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Case Study: Compassion Magazine
Inspiring Stories of Children, Sponsors & Faith
About Compassion International
Compassion International is the world’s leading authority in holistic child development through sponsorship. All of Compassion’s child development programs provide opportunities that encourage healthy development in four areas — spiritual, physical, social and economic.
Specifically, when it comes to child sponsorship, their Child Sponsorship Program is the only child sponsorship program validated as effective through independent, empirical research. In 2014, Compassion's magazine team reached out to Whiteboard to pave a new way forward for their online publication.
Compassion Magazine is a bi-annual print publication that is sent to Compassion International's donors; a community over 700,000 people. Alongside the print publication the Compassion Magazine team knew they needed to enhance their web experience. Whiteboard was selected to lead the project.
Our team worked closely with Compassion International through the weighty challenge of building upon their already established brand and took great pains to ensure that the design would be both beautiful and strategic.
02 Information Architecture
This project was an unique and challenging opportunity in mapping out a clear user pathway and engaging navigation through various magazine content, as well as multiple stand-alone issues. Determining how to guide a user well between those issues was an exciting and complex framework to establish.
03 Web Experience
When creating this web experience our team had to give special consideration to the various forms of content that might be used, keeping them unique yet part of the whole. We built the CMS to handle anything from photo-journals and essays to long-form articles, newsletters, updates or social testimonials with elegance and functionality.
Take Their Word For It
“For our redesign we were looking for a partner to lead us into a forward-thinking, modern design that would be the industry standard for online magazines and our result was much greater than we could have imagined. In the end we landed on a design that was inspired by a progressive thought process and solidified through cross-company collaboration. Whiteboard was able to lead Compassion Magazine into unchartered territory and in doing so have released us to forge our own path.”
Senior Print and Digital Magazine Designer, Compassion International
While it can be a difficult task to create an experience and/or brand from scratch, working within the framework of an established brand to create ‘something different’ can be exceptionally difficult. Our team approached the task carefully, meeting for two days with Mark Kyle, Senior Print and Digital Designer for Compassion, at Compassion International HQ in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Whiteboard Alum, and former Director of Design, Taylor Dolan explained the first few moments as, “making sure we understood the magnitude of the Compassion International brand.”
He said, “When you sit down to work with an organization with a real established brand - real as in hundreds of thousands of people across the world expecting a certain design, tone, and quality - you have to work as a ‘method designer,’ being intentional to connect with the brand at a personal level. As the lead designer I was at a slight disadvantage because I had not interacted with the brand in the natural world - we hadn’t ‘run’ into each other before - and I was unfamiliar with their persona within the context of a normal day. Thanks to the creative ideology and ‘whatever it takes’ attitude at Whiteboard, we were able to join their team on their home turf, and our designers were able to overcome an obstacle of knowledge to build a beautiful digital magazine experience.”
The team’s first objective was to create a system of information architecture that would propel a reader forward through a digital magazine experience. Some initial obstacles were creating a clear navigation through various magazine issues, featuring the latest news, highlighting great photography, and giving readers the opportunity to become donors, all within the first few seconds of landing on the initial impression. Our team was able to create a framework around Compassion’s library of beautiful images to craft a compelling initial engagement.
02 Information Architecture
The design of Compassion Magazine was lead by former Director of Design Taylor Dolan. Dolan was instrumental in setting the pace for the project and leading, then associate, Kody Dahl and CCO Eric Brown, through the planning stages as well as the implementation of the design.
After a series of productive meetings with the Compassion team, the threesome gathered around Dolan’s initial impressions and sketches and began to build a layout with IA in mind.
Eric said, “Looking back, I remember thinking we have to capture the size and reach of Compassion. This organization is in dozens of countries, with an entire fleet of resources and people moving 365 days a year throughout the world. If we couldn’t capture that within their central publication, well... we knew the project would be sunk before it got off the ground.”
Setting photography as the “hub” the team explored typography, colors, gradients, and the size and arrangement of margins.
“In a lot of ways it was a typical magazine design, “ Dolan said. “Of course it was for the screen but so many of the obstacles we faced are faced by teams at GQ, Vanity Fair, and Better Homes & Gardens. At its core its about aligning images, type, and whitespace to create a phenomenal environment for the eyes of a reader.”
03 Web Development
The biggest win was that our team was able to give Compassion Magazine’s team a powerful set of tools in Wordpress to easily build content experiences for each of their article types within the individual Magazine Issues. We gave them an array of content sections we had designed and developed, then set them up with a CMS that could use all or many variations of the tools making it easy, fast and beautiful for them to create these lush web experiences on their own.
Our custom Content Builder was delivered with 15+ content sections, with more customization options than we have space to list here (color, alignment, etc.).
Both of our teams were thrilled with the result that blended clear user flow and navigation with clean aesthetics true to their brand and a robust engine for generating future experiences for their readers.
Our team approached this project great care and trepidation, recognizing not only what was at stake but how this could be a game changer for an already solid brand but also for the children whose lives they change. We wanted to be certain that we had gotten it right and that no piece was left missing or unconsidered, that this project would truly serve to launch Compassion forward as an innovative leader in their industry.