Designing for your community

Pretty. Right? 🙃 (But also, remember offices?)

This is one of the many buildings that Zendesk proudly occupies in the Tenderloin District around 6th and Market Street in San Francisco, California. Inside, the LaCroix river flows strong, you can eat as many animal shaped-snacks that you fancy, and we have access to guided meditation and yoga during work hours… because you know, working in Tech can be stressful (not being facetious). And yet, outside our cool-exposed-brick walls lies a whole different type of stress; lack of opportunity, health services, housing, and even access to basic safety. The juxtaposition is stark af.

We’ve got an assortment of cool neighbors. A Supreme store, Pentacle coffee, and a couple of feet away from our door right underneath the legendary Luggage Store Gallery, the Hospitality House Community Arts Program—a place with a mission of providing a creative sanctuary for Tenderloin residents. Everyone is welcome and free to use painting supplies and/or attend classes, such as painting, ceramic and screen printing—free of charge, and most importantly, free of judgement.

6th & Market. S/O to Google Street View

Our CEO, Mikkel Svane (our humblident fearless leader and artsy guy) has been involved in this non-profit for years. And this is for real. This is the inside of his office. 80% of the art on his walls are from the Community Arts Program.

Every May, The Community Arts Program throws its Annual Art Auction: their biggest fund-raising effort. Hospitality House is very well-loved and has a strong support system in the San Francisco Arts community. The Auction showcases a wide range of talent. Well-known artists, up and coming artists, and most importantly, Community Artists from the program all get to participate, side by side.

Mikkel saw the potential in this and decided to reach out to individuals at Zendesk from Marketing and Creative, along with and the wonderful Amie Spitler (Artist, Tenderloin resident and Mikkel’s personal assistant) to join forces with the folks at Hospitality House and help them with a rebrand. We met with Allan, the Director of Development and Tess, the Development Manager at Hospitality House, to really dive into this project. We wanted to figure out how to improve the fundraiser without making it into a stuffy and/or “too cool for school” Art Auction. When we looked at the creative brief, the main request from HH was to keep it FUNKY and keep that Tenderloin spirit. Heck yes, we would.

Tenderloin neighborhood

We decided two things:

  1. We would integrate the Hospitality House logo in our word mark.
Ryan Donahue. Former VP of Global Design / Creative genius

2. We would take the time to showcase the stories right.

We took the time to interview the Community Artists in the studio, and also got the super talented Anastasiia Sapon to take portraits of the artists.

Matt Hicks (left), Emily Mueller (Middle) and Charles Pitts (right)
Anna Morrow (left), Charles Blackwell (middle) and Anthony Morris (right)

AND BOOM! We had enough to make a website. designed on Squarespace haaaaay

Designers volunteered to create Riso posters (that were leveraged as signage and social media posts).

Me (left), Ben Saluti (middle), Melanie Picardo (right)

The day came and we were incredibly fortunate to have San Francisco art power couple Ferris Plock and Kelly Tunstall curated 150+ pieces of art (25 in the live and 125 in the silent auction). The gallery space was HUGE, so we had plenty of room to play around with way-finding and branding moments.


As we were creating this installation, we all looked at each other in complete exhaustion and disbelief. Without actually using words we wondered,


But then, it happened.

It was busy before it even opened and people were so excited to show off their art.

And the energy was wonderful. The perfect San Francisco evening.

MY FAVORITE! Napkin copy by Raven Wadley-Wright

So many people volunteered their talents for the details in this event.

But most importantly...

We sold A LOT of art.

In fact, the % in total revenue from 2019 vs. 2018 was 87%.

🤯 !!!!!!!!!!87%!!!!!!!!!! 🤯

So next time you take a stroll around your neighborhood it’s important to ask,

How can you be involved?

So now what?

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to cancel this year’s physical auction at The Phoenix Hotel. However…

We are hosting THHE AUCTION online at

We will be going live July 15th at 12pm and the auction will close on July 19th at 9pm—be sure to check out the full preview, which is online now! Earmark your favorites and check back in mid-July to buy some art—because remember, without art, the eARTh is just ‘eh’.

See you on the interwebz! 😉

Check out for more thought leadership, design process, and other creative musings.

Zendesk Creative

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design.

Zendesk Creative

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

Gabbi Sanchez Mallona

Written by

Communications Designer at Zendesk. Big fan of soup, money and drag queens.

Zendesk Creative

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

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