At its heart, design is about solving communication problems for your clients. But for most creatives, this is not a closed-loop profession. Rather than just beavering away in the studio with the blinkers on, it's also about supporting, nurturing and giving back to the industry as a whole.
It's a virtuous circle: established industry figureheads pass down their wisdom to nurture the emerging talent coming up, and creatives from all disciplines pool their expertise to collaborate on projects that are greater than the sum of their parts. Giving back benefits everyone: the design industry is stronger and richer for it, and on an individual level, such projects can aid your development as well as benefit your creative resume.
Looking for inspiration? Read on for six great ways to give something back to the wider design community this year....
01. Pass on your skills
As a creative, your skills are everything. If you've spent years honing your raw talent into something your clients want to buy, you should protect that at all costs, right?
Well, actually giving something back to the next generation benefits everyone. Through teaching, you can learn a lot about yourself and your process – it keeps your mind sharp, and helps you avoid slipping into lazy habits. It can be hugely rewarding and satisfying. And if you do it well, you'll help enrich the talent pool with industry ready, curious minds.
It's not entirely magnanimous, either – you can make some money on the side by lecturing at design colleges, producing an online course on a platform like Skillshare, or even giving an intensive workshop for an organisation like D&AD. Put yourself out there and find something that's a good fit for you.
02. Support good causes
Healthy budgets from big-name clients may be great for the bank balance, but are not always good for the soul. In 2019, why not find the time to invest in charity projects and use your design skills for good?
There are countless ways to do so. Perhaps consider taking on a not-for-profit client – perhaps for a reduced fee, or pro bono if the circumstances are right and you can afford to do so. Create artworks to auction off for a good cause, or join forces with other creatives for a charity exhibition.
Not only is this a commendable way to use your skills to support something worthwhile, but it can also boost your profile and lead to other work – or lay the groundwork for an exciting new commercial collaboration in the future.
03. Mentor a promising talent
Internships have a bad rap in some circles, mostly because some deplorable agencies take malleable young creatives for granted, and exploit them for little or no money. We're not advocating that kind of behaviour here – it ultimately erodes, rather than boosts, our industry.
But done properly, taking a promising young designer under your wing to nurture their growth is hugely beneficial for all involved. Rather like teaching, you may find you learn just as much as they do in the process.
As graduate show season approaches, make the time to attend the ones that interest you – such as D&AD New Blood – and make a genuine effort to engage with people who show potential. Find a rough diamond to bring into your agency and help them grow, and your whole team will be stronger for it.
04. Give a useful talk at a conference
The design festival circuit is filled with big-name designers giving rousing keynotes, or slightly lesser-known creatives walking through their portfolio highlights. These can be inspiring, sure – but if you have the opportunity to get on the stage yourself this year, why not consider planning something with a little more structure, substance and practical insight. The industry will thank you, as your audience will have some more concrete takeaways afterwards.
Shed some light on your thought process in a way that has universal relevance and appeal, or use your work to illustrate a broader theme that the audience can engage with. It may take a little longer to prepare, but it'll be worth it in the long run as your talk will be more memorable, as well as more shareable on social media.
05. Do your bit for the planet
Why stop at design? While you're in full altruism mode, consider giving something back to the whole global community by pledging to be more sustainable with all the design decisions you make.
Sustainability is climbing up the agenda for brands across the board, and even small changes help make a difference on a cumulative basis. Consider using recycled (and recyclable) materials, more eco-friendly inks, and cutting right back on the big villain of the age: single-use plastic.
Sustainable thinking can stretch to every aspect of your business, and don't be afraid to enlighten your clients (and your peers) on the possibilities too.
06. Promote diversity and inclusivity
Diversity has been a hot topic in design for some time now, and while there have been some commendable changes in some sectors, there's still a long way to go to dilute the predominantly white, male, able-bodied demographic.
Initiatives such as D&AD Shift and organisations such as SheSays and The Other Box are all working hard to promote a more diverse, inclusive industry for all, but real change starts at home. Don't just decry the state of play and wait for someone else to do something about it.
Look outside of the usual silos when hiring. Encourage an inclusive working environment that gives diverse talent a chance to thrive. Review your HR policies to promote equality, and provide the necessary support for disabled creatives, or anyone that needs it. Your agency, and the industry at large, will reap the benefits.