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Designing for Good – feat. Neighbourly

As part of our Design For Good initiative, we aim to seek out and promote those that are designing for good. To shine a light on how creative innovation can be a driver for positive change and to raise awareness of the people and teams making it happen.

First up, we’d like to feature a company that is connecting businesses and local good causes to make a positive impact. In this context, we had a chat with Daniel Pidcock, Contract UX Designer at Neighbourly.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far, leading you to where you are right now?

Daniel: Many years ago, I ran a design agency that specialised in start-ups and digital transformation. A company would come to us with a problem or an idea. We’d research the market, build a basic prototype, prove the concept and pass it back to the client. We didn’t think of this as ‘UX’ (User Experience), I had never heard the term ‘MVP’, we were agile but scrum, to me, was still something that happened at rugby!

Discovering that there is a whole product design and user experience industry, with tried-and-tested processes for user testing, blew my mind. A whole world opened up.

Ever since I’ve been applying these techniques and seeing the impact on large companies and start-ups.

ADLIB: Let’s start with “how”. From your perspective, how does emotive design help spread the word about charitable causes?

Daniel: Neighbourly’s purpose is to help local charities and good causes. It was evident that big companies want to help these causes, but it was difficult and expensive for them. Much easier to write a big cheque, send it to a national charity and call it a day. So Neighbourly now makes it easy for businesses to help at a local level.

The word that has come up most whilst working at Neighbourly is ‘human’. At the core of everything we do, it comes back to people helping people (and sometimes animals, but you get my point).

I could tell you that £8 million pounds have been pledged, 18 thousand days have been volunteered, or 17 million meals went into bellies rather than being thrown away, and you will probably raise an eyebrow, or make a vaguely impressed noise.

But if I tell you the story of a young mother who was considering suicide till her local food bank gave her hope that things were going to be ok – suddenly the true magnitude of what these organisations are achieving hits you.

UX is all about turning statistics and data into the voices of real people. Discovering how we can help those people. Whether that improves the experience of ordering a pizza or helping someone who is rough sleeping find a home.

It’s all about humanity.

ADLIB: What has been the key thing you’ve learned about working closely with charities and not-for-profits?

Daniel: It constantly surprises me just how much these causes do with so little. I’ll speak to a small charity cooking for vulnerable people and nothing will go to waste. Anything that can’t be eaten will be composted to help a community garden and help teach children about the environment. All of this will be done by a small team of volunteers who work harder than anyone I know.

Many people working in these small charities don’t have the time to be highly technology literate. Creating products that really help them needs LOTS of testing in the real world.

I’ve been speaking to people from a wide variety of good causes and they are all up against it, all the time. Every grant, scheme or initiative that is set up to make life easier actually creates more work for the charity. For example, I’ve seen 7-page applications for £500! One thing we’ve tried to focus on at Neighbourly is reducing that pressure and harnessing technology to help rather than hinder.

ADLIB: In your opinion, what is the most important factor to consider when designing for a charitable audience?

Daniel: Accessibility is a key concern when designing for this sector. There are lots of people with varying disabilities working hard to help others, and the great thing about good accessibility is it makes life better for everyone. Clear contrast and a well-labelled button will help someone with low vision as well as that person with 20/20 vision but in a tremendous rush.

And when talking to companies and individuals looking to give support, it’s really important to focus on the human aspect. Stories are so much more compelling than stats.

ADLIB: And finally, do you have one piece of wisdom for aspiring designers that would like to use their talents to design for good specifically?

Daniel: Get out of the office.

So often, I think ‘that’s an easy problem to solve’ then when I speak to real people, I quickly see that it is so much more complex than I could have imagined.

This isn’t to say these problems can’t be solved. This sector is bursting with opportunity to apply technology to change the world for the better. If you can create something that is accessible and actually reduces the time and effort to achieve something, you will have something that will make a big difference.

Or, simply put, don’t forget you are designing for humans.

As part of our Design For Good initiative, we hope to make a real impact. If ‘designing for good’ is also something you are involved in please do get in touch – we’d love to chat through how we could work together and lead by example.