DesigNYC Pairs Pro Bono Designers With Nonprofits

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DesigNYC exhibit map designed by Sohyun Chung of ESI Design. Photo: Alexandra Corazza

DesigNYC opened its first public showcase last week at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, after months of working to connect socially conscious design firms with nonprofits and city agencies. The goal? To put design resources where they're needed most: in the public sector.

The team from Tribeca multimedia design firm TODA stood clustered near its presentation, clutching bottles of Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale and explaining the significance of their pro bono undertaking for Added Value, a Governors Island community garden. With the "adjustments" in the economy, as creative director of visual communication Marcos Chavez put it, TODA had been reevaluating what graphic design meant to the firm, and arrived at the idea that their work should revolve less around slick graphics and more around doing good.

Other community groups and city agencies that stand to benefit from the pilot project's design partnerships include the Bronx River Alliance, Bed-Stuy Farm Share, the LES Ecology Center, and Crown Heights' Nostrand Park.

Paola Antonelli, desigNYC founding committee member and senior curator of MoMA's architecture and design department, elaborated: “Your brain needs to keep working even though you don’t have work," she said. "So we’re thinking, all of these designers and all these architects were out of work, and there were people in need of design ... We believe that design is not only an embellishment, [but] that it’s really something empowering.”

Toward the end of the evening, Ed Schlossberg, another founding committee member and the principal designer of ESI Design, gave the desigNYC mission statement a final summary: “So much about design is the will to make something happen, and so much about nonprofit organizations is the will to make things better. We thought that by putting those two together, we would really create an opportunity for everyone to have a better experience. So that’s what we did.”

Learn more about the desigNYC projects and program at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 W. 14th St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-647-7778. Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Through 7/31.