Spare some design work?


I was reading on the CR Blog (really old but I like looking through archives) about Fontsmith’s new font designed for the charity Mencap and feeling pretty good about quality, ethical design work getting some recognition when one of the comments caught my eye. Written by the anonymous dan it read;

“Was a new typeface really the best way of spending charity funds? It’s not as thought there aren’t exceptionally legible faces already available.”

And this started all sorts of things spinning round in my head.

Michael Johnson on the ever readable JohnsonBanks blog described the process of helping the charity Save the Children to raise their public profile. This involved getting school children to redraw Gill Sans type and has created a very recognizable new font which was launched with an identity campaign across the UK. But was all this effort worth it?
Is graphic design the best way for a charity to spend their money? Surely they should be spending their hard-fundraised cash on supporting their target audience? As I see it there are two counter-arguements to this. Firstly the charity market is over saturated with different organisations all trying to make a difference. Whilst this is a fantastic example of how many people care about the rest of the world it does make it a very competitive world. The 2006 report for the UK Voluntary Sector puts the number of charities at around 170,000 and rising.

In order to stand out from the thousands of others a company, just like a business, needs to have a clear and strong style that represents it’s target audience, a service that is best delivered by a professional graphic designer. The designer, in my experience, is more than happy to help. In the case of Mencap a new typeface based on studies FontSmith undertook to get maximum legibility for the charities target group was the end result.

Charities are often a nice break from repetitive corporate work and give them a chance to flex their creative muscles. Finally, and key to my rambling argument, the majority of designers will work for charities at a much reduced rate, understanding that they have much tighter budgets and much more pressing concerns than most businesses. Some agencies such as Thoughtful have pledged to always work for free for charities.

At my most cynical I would argue that working for charities is simply a way of getting some pro-bono work onto an otherwise corporate portfolio of a design agency not really interested in helping the cause they’re designing for but just in attracting clients from the ethical end of the marketplace. After all the last decade has seen the rise of increasing accountability from businesses to their consumers and company’s want to be seen as doing the right thing, with the right people.

Luckily I’m not that cynical most of the time. I do believe that designers, like most people, feel a need to give something back and one way they can use their skills is to promote worthy causes. I’m sure there is an element of “if we do that it’ll look wicked on our website”, but it’s really a win-win situation for everyone involved.


1 Response to “Spare some design work?”

  1. 1 Mike March 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    Making Money $150 An Hour

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