Skip to main content Skip to footer

Today on the show we are joined by Gopika Prabhu, the founder of San Francisco-based design studio, Elefint. Elefint’s mission is to help good causes, which includes nonprofits, B Corps and other changemakers. Gopika created Elefint as a way to bring informed and beautiful design to the social impact space. A hands-on creative, Gopika collaborates with writers, strategists, engineers, and product managers to bring her concepts to life. As head of design at Elefint, she builds and leads a cross-disciplinary creative team while also shaping the visual voice of the studio. Inside this episode, Gopika shares her story of working in an educational nonprofit where she experienced how powerful, articulating clear design is for these organizations and how difficult it can be for them to harness that type of expertise. She then describes how that experience has grown into what Elefint is today. There is so much of value in this conversation. Amongst many other things we touched on Elefint’s design process, thought leadership and events.

Gopika Prabhu

Gopika founded Elefint, a women-owned studio, as a way to create a more kind and connected world through thoughtful and exceptional design. Having worked in partnership with social enterprises and foundations on challenges related to education, energy, civic engagement, health, financial opportunity and women's equity, Gopika has helped leading brands including the ACLU, Black Girls Code, Ocean Conservancy and Clinton Global Initiative achieve their growth and communications goals. She also started and runs Desgnit, an event series benefitting designers and nonprofits.

In addition to teaching design at University of San Francisco, Gopika is an active member of the design community and has given talks at Facebook’s Women in Design, SXSWi, SOCAP, Net Impact, and Summit at Sea.

Gopika's work has been featured in TechCrunch, Fast Company, GOOD Magazine, Wired Italy, and Design Like You Give a Damn.

Listen to the episode

Tune in to find out:


  • An overview of Gopika’s background and how she came to fund Elefint
  • What the experience was like for Gopika to create her own business
  • Why the working environment and client base is a fundamental part of Elefint
  • How the team at Elefint is able to travel and work with clients around the world
  • Understanding Elefint’s approach to be experimental, yet strategic
  • The values that inform Elefint’s brand and how they apply their “gut check” to projects 
  • Why Elefint has shifted towards a more distributed, flexible team
  • Learning to operate outside of your comfort zone and finding creativity

[0:00:05.8] ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to Happy Porch Radio. The podcast for progressive
agency owners and web professionals. Season three is focused on the growing number of
agencies who are making the world a better place.
We explore what this even means, why is it different from any other agency and how can it be
reconciled with the real-world challenges of running a profitable agency? Join your host, Barry
O’Kane as he speaks to leaders of agencies who are driven by verify use to positively impact
the world around them.
[0:00:43.8] BOK: This week’s guest founded a San Francisco based design studio called
Elefint. Elefint’s mission is to help good causes, which includes nonprofits, B corps and much
more. Gopika shares her story of working in an educational nonprofit where she experienced
how powerful, articulating clear design is for these organizations and how difficult it can be for
them to harness that type of expertise.
She then describes how that experience has grown into what Elefint is today. There is so much
of value and so much of interest in this conversation. Amongst many other things we touched in
Elefint’s design process, thought leadership and events. Let’s get on and meet Gopika.
[0:01:31.4] GP: Hi, my name is Gopika and I’m the creative director and founder of a design
studio based in San Francisco called Elefint, and our whole mission is to help good causes,
social impact organizations, B corporations, a lot of nonprofits and foundations with their
What that looks like is a lot of people have good ideas but if they’re unable to communicate
them and unable to engage people then, you know, it’s such a shame and my background is I
actually worked within a nonprofit called The Art of Living Foundation an d while my background
was in design, shortly after graduating from college, I decided to teach these programs in
intercity schools and I realize that there was a definite lack of materials that I could use to talk to
principals and parents and students.
So naturally, as a designer, I just created them myself and while the nonprofit had been around
for 25 years at the time, they really hadn’t created a streamlined brand or communications
materials around their relatively new youth programs. So, you know, I was a new designer, I was
creating stuff and they were going over well and they quickly started — the organization quickly
started to use the things that I was creating across the country and then international and some
of their international chapters.
I think that was the first time I realized the power design could have and I was so passionate
about this one particular nonprofit that it was easy. It was easy for me to create the materials
and come up with new ideas. I’d say that within any nonprofit, the part that’s missing or lacking
I’d say is a process and a team of design experts. I was working as an independent one
designer, anything I created was amazing and I think just being a young designer I really craved
mentorship and people that were better than me at this one — at design.
