Pro bono project work seems like a good idea at the time of asking – similar to swapping the opposite foot of your converse trainers with a friend. However, contributing to your local and creative community does have benefits. Completing free project work reaps dividends far exceeding initial expectation(s), although the main reward presents itself in the form of a developed social conscience.
Respect and credibility is another by-product of completing free project work and generally helps cultivate a positive perception. However ‘warm and fuzzy’ completing a free project makes us feel, there are limits to pro bono project work and these limits have to work for both the provider and client.
As a growing creative studio we have not set ourselves any elaborate rules on how we would qualify or pre-define a project that we can deliver pro bono. We simply have a loose rule that we will take on a free project at least once every 12 months (studio wide) with the provision that it engages the general public, contributes to a creative community and it has creative mileage.
The overall quality of delivered outcomes, concepts or materials is an interesting element of free work. Usually the thought of getting something for ‘free’ is presumed that a lower standardised application has been applied. In our case, luckily at Defeye HQ, we share the view that our developing credibility cannot be compromised nor can we produce work that falls below our own set standards, no matter if the project is free or if it pays.
So far in our journey we have completed two free projects in the past 14 months. Our first free project happened by fortune and opportunity, it was a case of being in the ‘right place and right time’. Lets say that it feels good to find that 5-pound note in your trouser pocket just after you take them out of the washing machine – Many a great project usually appears out of no-where smelling clean and fresh, just like the crumpled five-pound note.
Leeds Print Festival’ was our first free project for 2014 and came to us due to Phil (Defeye Creative Design Director) working at Leeds College Of Art as a lecturer on the graphic design degree alongside the LPF founder.
Leeds Print Festival is a champion of contemporary and traditional print making processes that celebrates typography, image and colour. The brief asked us to design and develop a typographic response for the delivery of the programme of events brochure and limited edition screen-printed poster.
‘Open Studios’ at West Studios is our second pro bono project and our free project for 2015. West Studios is a collection of 3 co-operative creative studios housing 15 creative practitioners based in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. We are lucky enough to have been given the opportunity and work space to be able to set up and grow our company within one of the design studios.
We have returned the goodwill by creating promotional campaign materials to promote the ‘Open Studios’ event coupled with a collective exhibition organised by the design & craft practitioners that reside in the studio next door to us….”Hello”.
The open studio aims to promote awareness of the varied creative professionals in co-ordination with Craft and Design Month 2015 as well as raise awareness of West Studios as an organisation and to raise money for charity.
“These are the tools we use” is the concept we have applied to the project therefore capturing a playful feel through the use of the tools each of the craft practitioners use daily to create their work. We generated the concept and art direction on day one, collected block sheeting for a backdrop, collected materials from all of the artists and began to generate layout options. Day two was a day in the studio organising and photographing loads of tools, some that looked cool and obvious and some we don’t even know what they were for.
The last day we concentrated on formatting, colour correcting, adding type treatment and on the morning of day four our designs were sent to print. On day five we received the printed promotional materials. Contributing to our local and creative community through completion of free project work allows for increase of our company stock, credibility and demonstrates sound design ethics.
Each pro bono project has to have creative mileage with equal flexibility, both from provider and client, as there has to be a consideration that paid jobs will come through the door – how that is managed is in the art of delegation.
It is good to note that each paid job we do will most likely end up with minimal client referrals, we are expected to do our job, do it well and deliver our objectives. When we complete a free project our client referrals are higher as we apply the same mentality and craftsmanship (for free) as we would with a paying client.
In the end we like to think that everyday people like to invest in other creative people who care about the community. Oh, and people prefer to wear matching footwear, too!