Monday, December 8, 2008

How to (makeGood)will a Source of Sustainable Creativity

Goodwill Industries is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1902, but has been operating in Central Texas for 50 years. Their mission is to enhance the quality and dignity of life for individuals, families, and community by providing job-related services for people with barriers to employment. That might seem like a mouthful to swallow, but their goal is pretty clear: to make money to fund job programs that help people with barriers to employment. Through a rigorous few weeks of research and brainstorming, my design team and I have also recognized a dedication to recycling and sustainability as a second goal that seems crucial to the Goodwill ideal.

To prevent items from ending up in the landfill, Goodwill tries to resell or reuse as much of their donations as possible. After speaking with the regional transportation manager, we formed a diagram of the Goodwill flow chart to show how a donation travels through the system. Recycling can be seen at every step throughout the process of the donation’s flow. More formal evidence of their recycling initiatives can be seen in the various programs devised to promote recycling. Some of these programs include the Weigh Good drive, an annual donations drive that asks the community to donate items that would otherwise be thrown away from spring cleaning, and the Reconnect program, a partnership with Goodwill, Dell, and the City of Austin to reduce electronic waste from going to the landfill.

Recycling is already well integrated within the Goodwill system both in their normal operations and specific recycling programs, but there is currently a lack of in-store attention to their dedication to sustainability. Hence, one of their main goals is not being fully catered to and one of their main sources of revenue is not being used to its full potential. Also, despite their efforts to prevent items from going to the landfill, twenty percent of donations still end up going to the dump. Not only is this environmentally unfriendly, but it is also costly. Goodwill actually loses money by paying to take unsold goods to the landfill.

The Goal
To reduce the amount of waste that ends up at the landfill while only using or reusing resources and assets that Goodwill already has, we propose to enhance Goodwill’s image as a source of sustainable creativity.

The current situation of Goodwill can be examined in three ways: the retail store, shoppers’ perceptions, and online presence.

Goodwill retail stores are generally places of organized chaos. To reduce labor costs, clothing, which comprises the majority of donations, is separated by style and color, but not by size (although there are some exceptions, such as the Goodwill location on North Lamar, which has the resources to be sorted by size as well). Despite this mishmash appearance of items, large signs still delineate the general wayfinding necessary for shoppers: Women, Men, Children, Shoes, Books, Housewares, Furniture, and etc. Besides this basic system, each store varies its exact layout according to the wishes of its store manager. Some details worth noting are the ends of the clothing racks, where pre-matched outfits seem arbitrarily placed with a hope to be sold. The sides of the Housewares shelves showcase special items varying from antique looking candlesticks to seasonal items. Spaces in the store such as these stick out because of their ability to draw attention, and yet in Goodwill stores, seem to be poorly utilized as a tool for promotion.
Interviews conducted by our interview research group yielded consumer insights both expected and unexpected. Some questions that were asked were “What was your initial expectation of Goodwill? How has that been or not been fulfilled?”, “If you could tell people one thing about Goodwill, what would it be?”, and “What would you change about Goodwill?”. While most responses seem to point at Goodwill selling “a bunch of junkie stuff, old crap”, a large majority surprisingly mentioned their attraction to Goodwill as a place to go to find parts to make a new whole. “You can put together your own outfits or decorate your apartment and make it unique”, says one woman, while another vouches that “you can find a lot of good deals—it’s like a treasure hunt. People act as a community here.” From these and other quotes by interviewees, we caught on to the fact that there is a group of loyal Goodwill shoppers, and they all have a similar Do-It-Yourself mindset.

This DIY attitude leads to the final aspect of Goodwill’s current condition, which is their online presence. With the being “green” movement becoming ever more popular, the idea of reusing and reconstructing trash to make treasure has sprouted up in DIY websites, blogs, and various print materials. Upon browsing through several well-known websites such as make:blog,, and, we found that several if not all of them suggest thrift stores as the source of materials for their projects, and a good number of them even directly mention Goodwill. Bloggers that are also thrift store enthusiasts also share creative ideas for DIY projects while mentioning Goodwill as the place of preference to find good items to reuse.

