Braille Institute: far-seeing nonprofit

Marleena_DaphneWhat’s the first thing you think of when you see the word “Braille”? If you’re like me, you imagine someone’s fingers feeling their way across a page, reading. And that someone has dark glasses and a white cane.

All that’s great, and true. But Braille Institute — which was founded in 1919 to make braille books widely available — has grown far beyond that. They now offer a huge range of technology programs, job placement, life skills training and social interaction opportunities for people with all kinds of vision problems.

Seeing, like life, is not black & white. It works on a grayscale, from 20/20 clarity all the way to total blindness. As people age, for example, they may develop macular degeneration or cataracts or diabetes-related retinopathy. These folks are also at the heart of Braille Institute’s transformational work.

Communicating all this to the institution’s donors is the focus of Light, the organization’s annual report, which we designed for the first time this year. It’s a challenge. Many of our readers have the conditions Braille Institute helps support, so we worked with large text and high contrast, while still trying to provide a great reading experience for people with fully intact vision.

Photographer Joel Lipton, senior designer Kevin Consales and writer Lynne Heffley deserve kudos for helping to create a powerful piece that positions Braille Institute as the far-seeing organization it truly is, helping people face the challenges of visual impairment with fresh ideas and hope for the future.

Introducing the re-thought, re-targeted, re-designed AbilityFirst Magazine!

Newly redesigned AbilityFirst MagazineJust in time for Labor Day Weekend, meet the new AbilityFirst Magazine.

Two years ago we designed the publication as a semi-annual replacement for the Southern California-based non-profit’s annual report, and supplemented it with a second issue mid-year. We primarily targeted donors and corporate sponsors, so the distribution was narrow and the cost per issue was relatively high. It was well-received, but it always felt more like a corporate brochure than a “real” magazine.

A few months ago, AbilityFirst asked us to take another crack at it, to see if it could become more magazine-like and engage a broader audience. We were thrilled. We made the publication larger, suggested they incorporate their sponsors’ advertising, and energized the  pages graphically. My colleague Ted Bickford pushed to make it more dynamic. Our wonderful designer Anat Rodan was inspired to make it even more beautiful and lively. And our client AbilityFirst let us run with it, encouraging our efforts and championing the result.

The first issue is about to hit the streets, exposing to a wider and more diverse audience the amazing work AbilityFirst does with developmentally disabled kids and adults.

But guess what? You get a sneak peek at the newly transformed AbilityFirst Magazine right now.

Let me know what you think.

New issue of AbilityFirst Magazine

AbilityFirst Magazine cover with boy holding basketball

One of our favorite clients is the incredible AbilityFirst. The work they do with developmentally disabled people and their families changes lives for the better, dramatically, every single day.

We just posted the newest edition of their semi-annual magazine on It’s full of moving personal stories like T.J. Mitchell’s, the 10-year-old with Down syndrome featured on the cover. T.J. has made tremendous progress through the loving, supportive programs AbilityFirst provides its participants.

They were also at the center of the effort to pass California Bill SB-309, the legislation that enables support for families with disabled high school students, without which their educational programs would have been cut off.

You can read the current issue of AbilityFirst Magazine online by clicking the image, or this link.