These are a few photos I took during a CCF house opening. CCF partners with World Housing to provide low cost housing to the communities who need it most around Steung Meanchey. For this house opening, we gave a house to an older couple who were living in a horrifying situation before we found them. You can read more about their story here.
For the past six months I've been redesigning, rebranding and revamping internal and external communication and marketing materials for one of the most unique program areas of CCF: The Sponsorship Department.
I say unique for many reasons, but the main one I'm referring to when I tell people about CCF's Sponsorship program is that it is a one-on-one relationship with an actual child who goes to school at CCF. If a sponsor stops communicating after a certain amount of time, we basically find new sponsors for that child. Sponsors can meet their sponsor kids, in real life (no scams here), in Phnom Penh, see where they go to school, take them out for pizza, etc. The kids build lifelong relationships and friendships with their sponsors and their sponsors families'. I've seen kids during a Skype date with their sponsor families and it's moving. It is one of the best programs we run, in my opinion.
The best part about this project and my daily work at CCF is that I get the chance to use all my skills on almost every project. For this particular project, I used a few of the following skills: design, photography, video, web design, managerial, strategic development and marketing. Here's a breakdown of some of the work I produced on this project and a few of my thoughts.
1. INTERNAL STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
I wasn't given a task to redesign our sponsorship department. As with most NGO's and the inner-workings of departments within them, there are almost always improvements just waiting for some overzealous employee to take on. I knew I wanted to brand and give an identity to some of the departments of CCF. In order to rebrand, I realized how much I'd have to dig into the pre-existing internal communications in order to produce marketing materials that made sense for Sponsorship.
I worked closely with the Head of Sponsorship to pinpoint areas of communication which needed improvement, both internally and externally. I set up surveys for existing and new sponsors in order to understand weak and strong points of past communication avenues and how we could improve them for future growth. We used these weak areas to restructure the internal communications workflow and created a new strategic communication plan. This took many interviews and meetings with key individuals including in-the-field staff and managers.
COMMS PLAN VISUALIZED Below is an example of the way I used design as a tool for our staff to help everyone visualize the new Sponsorship Communication Plan. This design was used to explain to employees their new roles and timeframes for each task so that there was less confusion when we rolled out the new process. I've deleted and abbreviated most of the information in the graphic below.
2. BRANDING FOR THE FUTURE
One of my biggest concerns in giving an identity to the Sponsorship department was making sure it was developed in a way that would allow other departments the option of branding so that they would all seamlessly fit together under the existing CCF identity.
Obviously an in-depth rebranding should be done at CCF with multiple branding elements and goals in mind. We will be redesigning our website and branding later.
There really isn't anything deep about how I did this. I picked a color that works in our current branding guidelines, played with a bunch of hand drawn fonts, drew my own, incorporated parts of the current CCF logo and put it together. The key here was making sure other departments (such as the Volunteer department - coming soon!) could also follow suit with the hand drawn feel.
This is one of the iterations of the logo we ended up with. The graphic below is the one I used as the opener to the video, welcoming a new sponsor. I used it in several other spots throughout the identity rebranding.
3. SAVE THE PLANET One of the most important complaints/suggestions we got from our survey was to stop wasting money and paper on physical leaflets and packages. Our old system was set up to send a physical folder in the mail, from Cambodia, with a photo of the newly sponsored child, a DVD of our CEO thanking the new sponsor, information about CCF, policies and other important info. Sometimes this packet would arrive 3 months after it was sent and sometimes not at all. One of my biggest tasks was breaking this packet down into a "Digital Sponsorship Package" which we eventually called the Sponsor Resource Center.
The Sponsorship Resource Center is a place where new sponsors can come to access any and all information regarding sponsorship at CCF. I took the photos, did the design and produced the video. I love this part of my job. Below is a final version of the design:
4. PRINT MATERIALS
One of the things we didn't want to lose with the new rollout, was the feel of being in Cambodia while communicating with sponsors around the world. Who doesn't like to get a package from a far away land? So I redesigned a few materials that will stay as part of the physical contact we'll make with sponsors and potential sponsors.
A little birthday bash in a Phnom Penh village...
The organization I work for provides affordable necessities to a small community of people in Cambodia who live near and sometimes on a trash heap in Phnom Penh. One of the things we offer is extremely affordable housing. They have teamed up with World Housing, a non-profit based out of Canada, to build almost 200 homes this year. They asked me to shoot a few houses in the process of being built.
I've been working on this technique where the photojournalist in me slaps the designer in me. As a photographer, I know the power of images but as a designer I neglect images because of how jarring a photo can feel in a graphic design, especially when it comes to infographics.
Designing with images is all or nothing. I used to either let them tell the whole story, simply, or not use them. Throwing a border on a photo or cutting it out as a circle feels cheap, leaving the designer in me feeling cheated.