So I joined an ad agency and that really exposed me to what a design process was, how you
interact with clients, how you put proposals together, all of that sort of back work that goes into a
successful design project. Then I got to work among some really talented experts that just knew
the software in and out and knew how to come up with creative ideas based on specific
The one thing that was missing for me in that experience was that I wasn’t super passionate
about the clients that we served. The work was interesting, the team is interesting and I learned
a tremendous amount from that experience, but Elefint was really – it came out of my desire to
bring the best of those two worlds together. So applying very high quality design and design
process to the causes and organizations that I cared about and so it was a little bit of an
experiment. I didn’t have any experience in the past running a business or even bringing teams
together in this sort of way and I reached out to a few friends that I had been working
consistently with, with The Art of Living as a volunteer and they were very supportive and one of
them was interested in joining forces and starting this studio together with me.
So Elefint started in September of 2010, so we just turned seven years old and we’ve worked
with over 300 different nonprofits and foundations and have experimented with what design can
be and yeah, that’s where we’re at now.
[0:05:29.6] BOK: Yeah, and obviously doing some amazing and really inspiring work. I’d like to
go back to the early stage though. Do you think, if you hadn’t had that experience working with
that nonprofit that you would have seen the difference of working with clients, as you described,
that you’ve really feel passionate about that you care about?
[0:05:47.4] GP: I think so. I mean, I noticed a difference between the type of work I did within
the agency and even within the agency there was certain differentiators between the clients. I
know that’s hard to say but I definitely gravitated towards more of the clients and the projects
that met a need that I felt – I don’t know? It was more than just, “Oh, how do we make more
money?” There were organizations and projects that we got to work on that had to do with just
making communities stronger or helping people and I think me, personally, I think I’ve gravitated
towards that in my life, as just putting more time and attention on the things that I feel like are
more uplifting and so that doesn’t stop at my professional life and I have no idea, I don’t know
whether if I hadn’t had that experience within a nonprofit if I would try and build a studio around
design for good. But I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that I would end up here, yeah.
[0:06:55.8] BOK: Yeah, I find that really interesting, it’s something that is very much a definite
theme with the people I’m speaking to for this episode where it’s something that is much deeper
than just the professional life as you describe. It’s more holistic.
That when you decided, okay, or you started that journey of “I’m going to start my own thing,
create my own business”. Was that – could you go into that really confidently? Was it, or was it
a long process, did you find it nerve wracking? What was the actual experience of that phase of
the journey like?
[0:07:28.3] GP: It was so exciting. I mean, I didn’t have an ounce of doubt in me and at the
same time I had no idea what I was doing; but I felt like it was the perfect time in my life, the
perfect sort of – I don’t know? I think I had enough enthusiasm and passion for it and just 100%
belief that this could be successful. I didn’t really go beyond that. I didn’t create this five year
plan, I just went forward with this conviction like, “This needs to happen, this doesn’t exist right
now and if I’m going to spend my time doing design work, then I’m going to do it the way that
works for me.”
I think I just went forward with that conviction and having a partner, it was definitely helpful
because his background was business and marketing and he was definitely good at talking to
clients or perspective clients and doing that sort of storytelling. The partnership was a good sort
of match and alignment of talents and that was, I’d say, just more luck than thinking that
through. I think in the early days, yeah. I mean, if I were to do it again, probably having – I
mean, I just know so much more about the design community and the structure within San
Francisco and even how nonprofits work.
So it’s easy to look back and be like, “Oh well if this business, maybe I don’t know, maybe we
would be offering different services.” But I think there was the right amount of sort of excitement
and positivity and just a curiosity or wonder about what can we do together. I mean, Elefint
came out of that sort of experience where I didn’t actually mentioned the specific experience I
had but I worked on a project with five different volunteers of The Art of Living and we all had
very different skillsets. So there was journalist, illustrator, animator, videographer, branding
expert, myself and we all kind of got together, we took time off and flew to Hawaii and spent the
week working on this one project for the foundation.
