Exhausted and Thrilled: Designers Pair with Nonprofits for 24-Hour CreateAthon

What happens when creatives get together to work 24 hours straight? A lot, actually!

In March 2017, AIGA DC organized our first CreateAthon where thirty volunteers created various marketing materials for five local, underfunded nonprofits: Serve Your City, Educational Theater Company, Reading Partners, Arlington Free Clinic and GTLD Network. The response from the local design community was amazing, as many people were eager to lend their skills to such a unique experience.

Designer and marketer Amber Jinae used her passions to do something good for others and impactful beyond the “bottom line.” Below is Amber’s account of her CreateAthon experience.

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When I got an email about CreateAthon, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. We arrived at Impact Hub on a Friday night right after work, knowing that little-to-no sleep was in sight. But we didn’t care. We arrived with smiles and laptops, ready to get things done. I was motivated and inspired to be surrounded by such amazing creative energy.

I joined an amazing group of women from a variety of experiences and backgrounds — two designers from large agencies, a design student from James Madison, and a content strategist. My background is in graphic design, marketing and communications strategy. Call me biased, but I think we had an all-star team!

Our pro bono client was the Educational Theatre Company (ETC), an Arlington-based nonprofit. The ETC uses theater immersion in to unlock potential in a variety of the region’s audiences – including children, college students, seniors and homeless citizens. Next year, ETC will celebrate 20 years of creative, impactful work. Our assignment was to develop the visuals and the strategy for their 20th birthday campaign.

We brainstormed and we worked. We ate and consumed a lot of coffee and tea, provided by our fantastic sponsors. But we powered through! I’m still amazed that in just 24 hours — excluding breaks for yoga, dance parties and fun chats — we provided ETC with a beautiful commemorative logo, a full suite of social media graphics, and an intensive toolkit for events and social media marketing to launch and promote their 20th year. I’m also amazed that we could coherently present our work on maybe four hours of sleep across our entire group. (Insert disclaimer here: “Don’t try this at your paid gig.”)

Our client’s genuine excitement, gratefulness and enthusiasm, made every sleepless minute meaningful. We’ve since been formally invited to an upcoming Educational Theatre Company event, and I look forward to seeing the organization in action!

Several weeks after CreateAthon, I still bring it up in conversation. The AIGA DC team thoroughly planned the right space, energy, and talent to create great work for some of the area’s most deserving organizations. I recommend any design professional with a desire to use their powers for good to keep an eye out for future CreateAthons.

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Amber Jinae is a graphic designer, marketing strategist and publicist. A DMV native, Amber is the Brand & Impact Manager at The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, headquartered in Washington, D.C. Amber is also the owner of Mint Tea Brand Agency, which provides brand design, development and strategy for artists, creative entrepreneurs and nonprofits. 

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Women at a table together looking thoughtfully at their computers.

Amber Jinae (third from the left) and the Education Theater Company team hard at work. Photo by Bic Vu.

Participants working on computers raise their hands in a "Y" shape to dance along with the song "YMCA."

Sometimes you just have to stop working and start singing “YMCA.” Photo by Bic Vu.

Participants working on their computers together share a laugh.

The Education Theater Company team fits in a few laughs while burning the midnight oil. Photo by Bic Vu.

Participants are dancing in their socks during a work break.

Who doesn’t like a Cha-Cha Slide dance break? Photo by Bic Vu.

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By Amber Jinae
Published May 26, 2017