Design is central to charity sector communications

We agree with the editor’s Comment that the charity sector is changing (DW 24 February). But the design industry’s attitudes towards not-for-profit organisations hasn’t changed.

We agree with the editor’s Comment that the charity sector is changing (DW 24 February). But the design industry’s attitudes towards not-for-profit organisations hasn’t changed.

A recent article (Design Business, DW 23 September 2004) reinforced the industry’s out-of-date views and a disturbing lack of understanding of the issues. There is still a perception that charities are ready and willing to exchange open-ended briefs and the opportunity for creative self-abuse for a low fee or no fee at all.

That notion couldn’t be further from reality. Not-for-profit organisations are wising up to superficial, banal and ineffective design. That’s particularly true of charities that have national and global operations, many of which are as well-managed as any commercial organisation.

They are weary of design conglomerates promising the earth and delivering nothing. They have realised that cheap and nasty really do go together. And it’s deeply frustrating for us at Spencer du Bois to have been called in by three charities during the past year to pick up the pieces.

With limited budgets, ferocious competition and the increasing pressure of accountability, not-for-profit organisations have an obligation to funding bodies and donors to get real value for money from design.

Not-for-profit work deals with big issues. It has to challenge attitudes and change the way people think about a whole range of sensitive and often extremely complex subjects, from multiple sclerosis and mental illness, to corporate abuse and the devastating effect that a funding crisis instigated by the Bush administration’s anti-abortion stance could have on the health of millions of women in the developing world.

Design has been vital to communications in the not-for-profit sector for some time now. This is not a recent or sudden development. Spencer du Bois has been putting design at the heart of not-for-profit organisations for more than a decade.

However, we don’t work in the sector to win awards. Or to feel worthy. And we aren’t interested in using our work to create a positive public profile for design.

We work in it because we believe that design is capable of so much more than its often shallow commercial role of distinguishing between near-identical products or companies.

We do it because its about trying to make a real difference and getting involved in real, life-changing issues.

John Spencer

Creative director

Spencer du Bois

London EC1

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