It was so much fun and we created so much, you know? As a volunteer ran organization, we’re
all on different time zones and coasts and just different schedules and so we thought if we
wanted to have the most impact and just get this project done, let’s all get together and be in a
beautiful place where we can enjoy in our free time but then also create awesome work. It was
more than successful. I mean, while we were in Hawaii, we weren’t at the beach all day but we
felt like we were at the beach all day. We had – we kind of left that week feeling fulfilled and
energized and just very proud of the work that we have created and that model was really the
model for Elefint. Like what if we found a beautiful location, got very talented people together
and we focused all of our time and energy on working with good causes?
I think I just wholeheartedly believed and still do believe in that model and so there wasn’t this
sort of skepticism or doubt of like, “Oh, well how is this all going to happen?” It just sort of
materializes and I think that’s the spirit with which we approach all of our client projects, we
don’t necessarily know how we’re going to do everything under the sun but we go forward with
that conviction of “this is going to work and we’re going to make sure that it does” and we have
very successful projects as a result.
[0:11:14.1] BOK: That’s really interesting that you mentioned the environment you’re working in
on top of the actual professional skillsets and who you’re working for. You saw that then as an
important part of the mix, do you see that now as a continuing part of — is it still a really
fundamental part of Elefint?
[0:11:28.9] GP: Yeah, definitely, I think that we’ve changed a lot about our model and how our
team is structured and with that, our physical space has changed as well. So, you know, like any
first sort of starting company or studio you might work out of your apartment and then go to a
co-working space and then we were fortunate to find an amazing open warehouse in Potrero
Hill in San Francisco and we worked out of that space for about three or four years.
Then, our team structure, there was something that was becoming a little stagnant and having a
dedicated full time team, all the time, working in the nonprofit space, you don’t really know what
projects are going to require what type of talent and so what I did about a year and a half ago
was switch, sort of slowly transition into a more distributed team and what that allowed us to do
is be much more flexible in where we worked and how it worked.
We integrated new services like design sprints where we go into organizations, we work with
their leadership team, we do design sprints to help them sort of get to clarity around an idea and
build out sort of prototypes and just fast design for them. Now, we’re working out of a space that
comes with different international offices. So instead of having our, you know, we have our own
one little space in san Francisco, we now have the ability to travel and work with our clients
around the world.
[0:13:14.5] BOK: Very cool. I’d love to come back to that journey, that decision to move to
distributed or to that slightly change in the model. Actually, before we get to that, when you
particularly in the early days but I guess in the early days, and then as this changed how you
choose, how you find the people – your clients basically, the nonprofits you work with.
Do they find you, do you find them, is it a – do you find it very easy to find the clients that are the
right fit for the type of work that you want to do?
[0:13:44.6] GP: In the beginning I’d say yeah, but we were also figuring out who we were as a
studio and there was more education, you know, seven years ago around the power of design
and the need for design and now I’d say that a lot of our business comes in through referrals.
We’re all about relationships and building really strong long term relationships and so, our
clients are not just one off projects. We actually never take that type of work on.
It’s very much, we find the organizations or they find us; organizations that are looking for
design partners and so they bring us in early on into their process. They might not have clarity
around what they want, but they have a trust in the design process and methods to bringing
clarity to them and those are our ideal clients. It’s not to say that we don’t take on other type of
work where it’s, “Okay, you know, we have an event and we need to create some materials for
it,” and we’ll definitely work with the organization like that with those deliverables in mind.
But it always, I’d say for us, the right sort of relationship is one where nonprofit sees that event
or that sort of those materials as just one step in their process, not sort of an end result. Yeah, I
mean, it’s like anything that we put out into the world, what you create today might not be
relevant in six months or 12 months and so you need to have that mindset of almost like
experimental and at the same time, strategic about how you go about planning your
organizational goals. The most successful projects we’ve worked on have been with those
clients that really trust us as partners and let us sort of work with them to create new brands and
experiences for their audiences.
[0:15:49.0] BOK: That’s really interesting. Both experimental and strategic is the word to use.
Do you mean with that in terms of choosing the types of work you do or more – when you’re,
like with the work itself?
[0:16:01.6] GP: It’s the difference between someone saying coming to us and saying, “We need
this very specific website, it needs to have this feature and this feature. Okay, go build it.”
Because what that does is it cuts us out of the decision making and sort of the pre-work that
goes into figuring out, “Well, why are we doing this project in the first place? Yeah, okay, maybe
the website is the right approach, fine, but let’s figure out some of these bigger questions so that
at every stage in the process of building out that website, our team is in alignment with your
Often, with nonprofits especially and foundations, you know, there’s multiple stakeholders that
need to – their opinions matter and they count. So in the early days, we didn’t actually know
that. You know, we didn’t know how influential a board was versus staff members, versus the
people that we are trying to serve.