This is my challenge - use storytelling images in a powerful, not forceful way in conjunction with my designs. Here are a few examples of how I've been trying to make this happen...does my use of images in my designs work for you?
You like these logos? You would. Well they didn't get picked by the client. I'm sharing my design process and take aways because I wish I could look at other designer's processes and know that I'm not alone.
PROJECT Logo and marketing materials for a garment center. They employ local ladies, teach them important skills and set them up with sewing machines and product designs.
PROBLEM The garment center has not been successful and they want it to be self sufficient, thus a logo and marketing scheme is what I'll be working on.
DETAILS The name of the new product label is Meanchey Designs. I started with a branding design questionnaire and a meeting with the client. I got the details on what they wanted and what they didn't want. Meanchey Designs will appeal to everyone, but the main audience will most likely be women from 20-forever. The words geometrically pleasing were mentioned.
What I learned and a few Take Aways
1. SKETCHING IS HARD I don't like sketching. I want to say that when I see other designers' sketches online I feel incredibly intimidated and inferior - now you too can feel good about your sketching abilities by looking at my sketches - you're welcome. Let's get this straight: I do not feel like an artist and I do not think I can draw or claim to be a drawer or an artist.
Sketching is good because it's harder delete your ideas (no Apple + Z available). The point is that I get ideas out on paper as soon as they pop into my head in visual form. I tell myself It does not matter if they look good. They're simply visual references for ideas and designs I may want to pursue later. At least that's why I sketch. None of the designs that panned out from my initial sketches were picked (top paper = initial sketch).
Take Away: sketches are like a bank of ideas.
2. INITIAL DESIGNS I sometimes cry alone at my computer over the death of an unchosen design. My first designs are NEVER chosen by my clients. They are often my favorite. But never the favorite of my clients. Ever. Ideas in the beginning of any project are sometimes spot-on (gut reactions are good) but most of the time for me, they're just mental poop - it is my mind's way of working out the cliche, what I see people doing on Dribbble, high hopes, and dream-come-true-design. I've found that once those initial designs are out of the way, knocked out of my mind, the real designing begins.
It sucks to hear that your favorite doesn't reeeeaaaally work. Take a day, listen to what the client says, ask more people (especially your friends who will tell you it's amazing and that the client is crazy), ask some more people, lay that little guy to rest and move on with your life.
The bottom two are obviously not good and I knew it while designing them - they look satanic. Because I still like them, I will store them away for a future client who worships sun gods.
Rejection of the top one was harder to swallow. I love it. I (heavily) borrowed the design from my favorite tattoo artist. I can vomit up a million reasons why it should work: it's striking; women will be drawn to it because it's lady-like, but not too lady-like; it's generically Asian; it's versatile - both ancient and modern at the same time; etc. But the truth is: it's religious in nature and it feels too princess-y - both things the garment center is not going for.
Take Away: allow time for mind dump.
3. THE DIG Since the best design was rejected, I ask the client what would be a good symbol to work with or if I should just work with the letters M and D. They say fruit or flowers and lettering is okay. I dislike the idea of both flowers and fruit because it's a garment center. I tried lettering but I haven't taken those Lynda.com tutorials yet. So I decided to take on the flower idea after I saw the absolutely gorgeous national Cambodian flower.
I had THE hardest time. I couldn't get the line drawing style out of my mind and I felt that a flower would attract either Southern Women* or pugs. I kept trying. You can see both beautiful flower and nasty mess below.
*I love Southern Women.
I had another meeting with the client and confessed that I hate the flower. They continued to hate the crown drawing. We talked it over and I asked if there were any aspects they liked about the crown drawing they hated. It was a question I should have asked instead of getting butt hurt that they didn't like it. I asked if they liked the line drawing feel of it. They did. So I finally tried to merge what I liked about the crown drawing logo with the cute flower my client wanted.
Take Away: stop getting butt hurt and start asking questions.
4. POLISHING Most of the time my client wants a million different versions of all the designs. Luckily this client liked one of the options when I showed them the picture above. So really polishing this time was just taking the logo they liked and putting it in different colors, line weights, with different type fonts, textures and ideas to try and flush out what kind of color palette and style they want. Like this:
The below image is the logo they went with. I do not reeeaaaalllly like this logo. I don't think it's awful, but I don't love it at all. This logo is not for me. It's for my client. They like it. They think it will sell lots of pretty things. That's very important.
Take Away: in the end, it's not what you want, but what the client wants that matters.
I worked on this story for Bloomberg News while I was in Kathmandu last year. The topic needs much more coverage and so much more action. I have heard reports of at least one Nepali corpse coming into the airport per day from Qatar. It's slavery. And it's worldwide. I'm quite clueless when it comes to international law, but it's obvious that some type of international regulation needs to be in place for migrant workers around the world.
I use an iPhone; I'm writing this on one of my two Mac laptops. It's obvious Apple holds their product design to an incredible high standard. That standard should be reflected in their international labor regulations.
