The charity sector is becoming ever more important at all levels


The phrase ’design for good’ has a particular meaning among creatives. It’s about ’giving back’ – another popular phrase – and working for free or just for costs to help a charity of choice.

An example this week is the Joy of Living initiative, organised by design pundit Max Fraser in aid of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Fraser, whose mother died of cancer in 2008, invited more than 100 designers of all disciplines to create an artwork on a sheet of graph paper to be sold to raise funds. The work went on sale on Monday evening for £250 apiece at London’s Somerset House in a show that complements graphics fest Pick Me Up, opening tonight, and at the time of writing had raised £16 000 for the charity.

Pro-bono work won’t earn a fortune, but it might help small consultancies to keep going – and it feels good

Fraser’s venture is exceptional in its scope and profile, but work for charities remains a mainstay for designers. In sound economic times, everyone’s at it, keeping the creative spark alive between more restrictive corporate projects – and with fees often traded for creative freedom, the results grace many an awards ceremony.

In more difficult times, pro-bono work is a way to keep busy and get your name out there. It won’t earn a fortune, but it might help small consultancies to keep going – and it feels good.

Design for good arguably has broader connotations now though, with the onset of social enterprises even before Prime Minister David Cameron jumped on board with the Big Society and public-sector cuts. It is becoming an important sector for design groups of all sizes and inclinations, but particularly those in branding and communications.

Top-quality charitable projects have taken prizes in the Design Week Awards and Benchmarks branding awards in recent years and we could see some impact of charitable work on consultancy balance sheets in the 2011 Top 100, published in May. The charity sector can’t be ignored and could offer more of a two-way benefit as traditional sources of work dry up.

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