Change By Design

The Pop-Up Design Shop will give nonprofits, businesses and individuals the chance to meet with the Youngstown Design Works students and explore the services they offer.

Youngstown Design Works, an agency run by Youngstown State University Department of Art’s faculty and students, knows how to make change look good.

Since it’s launch in April, Youngstown Design Works has done high-quality design work for the Salem Public Library, the Warren Business Exchange, and the Cameroon Football Development Program, providing logos and marketing materials for both organizations at low cost.

The Youngstown Design Works program, created by assistant professor R.J. Thompson, acts and operates as a true design agency would, holding consultations for clients, designing logos, business cards, posters, advertisements, and anything else that might require a graphic or text. They are even slated to acquire a modern new office space at Smith Hall this fall.

While Youngstown Design Works resembles the modern design agency, the group has just as much philosophy as it does flash.

“YDW has a very socially responsible mission, especially with nonprofits; we want to help support their causes and advance their missions,” Thompson said. “Nonprofits have the goal of advancing society, culture, and the collective intelligence of where they operate…some nonprofits can’t afford good design, so they use cheap graphics, and, unfortunately, the aesthetic they create dilutes their fantastic goals and intent… We want to challenge people to act.”

An entrepreneur himself, Thompson owned his own design business for six years before selling it to a Pittsburgh marketing firm. Later, he would go on to teach at Edinboro University, Carnegie Mellon University and La Roche College in Pittsburgh before joining the faculty of YSU.

“The Youngstown Design Works program is kind of my brainchild from a few different experiences… I used to teach at Carnegie Mellon and La Roche College for two years, and when I was at La Roche, I was charged with creating a student-run design agency based on my experience starting and running a design company… I’ve always wanted to implement a similar and improved student-run design program here in Youngstown, and this past academic year I got the approval,” Thompson said.

Youngstown Design Works is still at its core a place for learning. As the agency is staffed fully by YSU graphic and visual art students, they will have both a true-to-life work experience and an outlet for producing new work for their portfolios.

YSU senior and interactive design major Jarrod MacCartney was approached by Thompson to aid in the rebranding of the Salem Public Library, a move which began MacCartney’s association with Youngstown Design Works.

“It seemed like an incredible opportunity to not only gain some real world experience with clients, but a chance to better expand our portfolios and to give back to the community,” MacCartney said.

MacCartney, along with other members of the Youngstown Design Works group, will be running a Pop-Up Design Shop from June 23-27 in Warren. The students running the shops, which will operate from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. during the four-day run, will conduct consultations with local businesses, individuals and nonprofits.

While students involved with Youngstown Design Works and the Pop-Up Design Shop event are likely to learn valuable skills both in their chosen areas of design as well as business, the philosophy of social responsibility is not absent among the student participants.

“I think what YDW is doing for nonprofit organizations is incredibly important,” MacCartney said. “We are reaching out to these organizations who are in need so they can now get the support in reaching their audiences with their causes to better Youngstown.”

Thompson, who has 17 businesses currently signed up for design consultations, said he hopes to grow the scope of the Youngstown Design Work’s clients through the Pop-Up event.

“Ideally, I’d like to see at least 25 consultations during the Pop-Up, but I think we’ll exceed that. We can handle a lot more than 25 businesses, and I’d love to see the shops filled,” Thompson said.

Youngstown Design Works will launch in full this fall. MacCartney said he is excited and hopes other design students will share with him.

“To current YSU design students who are maybe on the fence about joining YDW, I would have to tell them to jump off the fence,” MacCartney said. “This is your chance to make connections both inside and outside of YSU. There is no cost to join; there are plenty of benefits including potential trips to NYC, and most of all you are helping nonprofit organizations in your own area. This is where you can start; this is where you can make a difference. It’s up to you to want to.”

For those interested in using the Youngstown Design Works’ services, appointments can be made at or follow them on social media using /yodesignworks