Life Lessons

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The six talented students who work in the Ringling College Design Center each semester do good for the community through good graphic design. They create logos, brochures and other marketing materials for select local nonprofit organizations—for free. Ringling is one of just a few art colleges in the nation that has such a design center, […]


The six talented students who work in the Ringling College Design Center each semester do good for the community through good graphic design.

They create logos, brochures and other marketing materials for select local nonprofit organizations—for free. Ringling is one of just a few art colleges in the nation that has such a design center, says longtime director Jennifer Mumford. “Other schools come to us to learn about it,” she says.

The students, mostly seniors, are a highly selective group, and nonprofits clamor to work with them. “We try to pick a project that will be a great educational experience,” says Mumford. “Something that will put all the students’ talents to the test.” They learn to work with a real budget, present their concepts to a real board of directors, and follow through by obtaining printing estimates and conducting press checks.

Among the nonprofits that have benefited from their talents are Senior Friendship Center, Family Counseling Center, Coastal Behavioral Healthcare, The Backlot, Forty Carrots, Sarasota Conservation Foundation and The Hermitage Artists Retreat. This fall the Ringling Design Center will create capital campaign materials for The Wellness Community.

“We get really excited because it has opened our eyes to so many phenomenal organizations and the people behind them,” Mumford says.

And that’s the point, really. After all, says Mumford, “In a few years [the students are] going to be creative directors of agencies. In five years they may own their own agencies. My hope is they leave here thinking more deeply about how design can make a difference.” Many graduates, she says, tell her they are donating part of their work to nonprofits.

The program is a time and staffing commitment, Mumford says—after all, she and her full-time staff of two create some 400 pieces for Ringling itself each year, everything from student recruitment brochures to the commencement program. (In 2005, they won a national gold ADDY Award from the American Advertising Federation for the school catalogue.) “We could easily say no,” she says, “and instead do 10 more pieces for Ringling. But this is Ringling’s commitment to nonprofits.”

“If we can help nonprofits do their work better and raise more money,” Mumford says, “we all benefit.”

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