designed good logo and founders kathy gatwright

This Startup Empowers Shoppers by Combining Awesome Design with Social Good

designed good logo and founders kathy gatwright

When Katy Gathright thought about great design, she envisioned the architecture slides in her art history class, an old high school friend who made sketches for coffee shop T-shirts, and the documentary on fonts she watched one rainy afternoon in March.

But when trying to envision social change, her ideas were less concrete and mainly wrapped around images of activists writing passionate letters to legislators or gathering in large groups to protest issues of marginalization, poverty, resource scarcity, environmental concerns and injustices against humanity.

So when Gathright partnered up with Imran Khoja to create Designed Good, a new community that curates the best in design and social good, she began drawing a connection between the two by developing a platform that allows people to make empowering shopping choices. The two believed that well-designed products would be an exciting new avenue for making a difference. They built their business model around giving back and supporting sustainable production, and by creating a virtual place where people could come and discuss design for social change as a community.

We caught up with Gathright and Khoja to learn more about the cool products they plan to sell and where they hope to take their innovative startup in the future.

designed good women's fashion necklace

Culture-ist: We love that you present your site as a way for people to make shopping choices that are empowering. What types of products can members expect to find on Designed Good and how will their purchases affect the community at large?
Designed Good: Members can expect to find clothing, accessories, gear, gadgets, and artwork on Designed Good. We cover a wide variety of categories, but all of our products are designed well in their own right and are also good for the world. They affect the community at large because each product proves that social responsibility can and should be the standard for artisans, brands, and manufacturers.

All the products that we sell are either made sustainably, enable people to live their lives more sustainably, incorporate strong messages of social responsibility, or have a built-in financial model for giving back to people or causes.

Culture-ist: How do you go about curating the products featured on Designed Good?
Designed Good: We carefully discuss each product before putting it in our pipeline. First we basically ask, “Is this product awesome?” We’re looking for products that don’t sacrifice style or usability or aesthetic to meet socially responsible criteria –our idea is that design and goodness are not at all mutually exclusive. So that desirability factor is what we zero in on first, and then we take a thoughtful look at why that product is making a positive difference in the world.

Some products may be socially-conscious on a number of levels — for instance, a pair of sneakers could be recyclable, made of locally-sourced materials and have a model where a percentage of proceeds go back to a cause of that brand’s choice. But some products are just really strong in one area and may have an amazing impact in a very specific way. Our first products, for example, are these photographic prints taken by refugee girls in Haiti. The photographs are beautiful, and they are coming out of this Center for the Arts program in Port-au-Prince that empowers young women with self-expression and the chance to earn an income through their photography.

Culture-ist: What is your definition of “good design?”
Designed Good: For us, good design is design that makes sense and also has a strong aesthetic quality. Design includes how well a product is made and how long it lasts as a result. It also includes whether its creators have put some impressive thought into how their product is a solution ““ whether that be a solution to all the blank wall space in your apartment or your tendency to buy single-use plastic water bottles at the grocery store.

There are so many talented designers and artists and craftsmen who have come up with great ways to make things; part of the fun we have is constantly adapting our definition of good design because we’re constantly surprised and impressed.

designed good women's necklace bohemianCulture-ist: How will your “flash sales” operate?
Designed Good: We will sell the products we curate in limited-time offers for our members. For the first few months, products will be on sale for one to two weeks at a time, and we will always include images and links to the products after the sale, redirecting our members to the manufacturer or brand’s website once the offer is over.

Culture-ist: What is the purpose of creating a members-only community?
Designed Good: For us, creating a members-only community is essential to building a community in the first place. We want people to feel like they’ve chosen to hang out at Designed Good, and we like knowing who our audience is ““- not in a creepy way, but in a way where we can look at our demographics and think about what kinds of products and stories will appeal to them most.  

Culture-ist: When will you officially launch Designed Good?
Designed Good: We will officially launch Designed Good the week of August 27. We’re gearing up!

Culture-ist: What’s been your greatest challenge in trying to get Designed Good from concept to reality?
Designed Good: Our greatest challenge so far has been thinking about the fulfillment piece ahead of our launch. We’re so committed to customer success, and the idea that our members will get timely, personalized packages ““ but there’s only so much planning you can do on that front before you get out the door and begin sales! It’s also one of the key ways we plan to differentiate ourselves. It’s been difficult to make sure that we’re holding ourselves to this high standard while knowing that we’re just going to have to deliver and be on top of our game after the launch.

*Want to read more stories about design for social good? Check out our article: World Change is How They Roll: An Interview With Sevenly


Photos via Designed Good


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The Culture-ist