Designing Websites With the Triple Bottom Line in Mind
Look past your logo to energize your brand and make a difference.
Taylor Martin is the founder and chief creative for Design Positive, a strategic branding and accessibility agency. They work with mission-driven businesses—non-profit, public, private, and government agencies to create websites that are sustainable, accessible, and that align with an organization’s strategic goals.
“I find the business world fascinating and I love the mechanisms of how it operates.”
- A brand is more than just a logo.
- Investing in an accessible website protects your brand and your bottom line.
- When you focus on people, planet and profit, you change lives.
Taylor Martin has more than 25 years in the design and communications industry have given him the opportunity to work in publishing, advertising, investor communications, advocacy advertising, branding, and ADA web accessibility compliance. These experiences have provided Taylor a real-world understanding of how to craft messages, build brands, target audiences and tell his client’s story through their lens. He’s the founder and chief creative for Design Positive, a strategic branding and accessibility agency. They work with all types of mission-driven businesses—non-profit, public, private, and government agencies.
“We want to design for brands that drive positive change.”
Michael Kurland (00:01):
Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.
All right, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast with me, your host, Michael Kurland. I’m very excited today to have longtime friend, longtime cohort Taylor Martin on from Design Positive. Taylor, I’m so excited to have you on the show. You’ve been with us since the inception of Branded Group. You actually literally are part of the inception of Branded Group. You helped us design our logo before we were even anything other than two words and really excited to have you here. So welcome to the show, Taylor. Why don’t you tell the audience what exactly you do for Design Positive and give them a little bit about your background.
Taylor Martin (00:47):
You bet. Pleasure to be here, Mike. Thanks so much. I’m so glad you’re doing this podcast. I really enjoy the positive energy that you are putting out into the world. I mean, Design Positive. That’s where our business is revolving around. We work with a lot of organizations that are doing something good in the world and they don’t have to be curing cancer, but we do have some that are trying to do that. Companies like yourself, I think you’re a great beaming light for other organizations, small, medium, and larger, to learn how to do something good with their company, not just, profit only.
Taylor Martin (01:58):
What we do here at Design Positive, we focus on I’d say like three things really well: building brands, creating brands or rebranding an organization, or helping a company reenergize a brand by all different types of means because a brand is more than just a logo. Another third part would be website design. We’re very passionate about doing web designs that are accessible. We’re very passionate about making accessible websites look beautiful. I feel like we really accomplished that with the website that we did for you guys at Branded Group. We’re very happy with that one.
Michael Kurland (02:44):
I was just going to say, you’ve done all of those things for Branded Group. So if anyone would like close personal look at Design Positive’s work, just check out our website (www.branded-group.com).
Taylor Martin (02:56):
The third part of our business is a lot of print material. We do some high-level engagement through print, like annual reports, CSRs, ESG reports, as well as, just a plethora of all different types of marketing materials, brochures, and promotional items, and even billboards and signs and posters, all kinds of stuff. That the kind of the world in which we live in. Speaking about accessibility that’s one of the things, accessibility and sustainability are two items that are very near and dear to our heart. We try to work that into all different avenues of our work for Design Positive. Whether a company is or is not in a sustainable space, we can help them be sustainable in their marketing efforts and what they do.
Taylor Martin (03:49):
Then same thing for accessibility. Even things we do for the government where everything has to be accessible, even a printed poster, or an 8 by 11 PDF. I mean the PDF itself has to be programmed to be accessible. That’s a whole another long discussion I’m not going to go into, but just because I’m really upset of how time consuming it is to make a PDF accessible. It’s just crazy. But anyway, I digress. So, we do a lot, but it all revolves around the brand. When you guys came to us six years ago, we sat down and we had a fair amount of questionnaires to go over and everything. We talked about your vision and what you guys wanted to do and where you were wanting to go and the tone that you guys wanted.
Taylor Martin (04:34):
I always focus so much on the tone and that was the part I think that really resonated with all of us at the table. We really define the tone Branded Group and where you wanted to launch from and the image you want to put out there. I think that has been our guidepost to aim for and we’re always moving it back and redirecting it. But for the most part, it’s been a journey from day one and I think we’ve been doing a great job, pushing it forward, especially like I mentioned with the new website.
Michael Kurland (05:09):
I have to agree. Obviously, our relationship’s been ongoing for over six years. We’ve never gone anywhere else for any branding, any website redesign, logo design. I think I’ve referred, I don’t know how many people to you and only you, because you’re the best. You’re the best of what you do. I have to say you are great at everything in those three realms that you said.
