The Insights lecture series, presented by the Walker Art Center and AIGA Minnesota, wrapped up its 25th anniversary season last week, and once again it proved to be an inspiring blend of mind-blowing creativity and stunning beauty. The series, which is held on Tuesday evenings every March, consistently goes beyond the standard designer slide show with thoughtful, often challenging presentations by designers from an array of disciplines and backgrounds. One thing I love about the series is that the lineup of speakers often includes established icons followed by edgy newcomers.

I had the pleasure of introducing Casey Caplowe, co-founder and creative director of GOOD at the finale of the series. I met Casey last summer when we were both on the jury for the 2010 Sappi Ideas That Matter competition. You get to know someone pretty well when you’re locked in a hotel conference room together for 2½ days, and I found Casey to be a shrewd and thoughtful critic of design, with a deep and genuine passion for social change. GOOD—as they say on their website—is an integrated media platform making a magazine, website, videos, and live events for people who give a damn. Founded in 2006, the quarterly GOOD magazine, a three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, is a breakthrough in visual communication. The infographic—those forgettable bar graphs and pie charts so often relegated to the sidebars—is elevated and celebrated on the pages and screens of GOOD. With breathtaking consistency and creativity, GOOD transforms unthinkably serious and complicated social problems like healthcare, taxes, and the environmental crisis into visual stories that delight, engage and inform. What I love about, the GOOD infographics is that they clarify these complex topics without oversimplifying them. They don’t shy away from the deep details in order to make a pretty picture, and the result is that I really learn something about these topics.

Casey made a number of memorable points in his presentation—one of which is the title of this post—but I was particularly surprised by his description of how the creative staff of GOOD are beginning to work with some of the business partners (ie: advertisers) of the magazine and website. The GOOD creative team are operating more like a creative agency than the design department of a publisher. I think this is a brilliant way to meet the challenge of modern day magazine publishing and find a way to supplement the finances by expanding your core offering (in this case, awesome design) to generate supplemental revenue.

All five of the 2011 Insights lectures can be viewed on the Walker Channel.