A lot of our process will take into consideration those opinions and so if a client comes to us and
says, “Okay, we have done all of this work, here are the findings, this is the pre-work that we’ve
done,” then we can enter into a process with a lot more understanding of the why. Like why
we’re doing this project and what really matters. But if that work hadn’t been done and sort of
that upfront strategy haven’t been done, then you do hit some road bumps along the way. We
try to avoid that at all costs, yeah.
[0:17:38.1] BOK: That makes complete, 100% sense. Do you feel that – or maybe I’ll rephrase
the question; do you ever say no to clients, to projects?
[0:17:47.5] GP: Sure, I mean, there’s definitely organization – we would love to be able to help
everyone but I think through our extended network, we’re able to give smaller nonprofits
direction, either by working with some of the freelancers that we have vetted and trust and know
that they are very reliable and understand the space. There’s also a number of things we do
that’s just thought leadership that can help them understand what they need to know about
designs. So sometimes I think with the smaller organizations or the one person design team, I
think education, design education is very important.
Webinars and workshops and sort of in person trainings are very much a part of what we do for
that sort of tier. Then yeah, I think for the organizations that are ready, they’ve maybe tackled or
tried to tackle design before or maybe they’re just ready to jump into doing something that’s a
little bit more in depth. Then we have a very streamlined process where we guide our clients
through the process from start to finish and really handholding them through it, whether they’re
seasoned and launched many, many websites or done a lot of rebranding, I think working with
us is sometimes a breath of fresh air just because you’re not being funnelled into a set process.
We really sort of tailor or offering based on the people and the structure of the organization
we’re working with.
[0:19:20.8] BOK: Do you feel, or I guess, how much do you feel that your values driven
approach that you want to work with this type of client rather than do design in a more generic
sense. Do you feel that that values driven approach allows you or impacts that conversation is
what you’re talking about with a client or that sort of breath of fresh air? Or do you think it’s just
that a more generic approach to design that you have?
[0:19:46.6] GP: Yeah, I don’t think it would work for us as a studio like I think it goes against our
sort of values and who we are as a studio to take on work that just doesn’t sit well with us and
we’ve definitely gotten approached in the past to work on projects that we’re like, “Oh, this
definitely doesn’t feel right,” or, you know, even within the for good space, there might be
projects that on the surface they’re like, “Oh this looks like it’s doing good,” but we’ll do a little bit
more digging into what they’re actually doing and what their theory of change is and it comes
down to a gut check. Do we believe in this theory of change and can we get behind it? Then we
will or we won’t, you know, it depends.
[0:20:31.2] BOK: Do you, it’s a gut check to you, do you have like – is that codified in a way, do
you have a written description of these are our values or is it the pure gut check that you’re
[0:20:40.7] GP: yeah, we definitely have some values that have informed our brand and the
projects that we go after and sort of the opportunities that we take up and so that informs
everything from our internal processes to, you know, how we actually design and who we take
on and who we hire.
So things like having a curiosity for design, not just settling for, “Okay, well this is good enough,”
and so that creates a certain culture internally. Like we’re not just going to create this sort of
structure and then stick with it and then that’s it. We’re always looking for ways to improve
ourselves so that we can serve this community the best that we can.
I think definitely those values that we have, a few of them is yeah, like a sense of curiosity,
being excellent. So a sense of excellence, not just settling or being like, “Okay, well this is good
enough,” and then playfulness and being in the space if you are definitely immersing yourself in
some pretty heavy subject matter and you can feel that when you’re talking to some clients, just
the weight of the world on their shoulders and we will come in and sometimes our strategy
sessions turn into a little bit of therapy, you know?
Like they just got to talk and vent and just tell us everything that’s working and not working and
we listen, you know? And we joke about it a little bit, but I think as a designer, it’s our skill and
one of the skillsets to cultivate is just really good listening and being able to take those insights
and pour it into your work. So having a light heartedness while not trivializing the subject, is
super important, yeah.
[0:22:30.3] BOK: So you talk about the different types of work you do and you talked about the
educational thought leadership side of things and you mention webinars and a few other things.