Michael Kurland (05:38):
How long have you been doing this for? How did you get into this? Where did this come from?
Taylor Martin (05:45):
Good question. So I’m a lover of information and data.
Michael Kurland (05:51):
That’s why you’re friends with Jon Thomas.
Taylor Martin (05:53):
I just find the world fascinating and I love business as an entity. I love the mechanisms of it and how it operates as an entity. So, I went into my first job in advertising and then I turned right around and started a business, a mapping business. Then I went into a magazine publication and I was the art director for that, an art style and literature magazine, which was really fun. Then I went into publications nationwide for nonprofits. I got into the nonprofit world later. I went into advocacy advertising, which is really a powerful thing in Washington, D C where I used to live. Some of the things we would do would be literally in 24 hours, because you had to be in the paper the very next day with your talking points, rebutting whatever is going on in the Hill.
Taylor Martin (06:54):
That was very exciting, but extremely intense and fast paced, which I just loved. It forced me to have to narrow big ideas down to a very small, digestible, easy to understand messaging. Then I spent eight years working on annual reports and building brands for a very large organization, publicly traded companies. Some of them were fortune 500 organizations and for the government as well, being in DC, they’re all over around you. Then after that, I just realized I’ve kind of seen and done so many different things that I decided I need to go off on my own and really push this forward and the way that I want to do it and work with the clients I want to work with. That’s when I focused on sustainability. That’s really what drove my force forward. Then once I learned about accessibility, then that changed everything. I just folded that into our services.
Michael Kurland (07:55):
Bringing up sustainability and accessibility, that’s obviously something that you guys are very passionate about and I can totally get on board with that. But for our audience, sustainability is an obvious thing, right? You’re trying to reduce the carbon footprint, right. You’re trying to make sure that there are things that are available via online only. There’s no paper. Am I wrong? Is there anything else I’m missing on that?
Taylor Martin (08:22):
No, there’s a lot of things about sustainability that a company can do. Like for instance, even our hosting server for our website is on, which I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s still the only hosting server in the United States that is completely on their own solar grid. They literally have a solar grid in their farm, outside their building and all that power supports all the servers inside the building.
Michael Kurland (08:50):
So you’ve really gone to the next level with that. What’s the name of it?
Taylor Martin (08:58):
AISO.net. Okay. I think we’re still the only one. Because a lot of people will use what they call Rex. They’ll buy Rex to offset their emissions that they’re doing. In a retrograde, it’s a tax that you’re paying for it to offset your carbon footprint. But really the best thing to do is to find someone like aiso.net and just have somebody who has really invested in solar servers. I mean, that’s really what they do.
Michael Kurland (09:33):
That’s great. So, the non-use of paper. Talk to me more about web accessibility, because when we were redesigning my website, that was a big talking point for you. You were hammering home that we needed it to be web accessible. I still don’t quite 100% understand it. So, for our listening audience, let’s give them a tutorial one-on-one in web accessibility and why it’s important to you.
Taylor Martin (10:03):
I’ll tell you that the biggest thing about web accessibility is that it’s for people with disabilities. If people have low vision or if they just can’t interact with the computer like you and I do, they have some sort of disability, there are a host of software and hardware out there in the world that allow them to interact with the web. The only problem is there are certain codes and restrictions and processes that you use. There are known as section 508 and then WCAG. The current standard is 2.1 AA. There used to be 2.0, but 2.1 was two years ago, and things have shifted over to 2.1, which is more mobile friendly. If you design the visual of your website in a high contrast way for people with low vision, and then it’s coded in a way so that people can interact with it with these third party hardware and software items, then that allows them full access to everything on your site.
Taylor Martin (11:07):
Now you think, Oh, good, that’s great. You’re doing good. You’re making people accessible, but I got to tell you only like 10% of the internet is accessible, which is just maddening. To be quite honest, when I found this out, I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what accessibility was and when I did, that literally changed us. That changed the name of my business from Vox Verde, which was, “green voice” about sustainability to Design Positive because we realized we wanted to fold accessibility into our work because that was a positive thing we could put out into the world. We were very passionate about that. We have always been passionate about it, but the thing that people don’t understand, and you have to talk about this and this is the bottom line, right? Oh, it’s going to cost me more money to make our website accessible.
