You don’t need big bucks to produce good ideas – check out charity work

The charity sector has long been a great outlet for creativity. Charity clients may not be the most lucrative – many consultancies carry out such work pro bono – but the perception is they allow designers freedom to do great work.

This argument is borne out by design awards. The not-for-profit category of Design Week’s Benchmarks for branding programmes and campaigns invariably yields outstanding winners, for example – and the 2010 results, to be announced on 30 November, are no exception.

Meanwhile, work by Leeds group B&W Studio for local homelessness charity St George’s Crypt won Best of Show in the 2010 Design Week Awards. With entries still coming in for the 2011 prize, we don’t yet know the outcome, but given current constraints on corporate clients, it’s reasonable to expect charities to be well represented.

But it’s not just the quality of work that sets charity projects apart. It can be the quality of the ideas generated by a designer or elsewhere. Charities, after all, have to make the best of scant funds, with promotions directed at raising cash or spreading a message in a hugely crowded marketplace. Their audiences are varied and competition for support rife.

The latest ’good idea’ is the notion behind Pennies (see News, page 3). Someone has created bold branding for the charity, but the idea of rounding up 99p price tags for charity is clever – and painless for punters. How easy it will be to administer remains to be seen, but it stacks up more convincingly than Anthony Burrill’s poster printed in oil from the stricken Gulf of Mexico as an obvious fund-raiser.

Charities aren’t alone in fostering great ideas. Corporate commissions can yield them too – take The Partners’ Planet Saver screensaver for management consultant Deloitte to encourage staff to switch off computers when not in use. But there is much to be gained from partnering them – workload and a creative challenge for starters.

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