Javier Mateos of Mexico-based design studio Xplaye helped both himself and others with a successful pro bono effort. Two years ago, Xplaye started a series of tribute exhibitions that involved taking a famous music band and translating some of their songs into illustrations.

Last year, the studio created a tribute to Grammy Award winning Café Tacuba, one of the most popular bands in Mexico. The project wasn’t intended to make a profit, but rather to raise funds for children with spina bifida.

Through social media, Café Tacuba heard about what Xplaye were doing. They were so happy that they decided to autograph every illustration for an auction to increase the donations for the association helping the kids.

Café TacubaCafé Tacuba signing Xplaye’s illustrations.

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

Café Tacuba

The project was covered on CNN Mexico, in Rolling Stone Mexico, on MTV.la, and in the most important TV and print media in the country.

Roughly $10,000 was raised, and five companies approached the spina bifida association to offer materials and supplies.

“This project grew our design bureau in a wonderful way. As a result we are now invited to many conferences, we’re asked to give interviews, and we gained respect from our colleagues in Mexico. It was an amazing and successful experience!”
— Javier Mateos, Xplaye

Just one example of how to grow your business while helping those in need.

In Work for Money, Design for Love you can read other case studies where pro bono design has led directly to paying clients.

Pro bono resources:
Five myths about pro bono design, on Co.Design
AIGA job board, contains a pro bono section
How to improve your portfolio with pro bono design, in the archives

And here’s a video of Café Tacuba unplugged with Gustavo Santaolalla. I love their sound.

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September 28, 2012


Brilliant post David, I’m constantly reminding myself and designers I know about the benefits of pro bono work. I’ve done plenty of it when I first started designing, and it helped me to not only build up my skills but I also learned a lot about the client-designer relationship.

As a matter of fact, I still take work pro bono, and I think I always will, but I’m way more picky about the projects I choose to donate my work to nowadays, much more than in my early times.

I think that helping those who need and can’t pay for it serves as a reminder that there’s more in this life than just working for money. But looking at the big picture, pro bono work has always led me to land commercial work. Odd, uh? Great post btw!

This reminds me of when I designed a logo for a clothing company. I started off doing it for free, then after it neared completion they offered to pay me for it.

It truly is amazing how much coverage Xplaye got from creating those illustrations.

I love Cafe Tacuba, one of my favorite bands. Great idea by Xplaye in developing this poster series. They promote themeselves and at the same time it helps a noble cause.

Great article David! Cafe Tacvba is my favorite band of all time!

I made an anthology package design for class and Ruben signed one of the covers. One of my most precious possessions… I would never sell it though.

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