We’re always talking about growth—the need to be better, to keep up, to grow.
The strange thing about growth, however, is that no matter how much you talk about it, it’s difficult to actually see it, to know that it had already happened.
In our case, that seems to hold true. It happened without us really talking about it. We just one day realized that Works of Heart—what we stand for and especially how we do it—has been different for a while now. The old habits and phrases had changed. We used different words, different expressions. No longer starry-eyed, no longer heart-over-everything, no longer too meek: Works of Heart had grown.
It was last year when we decided to embark on a website redesign, just so we could highlight some of our more recent projects. Following through on that earlier this year, we found that it wouldn’t be as simple as just updating the portfolio.
During our strategic planning last February, the first thing we discussed was our long-standing vision: to “create a better Philippines.” While it sounds clear, it can also be very abstract—what does it mean to be better, and what does that look like? We individually answered this question and we saw that we all focused on what people should have in a society. It was here that we decided that we needed to highlight the people more, so we decided to pivot from “a better Philippines” to this: “a nation that is free”—where everyone has access to resources, more opportunities for developmental and personal growth, the capacity to have and make choices, and the ability to express opinions without unjust consequences.
It wasn’t an identity crisis, but it was close to it. We always took pride in being a social impact design studio—but moving forward, how do we do it? How do we better implement that balance? We always assumed that we would be doing, more or less, the same work we’ve grown accustomed to for the past few years.
As it turned out, this was part of the growth, not only of WOH itself, but also our vision and our values.
Back then, we latched on to “design for a cause” because we just wanted to help advocacy-driven groups. But now, molded and shaped by our contemporary realities in the country, we knew that it was lacking: it wasn’t enough that we had a cause or an advocacy and promoting it, and it wasn’t enough to just use the blanket term “better” for our hopes for the country.
we decided to pivot from “a better Philippines” to this: “a nation that is free”—where everyone has access to resources, more opportunities for developmental and personal growth, the capacity to have and make choices, and the ability to express opinions without unjust consequences.
This became our new thrust: pursuing good design. We want to match good design, not just with classic idealism or wishful thinking, but with social imagination: the capacity to perceive the complex social realities that govern and transform our communities, and to reconcile that with a fervent desire to keep imagining a better future for all of us. It is imagination that deeply roots itself in both social and personal experiences, imagination that does not shy away from the contexts of injustice and marginalization. The persistence and insistence to imagine new ways to uplift the lives of various people in the community. It is the radical force to keep believing in pursuing better living circumstances for all, despite the ever-ominous social perils of our time.
We realized then that we needed to make it a priority to do passion projects (based on the personal advocacies of our team members) and initiate projects and partnerships. Instead of waiting for design to happen, it became design that was socially charged towards “freedom”—design that aims to allow mobility and opportunity despite the limiting social circumstances.
[Social imagination] is the radical force to keep believing in pursuing better living circumstances for all, despite the ever-ominous social perils of our time.
Many things needed to change.
In terms of our tone, for example, we needed to move past the softness and gentleness that was our comfort zone for so long. For the immensity of our vision, we needed to challenge ourselves to speak more authoritatively, to allow our quiet intensity to come through. Though at times we were meek and reserved, our impact, after all, was anything but that.
We even had a discussion about the words we use. Our resolve was to not use words that were empty, and to not fall into the trap of using buzzwords that do not accurately convey our intentions. We talked about the privilege and imposition that comes with using common industry terms such as “problem” and “solution,” and why we wanted to move past these usual ways of framing design. It was not enough to say we wanted “change” and be done with it; instead, we needed to be more tangible and exact: what kind of change?
Soon, we found ourselves having to revisit and revamp our brand manual as well: we adjusted our creative direction to become more action-oriented, firm, grounded and impactful. We converted what used to be feelings and lofty ideals into empowered words, statements, and visuals that can better reflect the impact and sincerity of our partners and our work.
Even in the final stages of our website, we knew everything had to be in character. We take seriously our commitment to our vision, going as far as altering the way we did the project write-ups, the portfolio shots, and even the presentation of our team members. Our members, for example, each have individual advocacies, so we wanted to highlight that even in our photos and our write-ups.
In a way, we found ourselves having to keep up with how much we’ve grown.
We converted what used to be feelings and lofty ideals into empowered words, statements, and visuals that can better reflect the impact and sincerity of our partners and our work.
All of this just to say—Works of Heart is going to continue to work, the way we know how.
Somewhere among these vast waves of change, we hold fast to what we believe to be true. We know that design can’t solve all of our problems, but it does have a place in our country’s ongoing project of freedom.
To everyone we’ve worked with, this is our declaration of gratitude.
To everyone else, this is an invitation: let’s do good work together.