How A Writer Found E-Commerce – And A Hub For Social Good

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Designed Good co-founders Katy Gathright and Imran Khoja are in San Francisco this week until August 3. They would love to meet with anyone who would like to give advice, talk about collaborating, or chat about design and social good. By Katy Gathright (Co-Founder & Creative Director, Designed Good)

I graduated from Williams College in June having thought (and wished) for four years that I would be a writer. I’d been writing essays, articles, blogs and fiction throughout college, but I could never picture myself being a journalist or novelist right after graduation. It wasn’t until a few months ago, when I chose to dive into social entrepreneurship and my co-founder Imran’s idea for a business, that I envisioned a completely new way to write.

Our business is called Designed Good – a play on bad grammar that my English major self is actually quite happy with. When I think about great design, I think about the architecture slides in my art history class, my old high school friend who made sketches for coffee shop T-shirts, and the documentary on fonts I watched one rainy afternoon in March.

When I think about social change, my ideas are less concrete. I think about projects in familiar and unfamiliar places. I think of people passionately writing letters in their living rooms and people gathering in large groups to voice their ideas. I think about marginalization, poverty, resource scarcity, environmental concerns, and injustice.

At Designed Good, a new community that curates the best in design and social good, we’re drawing a connection between the two – and offering a way for people to make shopping choices that are empowering. Over the last two years, as I’ve talked about this evolving business idea with Imran, we finally decided this spring that we were putting a journalistic twist on the flash sales model. This was the new way I could be a writer.

Designed Good hand-selects and sells clothing, artwork, gear, gadgets and accessories, and provides the stories about how they’re making a difference. That is, we’re creating a flash sales site with a mission. Well-designed products are an exciting new avenue for making a difference: they give back and support sustainable production, provide daily reminders of social change as people interact with them, and offer great conversation starters.

We want to build a community that experiences all three of those benefits. I want to get people thinking, What if every product wasn’t just designed well, but designed good? Good design is not just about aesthetic (although they are committed to only picking products that look and feel great) but also functionality: the product should work well, and it should be made thoughtfully. Their ethics criteria cover products that are environmentally-friendly, have a one-for-one or other type of giving model, or are made locally.

Designed Good uses a members-only platform, but the philosophy behind signing up is about building community rather than adding exclusivity. There is no waiting period or invitation-only tag associated with signing up; Designed Good collects email addresses and optional demographics so that they can send messages about sales and curate the best product mix for their members.

Designed Good also crafted its referral system around this idea of an intimate network. Rather than setting an intimidating goal of signing up say, 30 friends in exchange for store credit, Designed Good offers rewards to people for signing up just two, three or seven friends.

So when I think about writing about products and social change for an audience, I can get excited about an audience that will talk back.

You can sign up for Designed Good now. We are launching our first sales in August.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Katy Gathright is Co-Founder and Creative Director of Designed Good, a new website that curates the best in design and social good. She graduated cum laude from Williams College in June 2012; at Williams she was the managing editor of the independent student newspaper and the winner of the first Williams College Business Plan Competition. Since graduation, she has stayed in Williamstown, Massachusetts to launch with the grant from the competition. Follow her on Twitter at @katygathright.