Design for Us is a toolkit that offers strategies and methods to graphic designers interested in community advocacy. Using a workshop model, graphic designers and community members work together through a series of activities to address issues of concern with visual communication design. It provides insights into planning the workshop, interacting with stakeholders, topic exploration, and follow-up.

Whether you’re a designer who wants to make a difference in the community or a seasoned advocate looking for more ways to cultivate action, this toolkit provides you with tips and principles to help facilitate meaningful engagement. It’s designed to be flexible based on your community’s needs and circumstances.




Power to the People
By equipping people with the basic tools of visual communication design, this Toolkit empowers them with their own voice rather than relying on someone else. As result, a sense of ownership and pride emerge. Fostering long-term efforts become more realistic, since they are powered from community members themselves, rather than an outside group. 
Voices Are Heard
Whatever the socio-economic barrier, many people don’t have opportunities to speak up and be heard. Strategies in this Toolkit are built around hearing from them—offering options and resources to voice their concerns.
“Designing for good” sometimes falls short. Misunderstanding needs can, at times, have unintended consequences, and cause detrimental effects on a well-intentioned design project. The methods of this Toolkit aim to avoid these outcomes by allowing design concepts to be produced by those who best understand the problems fully—the community members themselves.
Advocacy Tool
As an advocate, it can sometimes be challenging to articulate other peoples’ true needs. It’s complicated, but this Toolkit offers help. When equipped with design tools, people can voice issues in a different way. Design can be crafted to speak to a specific an audience and can simplify complicated messages. The design process opens up opportunities to hear from people and enable meaningful reflection upon needs and concerns.

Sample Spreads

This project is based on a design workshop that Mike Fretto, M.Des. (’13), facilitated with a group of high school-aged participants and community partners from RecTec at Yesler Community Center and MMRTI in Seattle, WA. Empowered with the tools of visual communication design, he and an assistant worked with participants to develop posters that addressed issues of concern. The posters were printed by hand and distributed in the community by each participant. As a result, Mike developed the toolkit in hopes that it would provide resources for other graphic designers interested in facilitating similar community empowerment projects.




Mike Fretto, M.Des Visual Communication Design ’13
Tad Hirsch, Advisor
Kristine Matthews & Annabelle Gould, Thesis Committee Members
Asfaha Lemlem & Assaye Abunie, Community Partners
Taylor Nelson, Production Assistant


Official website:
Download a digital copy of the toolkit
Thesis Bibliography