Taylor Martin (11:52):
Back in the day, it was a lot more heavy lifting, but now it’s not so much heavy lifting involved. When you do make a website accessible, your SEO goes up. So, you’re getting more eyeballs, you’re getting more SEO equity out there with your website. The robots can crawl your website better and know what you’re known for. You also increase your engagement to a larger population of people. If you have only 10% of the internet is accessible to people with disabilities, you’re going to fall into that 10 or 11%. Now you’re going to have a bigger audience and you’d be amazed at how many people will go to a website and that they just can’t interact with it. Well, even if they just have low vision, they bounce, they jump. So those are things that are really important. Now the one thing I call the dark part is that your business can be sued.
Michael Kurland (12:43):
That was the one thing I was just going to raise. You had mentioned that when we were redesigning branded- group.com. That we could be sued if we didn’t have an accessible website. That obviously caught my attention as a business owner. So, talk a little bit more about that.
Taylor Martin (13:06):
So approximately for the last two years, there’s been a little over six businesses a day being sued for not having an accessible website and you think, “Oh, it’s not going to happen to me.” We have attorneys calling us saying, can you make this website accessible? We’re in litigation right now because our client is being sued. How soon can you do it? It’s been a range of companies. The larger the brand that doesn’t mean the larger the company in terms of revenue, it’s just the larger it is in the face of the public. I think the larger the target. But there have been some small businesses that have been sued because they wanted access to a website, and they can’t gain access to it because of their disabilities. No one wants to have their name drug through the mud for being sued. But if you look up web accessibility and Domino’s, that was a huge, huge case that that cost them, I don’t even know how much money, but it was ridiculous. They could’ve spent a fraction of that to make their website and their mobile app accessible and not have had any of that problems. But even someone like Beyoncé has been sued for not having an accessible website.
Michael Kurland (14:28):
In this litigious society that we do live that’s something that you want to button up real quick. So, all the listeners out there that have your own websites, web accessibility, give Taylor a ring. He can definitely help you out with that. So that’s definitely some good information. I’m glad we were able to share that. That’s definitely being better for the website and for the accessibility. I’m glad you’re passionate about that. I do remember when you first started working with us, you are at the very tail end of Vox Verde and you had just changed to Design Positive. Now I know the story behind that.
Michael Kurland (15:06):
Great, great information there. So, in the current time that we’re in, everyone’s in the work from home, but you guys have always been a virtual business, I would assume, correct.
Taylor Martin (15:21):
That’s correct. Our digital director’s in Seattle. Our art director and myself are in Austin, Texas, but we hardly ever meet. We always say we should go meet for coffee, but now that it’s COVID time, we’ll have coffee on Zoom or something. Then we have writers on the East Coast and designers in D C. So, everybody’s in their own little place and everybody’s enjoying their life the way they want to. They make their own schedule. We have an online collaboration platform that we use, so that everybody’s on the same page and nothing falls through the cracks. It makes for easy access to who has to do what. But when Covid happened, it was just like, there’s another day in the office for us. Nothing changed for us whatsoever. It’s just that all of a sudden, now we’re doing a lot more Zoom meetings because everybody wants to be on a Zoom meeting as opposed to meeting in person. But that’s about it.
Michael Kurland (16:11):
I can attest to that. We obviously had a spike in Zoom meetings as well, but the thing we really had a spike in was Zoom Happy Hours. It was just every week everyone from team or one of our clients wanted to get some interaction, which I think is very important right now and have a Zoom Happy Hour. I mentioned this before, but the problem with Zoom Happy Hours is that you are your own bartender. Sometimes you don’t know when to cut yourself off. So the Zoom hangover is a real thing, but I digress. So, on your website, your homepage has a simple statement, “designing for brands that drive positive change.” So, tell me a little bit of how that statement came to be and is that your mission statement?
Taylor Martin (17:04):
It was a statement that we just kept talking about what we want to stand for, what we want to do and who we want to work for all in one. It’s always difficult to condense something down and it’s always the hardest to do it for yourself. We do it for other companies and it just seems so easy and effortless, but when we do it for ourselves, it’s like the cobbler, who doesn’t have his own shoes. It’s just that story. So, we kept talking about it in the conversational speak and we realized we just want to design for brands that drive positive change. We didn’t want to say nonprofits or people that are trying to cure cancer or things like that, any company that can do anything, but they want to do something beyond just the bottom line. So that’s how it came about. We’re actually redesigning our website and that of course takes so much time because we’re incredibly nitpicky of everything we do. But we’re also working on a new mission statement. So I have to say stay tuned for that one. I don’t have an answer yet for that.
