Luke Baulk says he is already formulating his plan to participate in the upcoming 2017 CreateAthon Waterloo-Wellington, which for the first time is taking on a national scope.
Baulk, a third-year graphic design student at Conestoga College in Kitchener, will join approximately 50 of his counterparts Oct. 19-20 at Alchemy Systems in Guelph in the 24-hour rebranding creative ‘blitz’ to benefit a variety of non-profit organizations and charities from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.
“I’ll probably sleep a lot the night before,” he jokes, about how he plans to prepare for the event.
Under the watchful eye of art directors and account managers from the graphic design firm, the students will spend a full day providing free design-and-marketing expertise to these groups creating a variety of projects. These may include anything from posters and brochures, a website design, or the launch of a complete ad campaign.
John Baljkas, a third-year graphic design professor at Conestoga’s Kitchener campus who has been involved for the past seven years, says CreateAthon is a huge boost to not only the non-profits but a great learning experience for the students. The concept, which began in the late 1990s in South Carolina, has now gone worldwide.
“In school, the students’ projects tend to get drawn out to four or five weeks. Here, they’re producing something concrete in a 24-hour period which is great to see,” he says.
This year’s event, co-ordinated in partnership with Capacity Canada, Alchemy, Manulife and the college’s School of Media and Design, will be unlike previous CreateAthons, says Matt Miller, an executive-in-residence at Capacity Canada.
The event, which Miller has helped co-ordinate for the past seven years, is taking on non-profit clients from across the country. In 2016, CreateAthon focused on assisting 12 organizations from the Fort McMurray area which had been left devastated by a wildfire.
“A good project trumps anything else,” Miller says, referring to the decision to open the application process this year to organizations nationwide.
That process, which began in July, saw about 50 groups apply and from among them, about 18 have now been selected to take part. The selection team included third-year graphic design students.
“We’ve certainly have got to see things from a different perspective,” says Erynn Hayden, a third-year student who helped select the candidates and will be taking part in her second CreateAthon. This year a large portion of second-year students will also be involved.
Baulk, who also took part last year and was part of the selection process this year, says it was difficult to pick the clients.
“I wish we could have selected them all,” he said, adding CreateAthon is extremely challenging and satisfying for the students.
Prior to the actual event, the students will be divided into teams by Conestoga faculty and each will begin to co-ordinate with their assigned client in the coming weeks as to what their needs are, a similar process Miller says is used in the business world.
“They (students) create a brief outlining what’s going to happen,” he says. “It’s not going to outline absolute specifics, but it will give everyone a more general idea of what will happen.”
Through this process, the teams and clients should be fully prepared to ‘hit the ground running’ when the CreateAthon begins the morning of Oct. 19, says Terry McGuire, creative director of Alchemy.
Besides students, including some enrolled in the college’s public relations program, each team will include staff and volunteers from Alchemy, as well as copywriters and marketing professionals provided by Manulife. And to ensure the teams remain on track, Miller says several ‘wipps’ (work-in-progress people) will meet with the teams at various intervals throughout the day to take care of any potential problems.
Organizers expect the teams will work until at least 11 p.m. or midnight that day and return the morning of Oct. 20 for a big ‘unveiling’ of their work in front of all the teams and clients, some of whom will be taking part via Skype.
And for the first time, Miller says each team will keep a time sheet for the client detailing the amount of pro-bono work that went into each project. The week of Oct. 22-28 is National Pro Bono week in North America. Last year, Miller estimates the teams chalked up approximately $140,000 worth of professional work.
But the dollar and cents aspect of CreateAthon is clearly secondary compared to what is provides both the students and clients.
“That’s the payoff. When I see people walking around the Alchemy office with tears in their eyes looking at all the work that has been done for them,” says McGuire.