HOW Feature

Designing Change: Just Design, Evan’s Life

by HOW Magazine on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 in Features

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Evan’s Life Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children at risk. The foundation was formed in 1992 by a group of designers as a way of honoring the life of Evan, the 2-and-a-half-year-old son of fellow designers Greg and Pat Samata who was lost in a tragic car accident. It was a way for friends to provide comfort to the grief-stricken parents of Evan and a benevolent legacy for the child.

Though many ideas—especially those born from an emotional response to tragedy—tend to eventually fade, Evan’s Life endures. “The emotional commitment has never waned,” says Greg Samata, whose wife Pat now heads the foundation.

Over 20 years, the Foundation has helped more than 10,000 boys and girls statistically at risk. Evan’s Life makes grants on an individual basis, providing financial support for education, medical treatment, therapy and counseling, abuse education, physical or mental disability assistance, AIDS education, homeless child services and emergency assistance.

Under Pat Samata’s guidance, Greg says the scope and size of Evan’s Life has remained focused and small. All of the money the foundation collects goes directly to the children it serves, and the organization is completely run by volunteers. “Many of the same volunteers remain active today, and with the support of the design community and a dedicated board of directors [comprised largely of close friends and family], we continue to fulfill the mission the way it was conceived,” Greg says. The Samatas believe that authenticity and transparency resonates with donors and partners alike.

The foundation is run out of the smbolic office (formerly called SamataMason), and its presence has a notable effect on the studio. “In some ways, it has shaped our culture,” Greg says, noting that the firm’s philanthropic commitment attracts designers and employees who share their dedication. Likewise, Evan’s Life benefits immeasurably from smbolic’s design, strategy and communication skills. Take, for example, the Evan’s Life publication One Boy.

The story told in this brochure is that of one boy named Kevin, who you first see pictured as a smiling 4-year-old. The viewer learns that his father was intentionally run down by a car driven by gang members. Through Evan’s Life, Kevin received grief counseling that helped with his emotional survival following the loss of his father.

One Boy is a simple yet effective piece of promotional literature created by smbolic for Evan’s Life Foundation. The tabloid-size, unbound, black-and-white brochure is brilliantly paced, using an economy of words and images to tell a straightforward story.

The tabloid-size, unbound, black-and-white brochure is brilliantly paced, using an economy of words and images to tell a straightforward story of just one boy. On page two, we learn his name is Kevin. On the following spread we learn he is a 4-year-old boy. In most of the photos, Kevin appears happy. He also appears alone. That’s when we learn that his father was murdered—intentionally hit by a car driven by gang members.

A grant from Evan’s Life provided grief counseling that helped Kevin with his emotional survival following the loss of his father.

“The rewards of giving back are many,” says Greg, “and the need is everywhere. There are countless ways to do that—this is the direction we chose.”


This column’s topic was adapted and expanded from the book “Just Design,” by Christopher Simmons (HOW Books;

For many, doing good work that also does good in the world is part of the ethos of design practice. “Just Design” celebrates and explores this increasingly critical aspect of design by showcasing a diverse collection of inspiring projects, people and causes.

Article by: Christopher SimmonsMineTM

Editor’s note: This column, “Designing Change, Just Design, Evan’s Life” originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of HOW magazine, a bi-monthly publication dedicated to serving the graphic and web design community. Visit for a daily taste of the magazine.

Originally published on HOW Magazine