Michael Kurland (18:05):
I look forward to that. I mean, you’ve got to have the perfect website, right? Because that’s part of what you’re selling. If someone goes to your website and says, what is this? Maybe they’re not going to hire you, but I’m sure that even with all the good creatives you got over there and everything that I’ve ever seen you produce, you guys will have a great website redesign. It’ll just probably, like you said, take way longer.
Taylor Martin (18:32):
It’s so much bigger than what we have. It’s just so much more complex and so much more integrated with all different types of things. So that’s the reason why it’s taken so long. It’s not just going to be a portfolio website. We’re not doing that anymore.
Michael Kurland (18:46):
You designed our first website just to touch on that for a second back in early or late 2013, early 2014 when we were just getting off the ground. I don’t think technology is the right word, but the tech for the websites back then, what was hot and in, was whatever. Then we did the redesign about a year and a half ago and it’s changed. I mean, obviously it changed so much, but so much that everything we did five years prior was just like using a Betamax, like VCR compared to I don’t even know what – Blu-ray today. I know it was painstaking for us to do all that in a good way because you made sure that we have all of our details covered. I’m sure your people are doing the same. You work with us at Branded Group, but what are some of the other kinds of businesses you work with? Tell me some interesting, some names, some good stories from your world. We don’t get a lot of web design and marketing companies on here.
Taylor Martin (19:56):
We do a fair amount of nonprofits. We’ve done annual reports for Greenpeace. But we’ve also done work for the World Bank. I like telling people that story from one to the other, because the World Bank is trying to do their good their way. We help brand their corporate sustainability department within the organization and how it communicates all around the world. I’ve had a background in developing the brand for International Finance Corporation, their very first style guide, which was a yearlong endeavor that took talking to people in all different countries and everything. It was nuts. I like being able to work with any type of organization, but some of the interesting ones that we’ve done is we’ve done work with this organization that’s tied to another organization. One’s called Practice Greenhealth and one’s called Healthcare Without Harm.
Taylor Martin (20:54):
The two nonprofits, they do a lot of joint venture businesses together, and one of the things we just finished for them was this enormous procurement guide for sustainability purposes. It’s basically going to affect all of us. This report is helping hospitals understand how and why they need to be more sustainable, not just for bottom line purposes, but for all the different things. The full circle, the circular economy for a hospital because hospitals buy and sell and there’s just so much consumption and they treat people in an environment that they’re trying to create to be even more healthy. Then they’re also changing the way they actually feed people at hospitals, even talking about having hospitals growing their own food. So, you’re going to see a lot of changes in that, and that’s been a really exciting project to work on.
Michael Kurland (21:57):
That’s interesting. I know from my past days, I used to sell industrial equipment in hospitals. One of the ways that they make energy for their buildings is they burn their own waste and that’s definitely not a sustainable thing, right? It’s not for clean and green.
Taylor Martin (22:26):
I know this information so much. I could just go a little bit deeper in the weeds on that one, but they had a campaign to post above all those red trash cans you see at the hospital because red are the biohazard, that’s the one you’re talking about. Those are the ones that they have to burn because of the bio waste. They had a poster that we helped them design that specified what goes in and what does not. The problem is because people that were visiting somebody in the hospital and they just look around for a trashcan and they just see that when they just put something in it. We had to do a campaign and then they had to put two trash cans next to it. One with biohazard, one not. You couldn’t have one without the other kind of thing. That reduces the amount of energy to burn and the waste from the burn and i’s a domino effect.
Michael Kurland (23:18):
Exactly. It’s the same thing with organically grown – the thought process behind it. I once was taken to school by someone when I said, “Why am I going to eat an organic banana? It’s in a shell, right. It’s in its own little wrapper. They were like, well, it’s the soil and the water table and this and that. Well, I am going to be quiet and learn more about organically grown things before I open my mouth again. So, I can appreciate that. So, Taylor, I was recently on your podcast, The Triple Bottom Line, and obviously I really enjoyed our conversation and I consider myself a practicing conscious capitalist. I’ve heard of the triple bottom line many times, but for our audience, can you explain to them what that really is, what it means?
Taylor Martin (24:08):
Sure. So, in 1994, John Atkinson, he’s a financial person. I believe he’s in London, England. He came up with the phrase, coined the phrase triple bottom line. The triple bottom line in a nutshell is basically people, planet and profit. So, we all know what the bottom line is, but if you looked at the bottom line in terms of profitable or not profitable, what if you looked at it in a sense of people. Are we helping people or hindering people? Are we hurting people or improving the lives of people? It could be anybody. It could be the social status of your company and all the different people from manufacturing to shipping to the people that actually use your product or service the whole, the whole gamut. Then the planet side. Are you helping the planet or hindering the planet?
