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Collaborating in the Fast Lane for Mercy Sake

A Guide to Designing and Supporting Nonprofit Organizations

Looking to make the world a better place with design? At BOOM Designs, we offer tips on how collaboration and teamwork help promote and endorse one particular nonprofit.

Have you ever wanted to impact a philanthropic organization or promote a cause?

When it comes to charitable work, everyone intends to participate in their own unique way, and as designers, we have a unique skill set that we can use to contribute awareness while promoting actionable results.

BOOM Designs recently had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to design the graphics on Graham Rahal’s race helmet for the Kohler Grand Prix and the Pirelli World Challenge at Road America. The opportunity was auctioned off at a Ringside black-tie fundraiser event in October 2016 as part of an IndyCar Series and Indy 500 experience package donated by Bobby and Johanna Rahal that raised over $50,000 for Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Ross Bartels from BOOM Designs cast the winning bid to design this special edition helmet.

Together, we wanted to support and bring awareness to Mercy Home for Boys & Girls, a Catholic organization that is helping youth escape poverty, abuse, and neglect.

To bring awareness and celebrate Mercy Home while acknowledging the support from Graham Rahal and his entire team, we needed to develop a few standards to accomplish and successfully execute our goals.

Believe in the mission statement and treat it as part of your business.

It is so important to make sure you believe in the vision statement and the values of the organizations in which you do charitable work. Not only does your design play a critical role in communicating their vision, mission, and values, but the work becomes a reflection of yourself and your values within the organization.

Companies sometimes partner with nonprofit organizations to fulfill their yearly goals. However, the teams that actually leave an impact are the firms that partner with organizations they believe in and want to grow with!

When designing the graphics for Graham Rahal’s helmet, the team wanted to incorporate the value and impact Mercy Home has had on its youth. Therefore, we decided to incorporate a painting created by one of Mercy Home’s boys & girls.

We chose to celebrate the artist’s work by integrating it into the background of Graham’s number 15. We also brought the artwork into the rear spoiler so the artwork would be noticeable from different camera angles. Our whole goal in this was to literally show how Mercy Home has influenced members of their community through one form: art education.

Since 1887, Mercy Home for Boys & Girls has broken the cycle of neglect and abuse for over 30,000 kids, and this is just one way to celebrate the impact Mercy Home has had on their youth.

Immerse yourself into the partnership through research and a detailed design process.

Some organizations fall into the path of designing for nonprofit organizations by either reusing work (or templates) and thinking they know everything about the organization because they read an article or volunteered for an event. However, just like an actual paid project, you have to do your research to successfully design a piece that is unique to the nonprofit you are working for and promotes a call to action (CTA). You also should follow a detailed design process that drives awareness and results.

While working with Mercy Home and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on the helmet design, it was critical to learn as much information as possible about both organizations. We integrated with both teams to find out how the organizations clicked. We were then able to create several designs that touched on all the unique characteristics of each organization.

Charitable work involves collaborating for a common purpose.

If you decided to work pro-bono, work just as hard in designing something unique and professional as you would with a typical project. Every project is a reflection of your organization’s attention to detail, skill set, work ethic, and professionalism. That being said, individually, we can not be experts at everything, but collectively we can.

Treat it like a normal project and work together with everyone partnering on the project because it takes a team to leave a lasting impact and influence change.

In developing the helmet, we wanted to create something special and something that sent a message to those who see it. Therefore, we took the project very seriously, developing several options and design directions while being open to feedback and collaboration. We listened to both Mercy Home’s and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team’s suggestions. Through collaboration, everyone had a voice, and it was a unified effort for a common goal: to bring awareness and celebrate Mercy Home’s vision, mission, and values.

Build Lasting Relationships

Like any designer-client relationship, it pays to stay close to whomever you are in contact within the organization. Even if you don’t have an ongoing project, it’s worth checking in every now and again — an email, phone call or meeting in person. You never know what that relationship will turn into, and it may even lead to opportunities that you are even more excited to be a part of and influence the cause even more!

A lasting relationship equates to a successful team that is willing to grow and help each other along their journey. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has a strong relationship with Mercy Home, and their support and willingness to celebrate Mercy Home on Graham’s helmet are a sign of their loyalty toward this wonderful organization.

As designers, you are the creative expert, but keep an open mind and learn the history design has played within the partnership.


When we started working on the helmet design, it was critical for us to learn how Mercy Home’s logo was used in the past as well as understand how it is being used today.


It is so important to understand how organizations used visual brand language (VBL) in the past. Build upon this foundation, or ‘rules,’ while challenging the norm. Often in nonprofit organizations, there is a quick turnover in staff, so there is a new drive or initiative every few years. Fortunately for Mercy Home, there has been consistency in their identity for the past few years, so we were able to build on their existing VBL.

When we started working on the helmet design, it was critical for us to learn how Mercy Home’s logo was used in the past as well as understand how it is being used today. We needed to understand their design rules, so we did not interrupt or break the importance of branding for both Mercy Home and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

While we followed the brand language, we also challenged it on certain concepts which opened up opportunities in the final design. One area where we challenged conventional thinking of the brand was with our interpretation of the silhouettes in the logo on the side of the helmet. We wanted to emphasize the silhouettes by enlarging them and having them face forward on the helmet.

Mercy Home liked our modern design approach and approved this direction.

On behalf of BOOM Designs, we want to thank Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the opportunity to partner on developing the graphics for Graham Rahal’s helmet. We also want to thank Mercy Home for allowing us to celebrate their success and share their values to the entire world.

If you are interested in helping support Mercy Home, please check out how you can get involved here: Mercy Home for Boys & Girls. Volunteering offers you the chance to make a tangible, hands-on difference in the lives of kids in need.

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