Use Your Powers for Good: A Maker’s Manifesto on Finding Time to Be Great

Author Avatar
Written by James Dowd,
• 7 min read

We writers, we developers, we designers — we creators of all things buzz-worthy and not. We unique few with the artistry to design, to code, to influence, and to make ideas happen. We are the masters of so much, and yet we stand for so little. We faithlessly jump agencies and fervently chase the great trip to Cannes. We use our skills for one purpose: monetary gain, whether our own or our agency's. But, I've seen better happening around me, and I know we can all be better. We can use our talents for more.

Let me say that yes, this is a loathsome manifesto — an audacious yawp — but I'll ramble on anyway, because I know it to be true. I've seen brilliant minds find the time to be better, to abandon personal gain, and use their talents to make something meaningful. I’ve seen great artists accept that their specialized talents put them in the service of the greater good. I've seen them change minds, make a difference, and ask for nothing in return. I've seen them chase purpose over profit, and the walls didn't collapse around them. So, yes, praiseful ramblings are well deserved indeed.

With that said, I do not intend this rant as an opportunity to pat myself on the back for any of my work — I am no angel. But, I do wish to pat others on the back. Specifically, I've seen members of the Digital Surgeons team work through the night recently on inspired side-projects, never wavering, and always engaging with an emotional dedication I nearly forgot existed in our industry. Some of them quite literally went weeks without a proper night's sleep, and yet they continued on, with smiling faces, because the work promised good things not just for us, and not just for our clients, but for the world. And, perhaps more importantly, not because they were asked to, but because they wanted to.

Take Human Rights Campaign's recent Stop the Hate project as an example. Following the tragic shooting in Orlando and the subsequent sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to protest congressional inaction on gun-control legislation, a small group of great minds from HRC and Digital Surgeons, as well as in Hollywood with Glee’s Ryan Murphy, working together to rapidly launch an experience overnight that would truly influence change and inspire communities. And, with nearly hundreds of thousands of shares and millions of views, one sleepless night is truly helping put a stop to hate violence throughout our country.

Prior to that impassioned sprint, many of the same makers and doers were the sleepless creators behind One Love — a data visualization platform that shows support for equality around the world by literally lighting the globe up with love. The Digital Surgeons team believed that as people spoke out over issues, like right now in Florida and North Carolina, the residents who feel their home is in fact a beautiful place filled with beautiful people would see their area lighting up with support. And, they believed that when someone would feel like no one around them understands, they could look at the world being illuminated by love and see they are never alone.

There's a real magic in creating for others, for being authentic and purpose-driven. The work we do to help others rejuvenates us as creators, and gives us the inspiration and energy to do the work we do every day. The one project that I always look back to, which has inspired me for years, is indie shop Zeus Jones’ creation of Livestrong-style wedding rings in support of gay marriage.

And, as a former resident of North Carolina, I was often empowered by McKinney’s take on Google’s Twenty Percent Time, called Ten Percent Time, because who has bandwidth in this busy agency world for a full twenty percent of inspired exploration?  McKinney’s time for encouraging side projects went on to launch great work that would truly influence the community, like Spent — an online game that helped users see what it’s like to be homeless, with donations helping the Urban Ministry of Durham, NC.

Or, consider designer Kristy Tillman’s creation of The Human Utility — a project that came to life from a discussion on Twitter about finding a way to help people in Detroit with their water issues. The result is a moving experience that facilitates the matching of families & individuals with willing donors for water bill assistance.

If that's not enough creative spirit and energy for you, consider the recent launch of OpenShare by the Digital Surgeons development team. The project — largely developed on their personal time — is a free, open-source tool that allows marketers to seamlessly integrate with a wide range of social networks and platforms, but unlike other tools, it doesn't do so at the expense of your user’s privacy. Simply, it's built to do good, not evil. As advocates of open-source software and open innovation, we’ve seen how it can create communities, and support & drive positive change in the world.

Many creatives have already embraced their ability to use their talents to incite positive change for clients, as well. Always' “Like a Girl” campaign is a glowing example of our expanding circle of empathy. As well as CamelBak’s effort to keep people hydrated in a way that is sustainable for our planet with Ditch Disposable.

But, be mindful about forcing causes at your brands if it isn't right. The world is already onto us as marketers for our misuse of cause marketing. Just be authentic, and use your powers for good.

That's why now is the time for us as creators and makers to think daringly about how we can help and empathize with culture at large by utilizing our strengths. Now, in this high-speed, quick-swipe, low-attention culture, it's more valuable than ever to not just craft a story, but to engage with a story consumers are already invested in. This is the essence of what we do, and we can be inspired by our own selves as we create for good.

The simple trick to utilizing our power as makers is to simply believe we are powerful, because when we inspire ourselves and find purpose, we find the energy and creativity to actually create change and influence others. And, believe me, the clients will follow.

So, encourage your team to do the same. Inspire them to build and use their skills, and to do what they love for something that doesn't drive the bottom line, but instead drives goodness from the bottom of your hearts. We can hope that the good things will get attention, and that clients will see the value in our passion, but more importantly, we can  live with a feeling of pride and accomplishment that we used our time as creative talents to make the world a better, more beautiful & colorful place.


What will you do today to use your powers for good? Share your inspiration and ideas with me @jvincentdowd