceived as not being creative or innovative. They are often seen as inexpensive and not interesting enough to win any accolades in the field. Few agencies or freelancers seem to target this market, usually working with a broader clientele that is not always in line with their own values. It’s therefore important, in our opinion, to celebrate and encourage the creators who have chosen to overcome those biases associated with “social good design” and make the choice to contribute. While Bon Karma is certainly not the first studio to move into this space, we are proud to have taken a place in the Montreal design community while rethinking our profession and with the concept of "social good" at its core.
Bon Karma is a Montreal French creative co-op for positive impact projects. Their work focuses on branding, website design, editorial design and environmental graphic design.