Archive for the ‘Design Community’ Category

Is Pro Bono Good Business?

April 4, 2016 | buchanandesign


Before answering this question, here are some thoughts to help you evaluate opportunities and make good business decisions.

Pro bono comes from the Latin, “pro bono public” or “work done without compensation for the public good.” This term comes up often in our industry. It’s a great way to give back to your community and leverage your talents to make a positive impact for organizations that might otherwise not have the resources. It can also cost you time and resources that may effect your livelihood and making enough money to stay in business.

When given the opportunity, and if my schedule allowed, I have provided pro bono work to many organizations and individuals over the last 20 years. I never used a strategic approach to evaluate the opportunity until it was too late to “skip.” The pro bono requests came in the form of referrals or random inquiries.

Finally after all these years, I came to realize an important fact… Pro bono projects need to align with MY values and community interests AND provide exposure opportunities that would help me grow or advance my business. This became the foundation for Orange Tree Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that I founded in 2015.


Suggestions for maximizing your creative efforts:

Get the name of your business out into the community. You never know who is looking.

Pro bono projects are often associated to a nonprofit, and all nonprofits have a board of directors who are business or community leaders. They can be a great business development opportunity.

Creative License
Take the opportunity to explore and experiment with concepts and design executions without compromising the brand integrity of the nonprofit.

Select a nonprofit that is looking to raise the brand bar and looking for the right creative partner. The results from this will add diversity and range to your portfolio.

Public Good
Take this opportunity to educate a group of individuals about the benefits that come when working with a design professional. It’s a great way to reinforce the value of design.

Office Morale
This can be a great opportunity to involve the entire team. Split up the responsibilities from design projects, social media posts, meetings, or volunteering for pro bono clients so everyone has a chance to get involved. A great “feel good” boost to the energy of the office.

Pro bono blues!

Great intentions don’t always lead to rewards… here are some issues to be aware of:

Time Commitment
Give your pro bono time carefully or “scope creep” can easily take over, especially when working with a nonprofit who doesn’t have much experience working with a design agency. Find the right balance between paying clients and pro bono projects.

Ask the right questions up front to ensure that you and the nonprofit have set clear ground rules for working together. The pro bono relationship can quickly go out the window if you let it. Nonprofit clients can quickly forget the pro bono etiquette and become one of those “frustrating” clients. Your time is valuable and the last thing you want is to do the work out of obligation.

What’s Your Worth
It’s important to share the value of your professional work. Especially when there are so many nonprofit organizations out there looking for the right creative partner. Not explaining the value of your work can come back to haunt you when they need something in the future, or worse, refer you to others because you’re a nice person and don’t charge much, if at all. Even clients in pro bono arrangements should know exactly what the work was worth so they can truly appreciate it’s value. You’re establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.

Pro bono clients always start with the great enthusiasm about shining your business name in lights… Don’t be afraid to be specific when asking for exposure that will benefit your business in exchange for pro bono work. And put it in writing.

All these conversations are easier to have with causes that you believe in and want to help. It’s important to support causes that have special meaning.

Win Win

How to make it work for everyone:

Establish criteria for working together
As the professional providing services for free, it’s important to establish ground rules at the start of the project. Deliverables, timeline, out-of-pocket reimbursements, approval process, rounds of revisions, and any other specifics should all be discussed to avoid surprises once the project begins. It’s always a good idea to establish a key contact to work with who can coordinate routing proofs and feedback. Working with a “committee” can create extra work and confusion.

Set realistic expectations
Clear expectations are key to getting everyone on the same page, and assuring the best possible experience for all. A pro bono project should not be treated any differently than working with paying clients. Often times pro bono work gets shuffled in between paying projects, but it’s important to always be professional and not let the client feel as though they are not as important. Schedule deadlines and appointments according to your schedule.

Negotiate a fair deal
Your work has value and the nonprofit knows it. Don’t be afraid to ask for things such as:

  • Design credit on printed materials or website.
  • Sponsorship listing on event programs, invitations,
    website, or any forms of advertising.
  • If applicable, request a complimentary membership
    or tickets for event access.
  • Attend a board meeting where you can be
    introduced to the entire board.
  • Social media promotions highlighting your company
    and the great work you are providing.
  • Highlight in a printed or online newsletter.

Pro bono clients evolve and can often become paying clients once they understand how valuable design can be. This has happened for us often and reason enough to be very picky when selecting your next pro bono client.

Community, Design Community, Design Industry, Partnership

Officially A Nonprofit

April 24, 2015 | buchanandesign


After years of planning and months of paperwork and filing, Orange Tree Project has officially received 501c3 nonprofit status! Orange Tree Project was conceived at Buchanan Design with the mission of helping nonprofits receive professional design services from San Diego’s leading design agencies. It’s our way of leveraging the generosity of the design community to positively impact nonprofits who’s mission improves the lives of families and communities. OTP will soon launch an online store to help with fundraising efforts, selling uniquely designed products, each design inspired by a positive message.

