DesignUP – Program-wide Design-a-Thon


Duration: 5 months
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Project Brief

Like many graphic design programs in higher education, Virginia Tech has an organized student group through AIGA. The group\'s mission is to educate, motivate, mentor, and create a community within the program. 

I took over as the student group's faculty mentor in the Fall 2021 semester. After a few social meetings, I recognized that everything the club was focused on was internal and only served students within the program. I questioned why this was the club\'s approach since a professional designer's aim is to serve their community better (or should be). With this in mind, I challenged the leadership team to think outwards and find a way to serve the local Blacksburg, VA. community better. 

Building off my experiences and research of partnering with nonprofits, the AIGA club\'s leadership team and I established DesignUP (Design + Ut Prosim, Latin for "That I May Serve"), a philanthropic community give-back event funded by the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design's diversity and outreach grant.

Learning Objectives

DesignUP included 11 local nonprofits, 13 professional design mentors, and 76% of the graphic design undergraduate program. The event was held on April 2nd in the newly built Creativity and Innovation Building and was featured on various regional and University news outlets. 

Each team was comprised of one nonprofit, and at least one design mentor, senior, junior, sophomore, and freshman student. The projects they worked on for their assigned nonprofit ranged from logo design and branding to brochure design, and website design. Throughout the event, students learned to:

  • Build community within their program
  • Build community with the local town of Blacksburg
  • Communication and teamwork
  • Observed how their design mentor navigated through the initial client meets and day-of processes
  • Since the event was only six hours long, students refined their time management and design efficiency.


Projects varied from logo design and branding to brochure design, and website design. 11 nonprofits included: Blacksburg Partnership, Huckleberry Trail, Literacy Volunteers of the New River Valley, Mary Draper Ingles Cultural Heritage Park, New River Composite Mountain Bike Team, New River Robotics, Sustainable Horsemanship, Virginia Tech String Project, and Wytheville Farmer's Market.


Thanks to its recognition and success, our budget doubled in the second year. With the additional funding, the leadership team and I plan on making it into a weekend-long event that includes the addition of guest lecturers and workshops.

We also plan on making the initial client interviews in person and will require that all clients attend the halfway check-ins (only 3/11 attended in 2022).

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