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For the last fourteen years, the Sappi Ideas that Matter grant has been awarded to designers who are able to use Sappi’s paper to help communities—in America and overseas. “It’s not so often that a company basically says “make the world a better place on our dime”, says David Rager, whose 2012 booklets for The Ecology Center promoted “dozens of projects anyone can do in their own backyards.” Everything from harvesting rainwater, to pickling, to bicycle care—each booklet “features one core subject and breaks it down into easy to implement pieces.”

The designer chooses a charity or organization to work with, and finds a way of using Sappi’s paper to meet a goal.

Image courtesy David Rager Studio

It’s easy to dismiss the idea that paper can have such a significant role in our digital age, but looking through the projects of past years is a testament to its viability. Paper is affordable, reusable, easily accessible. You don’t need a device to read its content, you don’t need someone to visit a web page. And when its time has passed, it can be recycled.

2010 grant recipient Linda Pulik of Bao Design had an original approach to how to use paper: as a way of measuring medication in Uganda. Her project, Project Dose inspired this remarkable video…

Ideas that Matter Profile – Project Dose

“The inspiration to use paper as a manufacturing material emerged early on when we observed the nurse crushing tablets enveloped in a paper sleeve with a soda bottle,” says Linda, “However it wasn’t until we decided to combine the functionalities of divider and packaging that the use of paper became central to the design.”

But one of the standout items in Project Dose is the pill crusher, which is not made of paper. “The initial prototypes we constructed in the US would have been prohibitively expensive to manufacture in Uganda—if they could’ve been manufactured at all. They had too many parts and were made from materials that are inexpensive in the West, but very difficult to acquire in Uganda.”

Image courtesy David Rager Studio

So what advice would these grant award winners give to designers who want to develop a project?

“It takes longer than you expect” says Rager. “I would advise them to be prepared to be very patient and to take direction from their community partners,” says Pulik, “Ideas need to matter to the people and communities who are supposed to benefit from them. If those ideas are conceived by designers in isolation from those parties, they will not matter in the long run. Community partners need to take a leadership role and not be told what’s best for them. Building this type of trust and relationship takes time and endless patience on the part of everyone involved,” says Pulik.

Image courtesy David Rager Studio

Sappi’s deadline for Ideas that Matter is July 19, 2013. Just as in previous years, these grant awards will show how designers and the graphic design projects they create can help out communities in new and surprising ways.

Image courtesy David Rager Studio

Image courtesy David Rager Studio