Can you talk a little bit more about that? I guess from two aspects; one, why you do it but also a
little bit about how you go about sharing that expertise?
[0:22:50.4] GP: Sure. Okay so the core services that we offer is pretty similar to a traditional
agency. So we’ll do everything from brand strategy and identity, to websites, data visualization,
motion; we do a lot of video and animated videos and design sprints, which is sort of an
opportunity for organizations even if they’ve been around for 35 years, they can still experiment
and this is just design methods to help them think through specific goals and timeframes to
reach their goals.
Our process always starts out, no matter what we do, it always starts out with pretty in depth
strategy of understanding what they are trying to achieve, who they are trying to reach, why
they’re even doing this in the first place and why it matters to them personally and also them as
an organization. And then through our process, we’ll create a project timeline. So if you’re
working on something like ending mass incarceration. There is no way that we, Elefint, are
going to solve that through one single project.
These are huge systemic projects, or problems that involve many, many people and many,
many angles and so with that sort of view, we can start to identify, “Okay, well what piece of the
puzzle do we want to tackle? Okay, we’re going to tackle this piece, what’s the time frame? Who
are the audiences involved in this piece?” And we work backwards from that. Our process is
nice because it’s just — I love it because I learn so much about the world.
And so I know that we are saying we’re serving this space but I think they do a huge service to
us as a team, which is educating us on how the world operates. You know, all the moving parts,
it keeps us very humble and then aside from our design like actual creating brands and
websites and this educational and awareness pieces, design education is a huge thing. So there
is a number of conferences that we’ll speak at in any given year.
Blog post within the design community but also within the non-profit space. There is an event
coming up here in San Francisco called So Cup. It’s an annual conference that brings together
entrepreneurs and impact investors and will be speaking on branding in that space. So just new
startups that are trying to solve energy problems and really using their skills and technology to
do interesting things and solve a lot of these social issues that the non-profit space is tackling.
You know, the work that we do is relevant to both them as well as non-profits and so going back
to an earlier question of like how do you choose who you work with? We made it very clear that
we didn’t want to be working exclusively for the non-profit space. It was more under this
umbrella of social impact and the for good space and so, there’s a lot of interesting work that we
have been able to do within that sort of entrepreneurial startup and tech environment, especially
being here in San Francisco.
Yeah and the opportunity — the design community here is really great and so there is always
people that are inviting us to speak and just share what we’ve learnt to different types of
audiences. So yeah, whether that is giving or hosting a workshop at, there is a place called Bay
Area Video Coalition here in San Francisco and a lot of people that are just interested in either
career change or diving deeper into things like motion graphic videos or honing technical skills,
we have given workshops there and let pretty much anyone understand what we do and get
involved in a more hands on way.
[0:26:46.7] BOK: And does all of that – I want to tie that back to something else you mentioned
about the hiring process and about working with the people who are sort of aligned with the kind
of values that you are describing, not just the design skills but the values in terms of working in
that “for good” space. Do you find and this maybe also ties to what you are talking about
changing from a single location to a more slightly distributed model, do you find it easy to find
good people with that alignment or are you constantly challenged with finding the right people?
[0:27:21.1] GP: You know, we’ve never been challenged with finding the right people. It is
definitely — we go through a much lengthier process. When we have an open job position, we
don’t just try and hire right away. I mean, sometimes it takes six months and we’re okay with
that because we’ve definitely had experiences where we have hired the wrong person and it
takes a huge toll on the team. It sort of shifts the culture and because we are small, it is
detrimental to have a person who might be totally a good person, all of that but culturally is a
little bit off.
And so, we’ve learned a lot about what kind of questions to ask and our procedure in finding
that right person and at the end of the day, one of the things that we ask ourselves is, “Okay,
well would we want to hang out with this person outside of work? Can we just as humans
connect one on one?” And that is pretty high up on our list. I think having a passion for doing
this type of work is very high up on our list and the reason why that is, is because there’s people
that would definitely like to just go into work, do their set tasks and leave.
I think Elefint came out of the spirit of, “What more can we do? You know we know what needs
to be done but what more can we do?” And that energy shifts the quality of your work and it
makes you more creative and so you might only meet what is expected but what you are
producing is definitely a higher quality when you have that sort of mindset of, “Oh my god, what
more can I be doing? What else could help serve this client?” And so yeah, we try and craft our
interviewing process to figure out who are the right people to join our team and be in Elefint.
