Training For A Good Cause

thumbnailDo you ever catch yourself daydreaming at work? Have you ever accidentally nodded off, for just a second, during a presentation? Is there ever a day that your workload is just plain dull?

Luckily for most of us, working at a creative agency is vastly more exciting than something like insurance sales. Still, even the best of us can get stuck in a rut.

Earlier this year, during the 23rd round of edits to some random layout, I found myself yearning for something a bit more creative. I reached out to a colleague and we started coming up with little design exercises. It seemed like a great way to flex our creative muscles and do some training at the same time.

After a few weeks it dawned on me that we were missing an opportunity. If we were going to invest creative energy into a project, there had to be a way for someone to benefit. A quick Google search resulted in exactly what I was looking for. Allow me to introduce you to Catchafire!


The mission, as defined on the site, is “to provide talented individuals with meaningful pro bono experiences in order to build capacity for social good.”

Basically, do-gooder organizations post want-ads for cheap creative labor. But what they lack in commission, they make up for in creative freedom.

Within a few hours we were linked up with a non-profit rare cancer organization in search of some infographics. Sounded like fun. I phoned our contact, discussed the project, and requested that she forward a list of messages they wanted to convey in graphic form.

What I saw in my inbox the next morning drastically changed the project.

The documents received included:

  • Annual report
  • Patient brochure
  • 30+ pages of Word docs
  • Multiple hand-drawn sketches that NASA could not decipher

And in that instant, I learned what it was like to be an account manager.

Over the last few months, the project transformed from a set of simple infographics, to a 2-minute animation sequence with voice-over, original music, and an accompanying PDF for print. Our team grew accordingly and in the end, everyone had a chance to get out of their comfort zones and explore different roles. Designers became illustrators, copywriters became voice-over artists, and art directors became traffic managers.

It was a very rewarding and educational experience and the organization was thrilled with our contribution to their cause.

So, the next time you find your eyes going fuzzy while reading a 90-page black-and-white manuscript, consider expanding your horizons and doing some good along the way!


To visit the Chordoma Foundation, click here: 

A very special thanks to everyone who volunteered and sacrificed their nights and weekends to work on this project:

Michael Driesse: Art Direction, Illustration, Traffic

Kristen Sween: Copy, Voice Talent

Michael Kaiser: Animation, Multimedia

Patrick Suler: Audio, Multimedia

Jodi Smith: 3D, Animation

Tyler Kearns (my son!): Original music

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