You can read more about Orange Tree Project and shop at

Community, Design Community, Partnership

Future Designers

October 20, 2014 | buchanandesign

Today we had a visit from the graphic design class of San Pasqual High School. Bobby walked the students through what it takes to be a working designer. And as the students visited the different design stations, we showed them our latest projects and answered questions about what its like to be a professional designer. The students were very excited and we were happy to share some of our knowledge with them. We look forward to seeing some of these faces come up in the industry in the years to come.

Design Community, Studio Life

Using Paint and Concept to Help a Cause

October 17, 2014 | buchanandesign

Earlier this month we were approached by LINK, an AIGA San Diego program that brings the arts to high school students, to customize a “Foomi” vinyl doll for their fundraising event.
We were honored to have been selected along with other influential designers and artists from Southern California.

It was the perfect opportunity to bring out the paints and brushes, although, staring at a perfectly white doll can be intimidating…
A true team collaboration and love of the color orange inspired the creation of our little “Fishi” doll. We hope “Fishi” will help raise lots of money for such a great program.

To learn more about Art Links Us, click here

Design Community, People, Studio Life

AIGA Leadership Retreat: Salt Lake City

May 29, 2012 | buchanandesign

Just returned from a fantastic AIGA Leadership retreat in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m always excited to visit a new city, primarily for the food, but also for the culture. Salt Lake City was expansive; it was friendly, it was historic, and it was a lot of fun. Most of the fun came from the variety of creative personalities that gather from AIGA chapters throughout the country, 66 total dedicated to graphic design and visual communication.

This was a particularly exciting year because I went to the AIGA event as an incoming president for San Diego. I felt that I needed to focus more and make a big effort to meet and mingle with other presidents.

One of the best parts of visiting  a new city is taking a run early in the morning and really getting to know the streets. In this case, I ran to the capital building and asked a tourist to take my picture as a proof to my wife, Darcy, that I really did run. I’m bringing back many great ideas. I am also enthusiastic about stepping into the role of President of AIGA San Diego. Here’s a shot from my hotel room, what a view!


Design Community, Events, People


January 30, 2012 | admin

We were graced with Katherine’s presence in our studio for the last 3 weeks. She is very dedicated to say the least, all the way from the University of Delaware, she came out to sunny San Diego to visit her cousin and interned with us during her stay. See what she had to say about her time with us.

“Being an intern at this bright and friendly studio everyday for a month was a great learning experience, as well as a lot of fun. I now have a first hand perspective of what it is like to work at a graphic design studio, which is miles away from working as a student. It was a pleasure getting to know Bobby, Joey, Ryan, and Angie! They prove that creativity, professionalism, and kindness are all equally important in successfully completing projects for their clients. I also had an incredible time getting to know the city of San Diego, as it was my first time visiting California. Taking a break from the East Coast winter was a real treat. I will miss the beautiful scenery, warm weather, and hope to return in the future.”


Design Community, People, Studio Life


June 17, 2011 | Buchanan Design


AIGA San Diego is embarking on a new community outreach project called Bowhaus and we will be in charge of all communications. This will be similar to the Hearts in San Francisco or the Cows on Parade in Chicago.

Local and regional artists will be given the opportunity to create the most unique and artistic doghouses. The houses will be unveiled at the premiere, have a public exhibit for the community, and the very best will be auctioned off at closing Gala. Proceeds will help local animal advocacy groups and AIGA’s ongoing mission to advance design as a professional craft, strategic tool, and vital cultural force.

Petco has already signed up as the title sponsor and while it’s just starting to gain momentum, you will definitely be seeing and hearing much more in the months to come.
you can learn more at but the event is now going to happen in the spring of 2012.


Branding, Campaigns, Design Community, Projects


June 13, 2011 | Buchanan Design


Last week I was in Minneapolis for the AIGA leadership retreat. AIGA is The Professional Association for Design and this was my first time in Minnesota.

Arrived on Wednesday and hit the floor running on thursday morning. Each day was loaded with insightful presentations, break-out sessions, and new people to meet from around the country. Thursday night we had an icebreaker mixer to exchange cards among all the chapters followed by a rooftop dinner. Friday, Chris (my roomie) and I made a valiant effort to get a private tour of the Target creative department—no luck, but they have a very nice lobby…. Not all was lost, we ran across an amazing food truck with a great reputation around the city. Friday night… another cocktail event….

Saturday night we attended a local art school for a cocktail reception organized by the Salt Lake chapter who will be hosting the 2012 leadership retreat. Later that night we hung out at the pub next to our hotel and watched the locals. It was an all night city-wide art night and we saw some very interesting people….

I always come back feeling energized, encouraged, and ready to raise the bar even further. It was great to come home to the family and sleep!


Design Community, Events

Y-Conference #15

April 16, 2010 | Buchanan Design


I have attended every Y conference, (except #2), and every year I walk away inspired and excited about our amazing industry. This year’s conference was no exception, the line-up was amazing and I had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the greatest names in our industry.

I even had the privilege of being a “speaker buddy” to Patrick Coyne, Editor and Designer of Communication Arts Magazine, our industry’s most respected magazine. He brought great wisdom to the conference and expressed genuine interest in our firm and some of the things we are working on currently.

If you’re a designer and have not made it to a Y, you MUST go! It will truly shape you as a professional.

– b

Design Community, Events