Design For Good

Good design can be more than merely aesthetics. It has the ability to solve problems, change thinking, and “do good” for the community. And nowhere is that concept more evident than at a Design For Good (DFG) event.

DFG is the brainchild of Doug Powell, the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). The idea is quite simple -- get a group of designers in a room for a limited amount of time and ask them to come up with good designs for nonprofit organizations doing good in the community.

This mutually beneficial event gives creative people the opportunity to improve their design skills and thinking by collaborating with others to develop solutions. At the same time, nonprofits with a worthy cause and a minimal budget benefit from good design.   

Founded in 2009, AIGA West Michigan is one of the fastest growing chapters in the country with nearly 300 members. They are also one of the first AIGA chapters to implement a DFG event and others have modeled their events after it.

In September 2011, around 40-50 designers, illustrators, web developers, industrial designers, writers, project managers, and other creative types volunteered their talents for 24 hours to develop “designs for good” for five local nonprofits: Carol's Ferals, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kids' Food Basket, and Seeds of Promise.

This year, DFG West Michigan is expanding the event to a whole weekend and it will take place April 12-14. They are currently accepting applications for creative volunteers and nonprofit organizations. The deadline to apply online is March 1.

Nonprofits wishing to take advantage of the DFG talent need to being doing work that supports or gives back to West Michigan in some way. They also need to have a project that can be finished in a weekend. Obviously, projects such as a full ad campaign or a 50-page website aren’t realistic.

Once selected, the nonprofit will be asked to create a design brief and then meet with a team leader prior to the April DFG event to refine the project’s goals and manage expectations. Someone from the organization will also have to attend the initial kick-off meeting and the final presentation, and there is a $200 fee to help cover the cost of food and supplies.

The location for the event is yet to be determined and DFG Director Jon Czeranna is looking for a place that will allow the group 24-hour access. Instead of locking the volunteers in a room for 24 hours as they did in 2011, volunteers will be able to come and go this time. Czeranna says he realizes that some people work better in the morning and some thrive late at night so he wants to allow people to participate when it best matches their work habits.

Czeranna is also seeking partners and sponsors to help cover the cost of the event or to donate goods and services.

“We’re trying to make sure the designers are fed, their brains are working, and the coffee pots are full,” he says.

As the Creative Director at Alexander Marketing, Czeranna believes good design is comprised of three elements: a strategy; empathy for the client, their customers, and their challenges; and the actual craft of design. He says bad design usually lacks one of these three elements.

With that in mind, the DFG teams will be developing a strategy and empathy before starting on the designs.

AIGA West Michigan would like the DFG conversation to continue throughout the year so they’re considering another event in September with a speaker sharing thoughts on “designing for good.” A workshop is another possibility.

“DFG West Michigan is a movement poised to harness the power of design thinking to help great organizations solve real problems with good design,” Czeranna says.

One of the DFG speakers being looked at for this fall is Matt Dimmer. He started, which is a site that collects frequent flyer miles from people to help others visit ill or dying loved ones.

“He exemplifies what DFG is all about,” says Czeranna. “He saw a real need for a problem to be solved and he solved it through design.”

So, if you’re a creative type who likes a challenge and wants to “do good” for your community, DFG would like you to sign up and join them April 12-14. Or if your nonprofit has a worthy cause and could benefit from good design, DFG wants you as well.

Here are some ways you can “do good” with Design For Good:

-    Visit the Design For Good West Michigan website for more information and to get involved.
-    Volunteer your creative talent for the April 12-14 weekend. Sign up on the website by March 1. 
-    Register your nonprofit to benefit from creative problem solving. The deadline is March 1.
-    Become a partner or sponsor of the April event by contacting Jon Czeranna.
-    Visit the AIGA West Michigan website to find out more about the organization.
-    Like AIGA West Michigan on Facebook.
-    Follow @aigawestmi on Twitter.

Source: Jon Czeranna, Director of Design For Good West Michigan, AIGA West Michigan Board Member, and the Creative Director at Alexander Marketing
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by AIGA West Michigan.

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