Graphic design job numbers compared to the number of BFA graduates per year shows that as many as 75% or 3 of 4 recent graduates will not be hired as designers in a very competitive market. reports, in a 2005 article, that »…[Graphic Design] schools could be releasing as many as 40,000 students [annually] (with and without degrees) into a field supporting around 200,000 practitioners (not including interactive designers).« Additionally, nonprofit organizations struggle with getting their messages out to the public, especially without the help of communication design professionals. Milton Glaser expresses his thoughts on the role of designers: »Graphic designers know how to communicate. We’ve had experience that has trained us for a role in culture« (228).



The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in a 2012 report, showed 259,500 graphic design positions in the US (that’s jobs available and currently occupied) with a 7% growth over the next 10 years. That’s around 17,000 jobs expected to be available from now until 2022 (, which is only 1,700 jobs per year compared to the 40,000 estimated graduates hitting the market. Even if only 10% of the estimated graduate numbers are taken into consideration at 4,000, there still aren’t enough jobs available to sustain an already flooded jobs environment. There is most definitely a problem with getting new graduates into a market that is teeming with job seekers. Some students may look to gain work experience from places like nonprofit organizations, but that has its own set of problems. Nonprofits have been trying for decades to implement great design into their work flow, and Massimo Vignelli has said, »It became apparent that a great amount of effort and talent had been applied to the design programs of a broad spectrum of institutions, but that even a greater amount of waste resulted from a lack of design coordination and consistency« (Landry, 4).


Nonprofits are happy to accept pro bono design work from eager volunteers, seeing as »…we live in a culture where social issues, as much as commercial products, require effective communications« (Thomson, 10). However, nonprofits have little to no help after the initial design work has been completed, which is especially critical in cases where creative work requires continued supervision such as running a campaign or technological applications. »In effect, even after the volunteer had built what [nonprofits] considered an ›amazing prototype,‹ it died on the shelf. Internal resources and commitment need to be devoted to any kind of technology project to see it through…« (Akin). How does a young designer go about finding meaningful work that yields professional level portfolio pieces to help land a salaried position at a design firm or agency?

 »Many educational institutions assist students with locating qualified internships; the Texas State University Communication Design Internship Placement Program, Princeton Project 55, and the AIGA Mentorship Program…«


There are many examples to draw from for this thesis. Internships in professional markets are long practiced efforts to help train individuals lacking professional experience. Many educational institutions assist students with locating qualified internships; the Texas State University Communication Design Internship Placement Program, Princeton Project 55, and the AIGA Chicago Mentorship Program are a few initiatives that will be examined, compared, and contrasted for best practices and to identify problems within standard practices. Additionally, investigations into social media and crowdsourcing websites will provide important insights to creating a valuable network for designers and nonprofit organizations to connect with each other. Interviews will be conducted with nonprofit design professionals, nonprofit directors, and young design volunteers to better understand positives and negatives of the proposed collaborations.



The methodology for the design approach for this thesis will follow Hugh Dubberly’s A Model of The Creative Process (2009). Critical reviews of conducted interviews, and readings will be completed to establish project focus and direction. A designer, design supervisor, and nonprofit collaborative team will also be formed, reviewed and evaluated for impact of idea and effectiveness of execution. Dorothy Deasy’s »Non-Assumptive Research« and Eric Zimmerman’s »Play as Research« methods from Design Research: Methods and Perspectives (2003) will be used as supplementary approaches to design research and development. Development and testing of the use of current social media channels and an online social network will be created to support the design concepts explored during thesis analysis.



The answer to the problem of BFA graduates to available jobs may lie in the ability to link enthusiastic nonprofits with young and eager designers, and pair them to seasoned professionals for design guidance. The young designers will partner with nonprofits to create and execute their design needs. The seasoned professionals will assist these designers in developing ideas and messaging for the nonprofits. The ultimate goal is to produce professional level projects for the nonprofits; to provide quality portfolio pieces and professional experience for the young designers; and to give professionals a chance to give back to the community and previews of unproven designers’ conceptual abilities, problem solving skills, and design talent. Additionally, there might be opportunities for nonprofits to be funded to pay young designers modest salaries for their efforts.