How can designers help Haiti?

The empathy that provides designers with their intuitive and creative advantage can also ignite a compelling need to help others, such as when we witness the kind of devastation and suffering that nature has unleashed on the people of Haiti. Members have been asking how they can contribute toward saving lives and providing hope for the future, and whether there is a means for AIGA to organize help.

Aerial view of an impromptu tent city outside Port au Prince, Haiti, following the earthquake.

A tent city in Haiti after the January 12 quake. (Flickr: United Nations Development Programme)

In cases where AIGA has a local network of designers, as we did following Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area, we can mount a direct effort to help. In a case like the earthquake in Haiti, the best course right now is to invest in the organizations that can provide professional help locally.

AIGA encourages designers to support the following three organizations because they are productive, effective and minimize their administrative expenses. They are listed here with links to their donation pages.

Many designers are driven by the contribution their special gifts can make to improving the human condition. AIGA has taken the lead in recent years in creating opportunities for members to give time, creativity and resources to aid those suffering from natural disasters. As members have expressed their increasing concern over finding ways to contribute to society, AIGA has sought to find channels that are focused, productive and accountable.

Some members may want to work with others in their chapters to develop local campaigns to raise funds to send to these or other organizations directly. These three organizations are not the only appropriate channels, and we encourage all members to demonstrate the engagement of designers in addressing challenges to the human condition. We believe the most important need now is not to have a separate charitable or action-related activity for designers, but to help those with experience seeking to work miracles on the ground.

The week before he passed away, Tibor Kalman asked me to make sure that AIGA would remind every designer not to forget the good that he or she can do for humanity through his or her unique talents. Sometimes we can contribute through our creative gifts—though at times such as now, it may be through our common sense of humanity and generosity that we can do the most good.

About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.