[0:29:21.0] BOK: And the other part that’s of the agency, the broader agency business that I am
interested in is, at no point in your description or your journey there did you talk about a goal to
earn lots of money or a huge profit goal. So I am wondering, do you see those two things in
conflict at all? Like wanting to do the type of work that you’re doing and have the impact that you
are having and the need to be, you know, having a profitable business?
[0:29:51.0] GP: Yeah, you know it’s not something – I think in any business, you’re going to see
ups and downs and running a business, you need to be able to handle that from an emotional
standpoint so that you are not – so that you stay true to your mission. I think that if we were
solely wanting to make a business out of doing good then we would have approached our work
in a very different way. Perhaps instead of focusing on non-profits we would be a traditional
agency. Where we give a percentage of time to the non-profit space but that really wasn’t what
was driving us to start Elefint.
So for us, there’s always been this balancing act around taking on work that’s going to be
sustainable for us as a studio and do the most impact and I think that of course, there are times
where we have our ups and we’re like, “Oh things are great!” and then our downs are like,
“Okay, we need to bring in more business and this than the other”.
Being in San Francisco you are surrounded by people that experience that all the time. So
maybe it doesn’t feel unique. It doesn’t feel like, “Oh maybe we need to shift our model or shift
this.” Because even those companies that are focused on for profit, they experience those dips
and probably at a higher highs and lows than us. There are other agencies that have popped up
in the past couple of years that we have noticed also sort of shift towards this for good space
and they’ll ask us how do we do it? And I don’t know, maybe it’s a little bit of luck or the fact that
our Elefint in India is a symbol of removing obstacles. So we have been very fortunate to just
move through the challenges with a lot of fun and sort of grace in a way. They are a little bit
smoother and we’ve been able to stay true to our mission. So I think for sure, we need to
survive and we live in San Francisco and so there are definitely practical matters and things that
we look at.
But I think we, just in the past year and a half, like I said the shifting to a much more distributed
team and being more flexible. One thing that I have noticed here is a lot of the designers within
our network whether they are full-time within tech or they are freelancing, they have very flexible
lifestyles. They don’t always go into the office, they work from home certain days, they travel
and work remotely and so there’s this sort of – especially with the younger people coming out of
college and maybe freelancers that have left their crazy hour tech jobs to be more independent,
our model works really well for them. It’s the right amount of structure and helps us be much
more sustainable as a small business as well.
[0:32:50.0] BOK: And has there ever been any points where you’ve, when you are describing
those ups and downs and it sounds like you are very balanced about it but there has ever been
a point when you’ve been kind of staring at the wall or kind of just starting to really question
what you’re doing with the agency?
[0:33:07.8] GP: Never — Okay, well there are definitely times where we’re staring at the wall
but in a good way where we’re like, “Okay, every six months we’ll have an all-hands strategy
meeting where we do literary stare at the wall and we put up all our ideas. You know, like what
do we want to do this year or this quarter? And I think that those moments will you have the time
to just really look at what you are doing and do that sort of retrospective on what’s working,
what’s not, what can be improved?
The same sort of methods and things that we ask our clients to do, we do internally and that
helps us stay relevant and grow and thrive and so I think – I mean, I value and cherish those
moments because it helps us think more creatively and experiment, you know? And some
things might not work and some things might and I think if things were always on an upstream,
we might fall into that mentality of complacency. Like, “Okay well, this is working so why change
And the benefit of feeling this like a pinch every now and then makes us – it just keeps us out of
our comfort zone and anytime you are out of your comfort zone I think that’s where you’re the
most creative, that’s where there’s that extra fire to just like make things work and so yeah, I
wouldn’t say that there is ever been a time where I’ve questioned whether Elefint should exist or
not. There is obviously like the stresses that come into running your own studio but it’s the good
kind of stress, the worthwhile stress, yeah.
[0:34:49.0] BOK: There is couple – I don’t want to go on for too much longer, take up too much
longer time. But there is quite a lot of the other things that I’d love to ask you about but one of
the really big ones is the Designer It events that you do. Can you talk a little bit about those and
what they are and why you do them?
