Managing Community Design

Community groups need good design and some designers are eager to use their skills to help good projects that fall outside the traditional marketplace. When a group ask a designer to work on a project often problems arise beyond the obvious lack of money.
1) Write a brief in good time for the deadline. Good design takes time – plan ahead.

2) Do not change a brief half way into a design process. Make sure you make the decisions about images and design in good time for a designer to finish the work. If you make a mistake and you need to change the brief – negotiate with the designer but do not expect that she can redo work already finished because you have changed your mind.

3) Collaboration is worthwhile but difficult. Collaboration is excellent in helping communities take ownership of a project - but take into account that it makes a job significantly more labour intensive for a designer and sometime design by committee just does not work. At some point a group needs to trust an experienced designer to do the right thing and represent their interests as best she can.

4) Give a designer space to do a good job. The worst result from a designer’s perspective is to work for free and then be forced by a committee to make a low quality piece of design. In this case she not only sacrifices the time to work on the project – but she makes her design work look bad, jeopardizing future work. Community groups asking designers for help need to respect the experience and training of professional designers and let them do their job.

5) A designer’s time is valuable even if you are not paying for it. Voluntary work can be fun, but when we are working on what we do for a living, it can also feel a lot like hard work. If you have convinced a designer to work on a community project for free – make sure you value the time she is spending working on your project. A paying client would not ask her to redo several days work because he would realize that this would cost him money. Do not treat your designers’ time as worthless just because she is giving it to you for free.