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Continuing a thirteen year legacy of supporting innovative graphic design projects for charitable causes Sappi announced its 2012 Ideas that Matter grant winners earlier this month. An independent judging panel of design leaders known for their commitment to design for social good evaluated multiple proposals before making their final selection of thirteen outstanding grantees to receive grants to help implement projects advancing social good—David Rager, David Rager Studio; Esther Chak and Mary-Jo Valentino, Imaginary Office; Michael Osborne and Katy McCauley, Joey’s Corner; Tim Ferguson Sauder, Return Design; Robert Sedlack and Andrea Pellegrino, Sedlack Design Associates and Pellegrino Collaborative; Kenneth Botts, Visual Marketing Associates, Inc.; Anna Rubbo, Megan Bullock, and Matthias Neumann, Global Studio, Center for Sustainable Urban Development, Columbia University; The team,; Tony Ong, Fantagraphics Books; Celia Poirier, University of Connecticut; Maria Moon, Designmatters at Art Center College of Design; Marc Moscato, The Dill Pickle Club, Douglas Barrett and Matt Leavell, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Selected projects span a broad range of social, cultural and environmental causes from Robert Sedlack and Andrea Pellegrino’s project together, aimed at combating xenophobia in South Africa to Michael Osborne and Katy McCauley’s Wellspring Strategic Communication project to raise awareness about the need for supportive housing for adults with psychiatric illness.

Sappi-winners.jpgLOOKLOOK images courtesy Tim Ferguson Sauder, Return Design

One of the worthy projects selected this year was LOOKLOOK, an eye-catching, easy-to-understand system of visual game cards and field guides to teach students ecological literacy and understanding by Tim Ferguson Sauder, Director, Designer, Consultant, Return Design, LOOKLOOK focuses on science education for K–12 students actively addressing issues of increasing interest in science, specifically ecology while also increasing student engagement.

Sauder shared what inspired his project proposal for LOOKLOOK, how it feels to be a reward recipient and some information on Kestrel, the nonprofit his project will benefit.

1. What inspired the project you proposed?

There are so many answers to this question that I almost don’t know where to start; here are just a few of them:

Gordon College (where Return Design is located and I work as a Creative Director) is a huge inspiration. When your colleagues are doing things like changing education, conducting important research and using art to truly communicate with people it makes you want to push your craft to the limit as well. I’m inspired by watching the people around me as they continually try new approaches to more effectively communicate with their students. That open attitude toward new ideas led me to try to come up with a new way that information might be presented to grade school students. The challenge in the classroom is to present something that is engaging and interesting but also substantive—I hope that these cards can do just that.

I’m continually inspired by my current students and past interns from Return Design. Their willingness to give and their desire not only to learn the craft of design, but also to use their skills to partner with organizations working to help others, is so encouraging to see. Their enthusiasm and raw effort is such an amazing resource. It was seeing that untapped resource that inspired me to get them involved and shift what was a personal project into a collaborative effort.

Kestrel, the non-profit we’re partnering with, has been a huge inspiration on a number of levels. I have 3 kids and 2 of them have experienced what it was like to have Kestrel come into their classroom and teach them about some of the animals in our area. Their innovative approach to teaching ecology is beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. I think I was drawn to their approach to educating and wondered if there was any way to use my understanding of design to work with them to support what they are already doing so well. They are small and accomplish so much with so little. It’s in those restricted places that I think you often see the power of design as an efficient tool used to accomplish a goal. I hope we can do that with them.

Sappi-winners1.jpgLOOKLOOK images courtesy Tim Ferguson Sauder, Return Design

2. How does it feel to have been selected as one of the grantees?

It feels amazing. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of support both from my family (my kids and wife have been weighing in on this project since it began) and from Gordon College (where Return Design is located), but to receive the outside recognition and support from Sappi and this year’s judges is a great honor and confirmation of the quality of work that’s being produced here in Return Design. I’m so excited to be able to share with all of the Return Design interns, past and present, that their work is really affecting people and will be reaching even more people with the help of this grant.

Sappi-winners2.jpgLOOKLOOK images courtesy Tim Ferguson Sauder, Return Design

3. Talk a little bit about the nonprofit organization that will benefit from your project.

Kestrel is a small non-profit based in Gloucester, MA that goes into local schools and supports their existing science education programs by teaching students about the animals that live in their area. They take students out on trips into nature to find animals and learn about their habitats and they bring animals into the classroom to expose students to some of the species that they might not otherwise see. They make learning fun and interactive for students. We hope that the cards and supporting materials we’re developing with them can help them to reach even more students and teach them about the amazing world around them in such a way that will make the students want to treat that world with care and protect it.

More of Tim Ferguson Sauder’s work can be seen here and a short video showing him with Return Design alums working on the LOOKLOOK cards can be seen here.

Positive effects of participating in Sappi’s Ideas that Matter extend beyond grantees and their nonprofits, in a press release Mariana Amatullo Vice President, Designmatters Department, Art Center College of Design and 2012 Ideas that Matter panel judge stated “Serving on the Sappi Ideas that Matter jury was such a true privilege,” adding “This is a rare platform that brings to the forefront outstanding talent and initiatives that speak loud and clear about the potency of design driven by purpose.”

Since 1991, Sappi Ideas that Matter has awarded over $12 million dollars in grants worldwide. For more information about Sappi’s 2012 Ideas that Matter grant recipients in North America, please visit or call 800-882-4332. The Call for Entries for next year’s Ideas that Matter program will be announced in the spring of 2013.

Featured Sappi logo courtesy Sappi NA.