Taylor Martin (24:53):
You’re hurting the planet, damaging the planet? Or are you helping the planet in some way? That’s really what the triple bottom line is. This is in 1994 when this was coined and it has caught on in some circles, in the sustainability circles and now we have sustainability officers in larger corporations and things like that. Now it’s evolved into what’s called the ESG, which is environmental, social, governance, and that’s been taking off. It’s a lot more stringent in terms of the requirements to do an ESG report for an organization. Unlike the CSR report, which is good, more stringency means that people have to jump through bigger hoops and to make things more valid and more compliance to be more sustainable. Of course, more triple bottom line focus.
Taylor Martin (25:48):
But the triple bottom line actually was the precursor of the ESG. I say that just because the ESG is just more of a top subject. I went back to the triple bottom line because it was a near and dear to my heart and it really changed me a long time ago. So, I started the Triple Bottom Line podcast because of that and I love it. I love podcasting as you know. I love being on your show. I think if everybody did their company with a mindset of a triple bottom line, I think the world would be a much better place even.
Michael Kurland (26:21):
I totally agree. I think that’s why we’ve always aligned with everything that we’ve done together over the years. I mean, Branded Group, although we don’t call it the triple bottom line, we definitely do it. I mean we’re doing beach cleanups and ocean sustainability. We’re helping with feeding the community and building homes for the community. Obviously hopefully turning a profit, which we’ve been doing okay for the last couple of years.
Taylor Martin (26:51):
I want to say one thing that you’ve mentioned on one of your previous podcasts that actually made an impression on me. I can’t remember which episode it was, but you were talking about even small businesses doing something good. Don’t keep moving the goalposts back. You can always do something good, even if it’s small and you got me when you said that. Because I have been guilty of moving the goalpost back and what it was is that I always wanted to give back, when my company got big enough or I had more time or whatever, I was going to get into planting trees for the work that we do with our clients – for every project we do, we plant the tree and everything. I just kept pushing it back, pushing it back. I’ll do it later, do it later. But I have to tell you when I heard that podcast and I heard you say that I was like, you know what, he’s talking to me. He’s talking to me.
Taylor Martin (27:47):
So we’re working with Trees For the Future, trees.org, i you want to look it up. They’re one of the first ones that were planting trees many, many years ago. It was just a small group of people that got together to do it. Now it’s a much, much larger organization. But, one of the things that I think is so amazing that they do is they don’t just plant trees. They have a social aspect to it, which brings in the triple bottom line for me. They just don’t go out and plant trees. They find people that have farms that need help and they show them how to plant trees properly, strategically on their land to help them get more out of their land.
Taylor Martin (28:34):
It’s a four-year program. By the time they get through four years, the outcome of their farm for their family has increased exponentially. They’re also cooling that part of their land. Then that farmer and their team become ambassadors. Then they go and they help other people do that. So, it’s a paying forward thing. It’s mostly in, I think it might only be in Africa, but if you look at the heat map of the unit of the world, Africa has got so much uncovered land that we need it there the most. So I have to say it’s because of you that I’m actually kicking myself in the rear and moving forward and going to make this happen. So, once it’s all said and done, I’m going to plant like a hundred trees just for you.
Michael Kurland (29:25):
Well, I’m glad that we were able to inspire you in some way. Honestly, if you need any help on that, we would we’d happy to partner with you on planting some trees. That’d be great. I would love it. It sounds good. Good for the environment. So, sign me up.
Taylor Martin (29:42):
I’ll pull forward some information to you.
Michael Kurland (29:44):
Thanks, Taylor. Well, I just wanted to say thank you so much for being on the show today. If our listeners here want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?
Taylor Martin (29:55):
You can always go to designpositive.com and if you want to, you can also follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. We’re always pushing out all different types of sustainability and accessibility and branding and marketing and strategic branding tidbits. You can also join our mailing list at designpositive.com. If you want to engage us or if you have any questions about these things that we’ve talked about today, I’m more than happy to jump on a call with somebody and get them educated and get them up and going.
Michael Kurland (30:30):
Taylor, I really appreciate you being here. Thanks for coming on the show and we will hopefully have you back on in a couple more episodes and celebrating some trees being planted.
Taylor Martin (30:43):
That’s awesome. Thanks so much for having me. I really, really enjoyed this.
I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better. Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.