April 26, 2012

The designer's call to altruism

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After a recent conversation with the communications director of a global manufacturing company who also runs a non-profit, I've been thinking lately about the designer's obligation for altruism. To put it simply, we are obliged to give back to the community in meaningful ways.

This particular individual runs a non-profit on a budget of under $100,000, rehabbing homes in the inner city. It's a worthwhile cause, since their consitituents are on fixed incomes and can't afford to fix up their homes.

His concern is that even though they are on a small budget, they would like their communications to be professional. They should be well-designed and not look as if anyone with a copy of a basic publishing product and an image gallery had put it together. Or even an easy-to-maintain web site with a small content management system. (Such as Joomla!, a leading open source CMS).

I suggested that perhaps there should be a "buddy system" within AIGA, matching small, under-funded non-profits (the majority so it seems) with a designer or design firm who would adopt them. The designer's obligation would be to provide them design services on a pro bono level or at a substantially reduced fee.

I think this initiative should happen without the organization of AIGA. And I'm certain it does happen much more than any of us are aware. It just needs to happen more.

As a believer in the values taught by the Bible, I think it's a designer's obligation to support a non-profit or ministry. After reading Loving Monday by John Beckett, I realized that I don't own my business (even though my name is on the paperwork). The business belongs to the Lord, I and my partner are the stewards of this business, to do with it as He desires.

Of course, to feed our egos, we might ask for creative freedom when we donate our services (one of our conditions in doing so). But the client has the right to make certain their needs for clear and effective communcation are being met. At that point the spirit of humility will kick in and everyone will work together toward a common goal.

Every designer has a cause or a ministry or a non-profit that they would like to support. Every designer has gifts that are given to them by the Master of creativity (whether they are aware of this relationship or not).

I think that every designer needs to use those gifts to give something back to the community, and now is the time to start.


In addition to 10 years serving on the board of Second Harvest Foood Bank of North Central Ohio, Brian Sooy and Aespire® actively support the nonprofit community. We aspire to do something greater.

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