Would you do “Free Work?”11/23/2010 11:10 AM By Sharon Potsch
Last week I met the founder of a brilliant non-profit organization in Chicago, Creative Go-Round. Creative Go-Round partners design with deserving non-profits. Creative Go-Round’s development was fueled by founder Christopher Gerke’s desire to improve the integrity of student portfolio work while elevating the design of non-profit’s marketing collateral. Interns are paid in roll-up-your-sleeves hard-earned experience combined with real-life samples in their books plus the ability to learn from volunteer professional design mentors.
Meeting Christopher Gerke you can’t help but be won-over by his cool story of growing up with parents heavily involved in Ohio’s non-profit sector and a grant-writing mother who is now a member of her son’s board of directors. His drive to improve the standard of student work led to his senior-year thesis and ultimately to the renovation of an antique bookstore and Creative Go-Round’s birthplace in Chicago’s near west-loop. The perfection of Creative Go-Round’s premise–matching creative interns and associated design mentors with deserving non-profits to create pro-bono work–quickly fades as he talks about the resistance area college career centers have felt in promoting this service to their students. “Free internships” it seems tends to leave a bad taste in the mouths of design colleges, who are, themselves, theoretically non-profit organizations.
CGR offers tremendous opportunity to students–access to professional designers and their networks, a fully-furnished design studio furnished with actual letterpress equipment, and genuine original design pieces just to name a few. Where does the line blur in “free work” when the work is paid in the professional intangible reward of bona-fide real work samples in a graduate’s portfolio plus the opportunity for student designers to network and learn from the mentorship and guidance of professional working designers? Is there really a dollar value to this? Working for free really might not be practical for every student—however combining this experience with work to pay the bills could reap a sum of a good job upon graduation. Not bad.
Creative Go-Round is a carousel of opportunity–both for the nonprofits fortunate enough to find interns with CGR to produce the work and for the interns lucky enough to learn from professionals in the business. Graphic designers looking to give back to the interns at CGR by volunteering their time or students interested in partnering with CGR may contact me through this post to learn more and get connected.