[0:35:05.1] GP: Sure, so Designer It is a three day event and it started out as a half a day event
where we brought a number of non-profits together under one roof with select designers and it
was more or less the designs sort of hack-a-thon where we vetted the organizations, figured out
their sort of key design challenges and then found the right designers to work with them for a
day and over the years, it evolved from half day to full day to now, a three day sort of retreat out
in Lake Tahoe.
And what we have been able to accomplish is pretty remarkable. So normally a typical design
process might take for a brand, a name, a website, campaign materials, motion graphic videos.
All of that is a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of expertise and so it could take anywhere
from eight to 12 months to get that out to the work and our goal in the beginning when we
started Design It was to help more organizations but also help more designers who didn’t have
the opportunity to give back to their community, to actually do so in a structured way.
And there’s always a need to – like non-profits I know, if you knock on any non-profit’s door and
you say, “Hey do you want a designer for the day?” They will willingly let you in and be like,
“Yes!” and have a number of things for you to work on. But that isn’t realistic and also, I think for
designers especially here, time is very limited and so we created an experience where really
senior designers, whether they are art directors and copy writers even animators and branding
and brand strategist can come together and work with select organizations that have a pressing
design challenge.
And we see Design It! as a kick off to their longer term strategy but we most recently worked
with the ACLU of California. They had an 18 month goal of getting voters out to the polls during
our primaries in June 2018 and we worked backwards with them and they use Design It! to kick
off this 18 month campaign and we took 15 people out to Tahoe and we created a tremendous
amount of design and strategy for them and I think any organization that participates, they leave
feeling just really well supported and like they can just go into work on Monday and start using
the materials that we create.
All of the designers are volunteers, so they might take off one day of work but then it’s the rest
of the time is over a weekend and they just pour all of their talent into this non-profit space in a
very curated experience. You know there is time to design, time to work with the organization,
time for critiques, time to chill out and meditate and go in the hot tub. So all of the things that are
contusive to a really strong design process and a lot of creativity, we create that environment
and guide people through it and very carefully select the people that participate.
So this year, we are actually taking design it on the road. I should say 2018 and so we’ve
historically only done it in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe and bring it to more cities and so
we’re reaching out to different orgs in DC and Pittsburg, Los Angeles and Oakland. Also leaving
it open if there is another city that wants to brings Design It to them and then we are going to
work with them to see how to make that possible.
[0:38:55.7] BOK: Very cool. I especially like the phrase when you said there they can start
using the outputs or the first thing on Monday morning after the weekend rather than just
generating more ideas and more work for them it’s a positive contribution over a really short
time period. I think that is really inspiring.
[0:39:13.1] GP: Yeah.
[0:39:14.6] BOK: So yeah, unfortunately we’re running out of time. I love to speak some more
but two final questions for you. One is, just really quickly, what is the future of Elefint do you
[0:39:24.2] GP: Well we do have some pretty big ideas. Maybe not something I can share right
now, but I will say that our backgrounds, we have really diverse backgrounds. We come from
tech and design and retail and things like Lulu Lemon and we were so passionate about using
design to create these digital experiences and we’re starting to think about how we can craft an
experience that’s maybe a physical space and we are looking into pouring a lot of our energy
into creating – You know all the things that I was talking about around what makes Elefint so
successful and picking a beautiful space and having positive people and good people around. e
want to see if we can do that in a more structured every day way for more people. So you don’t
have to be an Elefint to enjoy that kind of experience and just using design to facilitate this. I
don’t know, I know I am being very vague right now but that’s on purpose.
But basically go from the digital world to the physical and using design to create more delightful
[0:40:33.4] BOK: Very cool and very final question, for any of the listeners who wanted to find
out a little bit more about Elefint and about Design It, where should we point them?
[0:40:41.0] GP: Sure, you can go to our website, and we have a page on our
website dedicated to Design It so you can read more about that and you can see more of our
projects and work that we’ve created over the years.
[0:40:58.2] BOK: Awesome, thank you so much. All of those links we will share on the show
notes for this episode. Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. That’s really inspiring to hear
from all the amazing work that you are doing and the real values and I guess the success and
so many years you are doing it as well so thank you so much.
[0:41:15.5] GP: Yeah, thanks so much for having me.
[0:41:23.2] BOK: You can get all the links and notes from this episode on
where you can also find out how to send us questions, feedback and get involved in the
© 2017 Happy Porch Radio, an product !16
! Transcript
conversation about this series. If you enjoy the show, please share with anyone else who might
enjoy it too. Thanks for listening.