Who We Are

We are artists, activists, marketers, communicators, and strategists passionate about using our skills to make a better world. We listen, we analyze, we create, we challenge. We’re not getting rich, but we sleep well at night.


Hey, I'm Iván
Iván Vargas-Gatica

Iván has more than 15 years of experience in creative design. He has successfully managed projects, from creative conception to final execution for clients from biotech to financial services to sports, travel and entertainment. An expert in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver, Iván excels at online as well as traditional media. He also enjoys animation, logo creation and working with emerging technology. Born in Chile, Iván studied Visual Communication Design at the Instituto Profesional de Chile and later continued his education at the California College of Arts.

Senior Graphic Designer
Hi, I’m Cynthia!
Cynthia Lyon

Cynthia has a wide range of interests. Her passion for organization has been a central theme, spanning the fields of the environment, golf and antiques. She has also worked in multiple accounting environments, giving her a wide perspective in different accounting practices. Central to that diversity is her ability to keep things in balance.

Cynthia has been a lifelong collector of antiques and can be found rummaging around auctions, estate sales and yard sales on the weekends. Her interest has been transformed into a fledgling business. Many people are unmoved by accounting, but Cynthia’s irreverent sense of humor livens up BWA’s entire finance department (which would actually just be Cynthia).

With over 20 years business experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors, her finance-savvy background is welcome in BWA’s world of social marketing. Cynthia has a B.S. in Conservation from the University of California, Berkeley.

Finance Manager
Hey, I'm Dusty!
Dustin York

Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dusty joined BWA to use his graphic design skills to make some positive change in the world. While in Canada, he was the art director at The Coast, an alternative weekly newspaper. Dusty also served as a designer for several marketing firms in the US and Canada, developing print and outdoor media, online advertising and e-learning materials. He holds a Bachelor of Design (honors) from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University.

Since joining BWA in 2006, Dusty has helped create the visual identity for a numerous organizations, including: Family Builders, Life Project, I.R.M.A., Center Link, I.N.P.U.D. and Adoption SF. He has also worked on a number of award-winning campaigns, including "Sugar Bites" for First 5 Contra Costa County, "Take Pride Leave Cigarettes" for the Chicago Department of Public Health and “Don’t Erase Your Future” for U.C. Irvine (which has since been adapted for various campuses across the United States). He also worked with I.N.P.U.D. to create their “Drug War Peace” initiative that impacted policy makers at the W.H.O. in Geneva and received an American Graphic Design Award.

Art Director
Hey, I'm Sheldon!
Sheldon DeSouza

Sheldon DeSouza is a native of Trinidad, WI which accounts for his easygoing demeanor, but don’t let his “don’t worry be happy” attitude fool you. He is a passionate activist for many causes dear to his heart including youth, the arts, gay rights and HIV/AIDS research. Sheldon is co-founder and vice-chair of The Black Gay Men’s Network; a national brotherhood of professional black gay men committed to improving lives, health and building community in order to make social change.

Sheldon attended Rider University in New Jersey where he majored in Computer Science. He went on to earn a master’s from Steven’s Institute of Technology and continued his studies towards Project Management Professional certification. Sheldon has a broad background in IT/Project Management and has managed highly complex initiatives for Fortune 100 companies, including Time Warner as Director of Quality Assurance – Interactive Media.

Sheldon’s role at BWA is the culmination of his training and passion. He is responsible for managing HIV Stops With Me, a multifaceted national social marketing campaign preventing the spread of HIV and reducing stigma associated with the disease. He is also managing a new national HIV testing campaign for the CDC targeting Black and Latino MSM.

In his free time, Sheldon can be found in the gym, on the beach with a good book or blasting his favorite house music.

Vice President
Hey, I'm Sam!
Sam Shoemaker

Sam Shoemaker brings his love for arts, culture and activism to BWA as Video Producer for the HIV Stops With Me Campaign. In this role, Sam travels across New York to capture real-world footage of openly HIV-positive people living their lives. Sam is the founder of Fraternity Films, a company he founded after leaving the finance industry several years ago.

Sam has enjoyed working with such luminaries as Spike Lee, Tim Robbins, and David Bowie, but is most proud of his work creating PSAs for nonprofits such as The World is Your Oyster and the Heart Society. A born and bred New Yorker, Sam loves the Harlem neighborhood in which he was raised and is dedicated to improving the lives of those in his community. He credits his mother -- who devoted her career to helping at-risk teens and adults find work, education and housing – for instilling in him the importance of community service.

In his spare time, Sam enjoys volunteering for various charitable organizations and playing ice hockey.

Video Producer
Hi, I'm Les.
Les Pappas

Les Pappas established Better World Advertising in 1996 and has been creating social marketing campaigns for 35 years. As President and Creative Director, Les is involved in every aspect of the social marketing process, from developing messages to overseeing campaign implementation and evaluation. Les believes that social marketing is a limitless force for helping people and creating a stronger, healthier society.

Prior to founding BWA, Les served as the Director of Prevention Campaigns for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for ten years. His campaigns were featured in numerous national and international media outlets including CNN and Time Magazine. He has volunteered on many boards and committees, including the San Francisco HIV Prevention Planning Council, Health Initiatives for Youth, TARC/Tenderloin Health and 18th Street Services/New Leaf. Les currently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for Family Builders, a Bay Area foster care/adoption agency.

Originally from Massachusetts, Les received a BA from Clark University and an MPA from the University of San Francisco. He is passionate about automobile design and has a penchant for photography.

President & Creative Director