This friendly monster is like Macmillan Cancer Support – there when most needed, says Aaron Miller, who created this illustration for a Macmillan calendar
Having designed an illustration for a calendar published by Macmillan Cancer Support, Aaron Miller (aaronmillerillustration.com) agrees it is important to be focused on results. “If an illustration can help raise awareness by getting the attention of a new target audience, then you as an illustrator have done your job well.”
Even if the present state of the economy has had no direct impact on designers’ interest in the non-profit sector, it doesn’t mean economics has no role to play – quite the opposite. Working for a charity always throws up vexing issues over how much to charge and whether it’s appropriate to work for free.
For Anna Mullin (sneakyraccoon.com), who helped design the logo for the Monsoon Accessorize Trust (monsoontrust.org), a group which works with disadvantaged women and children in Asia, each case must be treated on its merits. She says charities are not necessarily different to commercial organisations in that some may have reasonable budgets reserved for design and publicity work.
The greater good
“Working for free is not ideal,” Anna says, “as of course your time, efforts and ideas are not being valued [and it] doesn’t help to pay your bills.”
Kyle warns that it can also have a “negative effect on the industry”, though he says sometimes the greater good is more important. “Where some charitable organisations haven’t got a budget and taking on the project can be a matter of making a difference to people who need help, then it’s important to push the ‘£’ signs aside.” And of course working for free can be great if the organisation concerned is close to your own heart, Aaron says.
But it’s not as though volunteering your services has no fringe benefits. “When businesses that regularly donate to these charities see the work you have completed, you effectively have a foot in the door with them,” Kyle points out.
That might make it sound as if the cynics have a point, but in general being involved is its own reward. “I’d consider it an opportunity to push your own boundaries,” Anna says, “and produce work that has the potential to be a showpiece in your portfolio.”
Monsoon Trust branding by Anna Mullin and Sawdust Design
Unpaid work is often also an invaluable source of experience for young designers, as Kyle observes. “It can be the first time they experience all the elements of a project, from the initial meetings and concepts right through to seeing the results.
“I’d encourage any designer to approach charities. They’re always looking out for great ways to get the best out of their latest fundraising campaign. Many don’t get that help.”
Established designers can gain new skills, too, if they end up in charge of a charity art collaboration. “It’s about coordination – keeping track of who’s involved, when they’ll be submitting work, which artist’s work is going to which printer, who’s going to post out the orders, how best to promote each item, etc,” says Jon Raffe (thundermedia.co.uk), one of Ben the Illustrator’s collaborators on the Renmen Project.
Even if the artists can steal some of the limelight from the cause they are working for, Ben the Illustrator feels that sometimes that is precisely what is needed. “If an artist uses their name to sell items for charity, then that’s great. A big name will possibly attract more buyers, which in turn leads to more money raised; no one can argue with that, surely?
“Alternatively, if you’re a lesser-known artist and you sell a print for charity and at the same time gain some attention for yourself, then to be honest I think that’s fine. You’d do the same with a personal ‘fun’ project – use it to gain attention – so why not do something that raises money for charity as your personal project?”