Design - The Gift That Keeps On Giving

By Joe Duffy Nov 13, 2009

One of my first designs was a handmade valentine to my girlfriend, Patsy Auger (who is now my wife, Patsy Duffy) when we were both seven years old. The tradition of designing handmade valentines has continued for over 50 years and grown to become one of our favorite family traditions with our children and grandchildren. This is but one example of design as a gift. I can't begin to keep track of the times I've either given or received a personally designed gift. My latest gift creation was two mounted largemouth bass that a 13-year-old family friend caught in our lake last summer--within 30 minutes of each other! Some occasions simply must be celebrated with the gift of design.

As I look back over the years and identify those business projects that have brought me the most joy, I'm struck by the fact that most of them were things my group has designed for individuals or organizations we've worked with whose vision, values and causes have touched us all personally.

Whether it's a new identity for our neighborhood farmers' market, Mill City Farmers' Market, or our city's bike share program, Nice Ride Minnesota, or all of our designers creating art for our very own Mississippi River or larger, more widely known programs like The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, or the Hands On Network, everyone here really goes all out to give a very special gift of themselves. What we get in return is so much more rewarding than money.

A gift, in concept is reciprocal. The gift of design is as well. Over time I have seen many gifts of design that have made a powerful difference--in educating, informing, changing perspectives, by engaging and creating scale and movement. The (RED)™ Campaign has several great examples of using design and scale to impact change. Attached are some of my favorite (RED) designs from Apple, Armani, Converse and Girl Skateboards. I also thought the early GAP (RED) shirts were a great way to see the brand.

Yves Béhar's $100 laptop design for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is another extraordinary example of the generosity of design at work to make the world a little better. Low-cost, small, durable and efficient, the most recent model uses a smartly designed transformer hinge to allow it to morph between laptop, e-book and router modes.

Shepard Fairey's most recent poster designs for L.E.A.D. Uganda is another example of design as the catalyst for good. In this case proceeds from his art will help fund this organization that is committed to finding children living on the fringes of society in Africa and giving them the world class, 21st century skills necessary to lead Africa into the future.  Two original mixed media collages and two limited editions of 450 prints were auctioned off yesterday, November 12, at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York.

We all have our favorite designs for a cause. Designs that have inspired us creatively and compelled us to act. We also have our favorite organizations that are doing good. What better way to give back for the good fortune we've experienced as creative professionals, than to combine our talents with a worthwhile cause.

As a business, design has provided a means to connect the world to my team and me. For this I am eternally humble and grateful.


1. Valentines, Mounted Largemouth Bass

2. D&P Logos: HandsOn Network, Mill City Farmers Market, Art for the River, Susan G Komen for the Cure

3. Red Campaign

4. Yves Behar's One Laptop Per Child

5. Shepard Fairey L.E.A.D. Uganda posters

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