This free advertising and promotion for Goodwill by these hip DIY resources represents an ideal opportunity for Goodwill to capitalize on. A significant number of shoppers there already consist of Do-It-Yourselfers, hip youngsters, and crafty women. This loyal audience is different from the customers that only come in October to look for their new Halloween costume; rather, these are the shoppers that come on a regular basis to rummage around for materials for DIY projects, and these people love to share and exchange their ideas.

The Plan
Our proposal presents a way to utilize the resources that Goodwill already has to tap into an existing market that hasn’t yet been directly attended to. We plan on doing this with the MakeGood program. It brings the DIY idea in-store at the point of purchase for the customer. The logo refers to the retro vintage look that is reminiscent of many DIY projects. We wanted to keep with the blue and white Goodwill logo and colors that the marketing manager of Goodwill Instrustries of Central Texas mentioned to be the set future logo. DIY projects will be displayed around the store according to what materials went into the project. Posters with the same retro look are interchangeable and modular; they will be hung where there are samples of finished projects. On each poster is a tear-off pad with instructions on how to make the project. Instruction sheets are designed to be pictures only with minimum text to make them user-friendly and easy to understand. Both the poster and the take-away instruction sheet will have an invitation to the website. These in-store displays would mainly be stationed at those ends of clothing racks and housewares shelves that are currently being used inefficiently.

Our website component,, incorporates the necessary online aspect of the DIY culture with a blog, forum, and archive of all the projects that will be shown in-store. Instructions for each project can be submitted, and members of the makeGood community can also contribute their own ideas to the site as well. The blue and white retro theme is consistent throughout the website to tie it back to the in-store displays. The website can also provide opportunities to advertise and promote Goodwill’s mission statement and retail stores.

As with any proposal, there must be some considerations. Because each store is specific to the design of its store manager, the equipment and space will vary from store to store. When putting up the displays, each one must be installed on a case-by-case basis to fit accordingly with the store. Project turnover time should be enough to keep customers interested, but not too long to make customers bored. Approximately three weeks should be about right for a project to remain in-store, so that they can rotate along with the turnover time of the donations from store to outlet. Project designers would initially be the MakeGood team, but ideally the community would be the ones to eventually generate the new projects. They would first post ideas online, then certain projects would be chosen to be featured in-store. To manage the website, a webmaster must be designated, but is designed to be community-driven, and would require low maintenance. Finally, production costs for the MakeGood program would be minimal, since there are in-house at the Goodwill headquarters that can print the posters, instruction pads are cheap to print, and the projects would be made out of Goodwill’s own items.

Future Expansion
MakeGood is designed to be easily expandable in many ways. It could bring a more prevalent image to the Goodwill image at future MakerFaire events. As an event that celebrates the arts, engineering, and science, DIY projects play a big role in the festivities and could be a great place to promote MakeGood. Currently most if not all signage in Goodwill retail and outlet stores are bilingual. To cater to the Spanish-speaking audience, MakeGood posters can easily be converted to Spanish. Video How-Tos are popular on many DIY websites as another way to show the making process; this could be further embedded on the website as well. Finally, workshops to demonstrate how to make DIY projects can be featured in-store to bring in an even larger audience. These workshops could then work with the volunteer programs that Goodwill already has in place.

Thus, in recalling the goal of Goodwill to not only help foster job programs for individuals but also to promote sustainability, we looked at the current situation of Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. In the layouts of the retail stores, perceptions in shoppers’ minds, and online presence, we drew out the Do-It-Yourself subculture in which Goodwill already plays a large role to formulate the MakeGood Program. Not only would this attract the loyal shoppers that already go there to find materials for sustainable projects, but the in-store displays would also speak to the shoppers who might never have considered making their own projects until they have seen the displays of sample finished projects. Essentially, we hope to enhance Goodwill’s image as a source of sustainable creativity.

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