When the pros do pro bono: Growing your business by giving back.

This is the second part of a series on doing pro bono work. As designers, one of the best ways to grow your business is by giving back. This month we continue to ask the whys and hows behind the work.

We recently sat down with Min Choi, senior graphic designer and art director with Mentus. She is the lead designer for long-time Mentus pro bono client, BIOCOM, a non-profit organization that promotes the life sciences community in Southern California and beyond.

First of all, tell us about Mentus.
Mentus is an integrated marketing and design agency that was founded in 1981. We focus on interactive marketing for clients in industries including life science, high tech, food, banking and more. We’re a team big on design and strategy.

So how long has Mentus worked with BIOCOM?
Min: Mentus has worked with BIOCOM since 1991. So let’s see, that would be 22 years! In fact, Guy Iannuzzi, our agency president, was one of the founders of BIOCOM. We just completed a rebranding and total website re-design.

How does partnering with a client for so long influence the work?
Min: We’ve formed close relationships with the BIOCOM team over the years – so that makes it easier to understand what they want and to manage expectations. We can use our time more wisely and jump directly into the strategy without spending a lot of time on research

Naturally, working with a pro bono client you try to limit revisions. How do you deal with that?
Min: We usually nail our assignments! Revisions are a part of every job but having worked together for so long allows us to anticipate circumstances that would create multiple rounds of revisions. Trust is something we have built and earned over the years!

How has the agency role expanded over the years?
Min: Our relationship has evolved. In the beginning we offered marketing collateral support and public relations and have become a full fledged branding and interactive partner. We still help support their event collateral needs but with a high level of messaging and online integration.

How has the staff benefitted from working with BIOCOM?
We’ve been able to expand our skill set in areas such as video production and website design. BIOCOM has allowed us to try new techniques in both areas that we have since been able to build upon and offer to our other clients. Our staff has also been able to gain access to BIOCOM events where hot topics in the industry are discussed and networking opportunities exist.

How has the agency benefitted?
Well, you could say Mentus and BIOCOM grew up together as the life science community developed and expanded in San Diego over the years. The access to BIOCOM members has helped to grow our client base and given Mentus a name in the community.

What lessons have you learned along the way?
Pro bono clients are just like every other client; they have certain objectives that they are trying to meet with tight deadlines and limited resources. By being strategic and working efficiently, we have been able to help organizations like BIOCOM become master communicators. Bottom line: a great partnership makes for great design!

By AIGA San Diego Tijuana
Published July 11, 2013