You get to hear the founding story, the why, the how and the seemingly impossible idealist goal. You hear of the impact and the change already being made in communities across the country and you start to wonder what role you will play during your time there. And you wonder if what you design will make any difference.
Preface: I’m the Graphic Design Intern for Jack.org, a charity organization who’s aim is to change the way we think about mental health. We work and build with a network of students (high school and post-secondary) and communities across the country, which gives us valuable insight into how each region faces and deals with their mental health. One of our main goals is to empower youth leaders in their schools to open up the conversation around mental health and we do so through our own trained youth speakers. It’s a youth build youth cycle and all our programs and initiatives are based on best practices, Theory of Change, community feedback and partnering with other mental health organizations.
Today I finish my first graphic design internship. Yes! Actually I still have to hand off the files, write follow ups and instructions, and help pack all the physicals that are waiting to be sent out to schools across Canada, into boxes sized 31 x 31 x 31cm (or larger) so I’m not out of the woods yet.
To briefly summarize my 8 weeks at Jack.org, in the first week I was tasked with designing a T-Shirt, sticker, button and a 30" x 70" banner. In the next few weeks I would design the look of two fundraising campaigns, an email blast, work on formatting manuals and annual reports, and creating take-away conversation cards. All of these items go out to the schools and students in our network, in print or digital form. Each week was a new assignment with the previous week’s work piling up or being backlogged for various reasons. Some of the designs didn’t get the attention I felt they needed, or weren’t able to shine as I thought they could. I was the only designer and this was my first 9–5 design job, so I wasn’t surprised. Instead I was humbled.
I was mid-way through copying Chapter names (names of the schools in the Jack.org network ie. University of Waterloo) onto these giant banners, meticulously matching font size against grid layout, when I started to recognize a whole bunch of schools. “Oh I know a friend who studies/graduated there!” / “My old teacher works there!” / “I’ve heard of this school but didn’t know etc.” I thought to myself, “Yes! There’s the possibility that someone I know will see my work and that’s awesome!” But then I also thought of the people whom I don’t know that will see my work. Will it matter to them? Will it make a difference?
It will and it does. Working for a charity means that I get to hear about the impact and the stories of those affected by the past and by the change in the present. There are painful stories, reminders of why we need to change the way we think about mental health.
Some are suicides.
There are also stories of triumph, where illness and stigma are overcome, with support from family, friends and help.
These stories get shared, told and communicated all through design, whether on a banner, a sticker or an Instagram post. The knowledge that I can help design these stories and communicate these messages is a humbling experience because it means that while I’m part of something bigger, what I design can still make a difference.