Bibek is just one of millions who are abused and enslaved daily so that we can use our iPhones, computers and other gadgets.
Here in Cambodia, It's not just labor that is being sold. It's women, children and it's horrific. When will this become a major issue for governments around the world? When will international standards be implemented?
Here are some ways to help and become aware.
CCF offers free medical care to the surrounding community. It's incredible, honestly. We have doctors on hand that perform minor surgeries on site. This little monkey had a high fever for two days. The doctor said she'd be just fine.
One of my first assignments at Cambodian Children's Fund - the Holiday Campaign.
My first few weeks at the new job have been exciting. I shot Tony Hawk when he came to visit his sponsor child of 7 years. I designed a huge banner for a student party and set up a design request form for internal purposes. The holiday campaign came up quick and I suggested a face-lift.
I have nothing but positives to say about my new position and life. I get to produce designs, photos, videos; I have full creative freedom to come up with interesting ideas and campaign concepts; my boss is a designer himself and very laid back while still interested in exploring new creative caveats; but the best part is that I use my communication skills to help kids.
Below is my holiday campaign work. You can view it live for a month here: www.cambodianchildrensfund.org/gifts-that-matter
This is the first draft of an infographic I made for a research organization. I'm including the different stages this design went through for several reasons. I find that designing for a new client can be very challenging. I've never designed for IWMI or a research organization before. My initial design (see below) is extremely different than what was actually printed.
I think with sites like Dribbble, it's easy for designers to glamorize their work. What we see on Dribbble and other show-off sites like Designspiration.com are incredible and inspirational. But I wonder how many of the designs on those sites actually end up being used by clients.
I like the challenge of creating a design my client loves and that I would also be happy to put in my folio. I find the best jobs are those that give me both freedom and restrictions. The best part of the creative process for me is after the first draft is painstakingly revealed to my client. I've learned so much by letting go and listening. The clients I work with have great input and if I listen, my designs are get better.
I also signed up on Forrst, an online community for developers and designers aimed at providing solid feedback on work. I put this design up as my first post and this design was picked as a "Ranger Pick" which I guess is their way of saying good job. Here's a link to my work on Forrst: https://forrst.com/people/SaraSayami There's a great discussion on font size.
Below is the 2nd rough draft of the design above. I sent first draft to my client and it was well-received, but there were oh-so-many changes. Font changes, content changes, color changes, and layout changes...
You can see how different the first and second drafts are. I tried to design something with a clean, corporate style while still engaging the audience.
I'm living in Nepal. We don't have electricity for about 12 hours out of each day. We don't have nice printers. We don't have nice paper. Since I had never made a poster that was 48 inches, I wanted to make sure my 15pt text was large enough and my 150pt text was not too big. I went to a printer in Kathmandu who I knew printed black and white building plans and asked if he could print my A0 design. Below is the outcome. It cost me $4.00 and an immense amount of confidence. Completely different looking at the same design on a 12-inch computer screen...I recommend printing the entire piece, whenever you can, as often as you can - within reason.
Here are the final 2 designs. One is geared towards gender and one is a general poster about the organization I did these for.
There is one more version coming...one for online purposes and a more general audience.
I've been working with SPRINT Initiative out of Malaysia for the past few months on a Facilitator's Manual. In the beginning, I created a concept-design for a book or manual that would help the facilitator's focus more on teaching. SPRINT has printed the first draft of this 400-page book and I am hoping to attend the next facilitator training in the Philippines so that I can make changes to the manual that will drastically improve the design. Below are the proposed cover, beginning chapter pages and an example of a content page. All of the content is from a previous design.
In order to make this design easier for the facilitator's to understand and use, I created a set of icons that correspond to the different activities that will be used during the training. I also added a time and date indicator to the header of each page to inform the facilitator's of where they are (or should be) in the training.
I've been working hard with FSA [filmsouthasia.org] for the past few weeks to get ready for the documentary film festival. We're doing standies, flex prints, schedules, invitations, web stuff...everything design. The best part of this experience has been seeing my designs in very large quantities. The schedule (below) was printed 3,000 thick and the 60-page catalog had 500 copies. It's been fun, hard, and challenging. I will post official designs once everything is printed.
finished a video for Katie Green yesterday (katiegreenartist.com.) she's an incredible artist, one i am proud to have worked with. i challenged myself to think outside of the box on this video. i wanted something more edgy and a bit less-traditional in the storytelling arena. in the end, i think we came out with somethink Katie likes and i was proud to publish. what do you think?
Finished this a while back, but needed to add it to the blog. Here is the front page and below are a couple of details. It's still being coded, but I really enjoyed this job. It went through many drafts and I was told from the first draft that it was too, "French" looking. I listened to my clients and really tried to make it less French. They liked this in the end.
An artist and costume designer asked me to shoot a few of her in a dress she made. Sounded kinda exciting. She sent me a zipped file of all her previous dresses and they are quite stunning reflections of nature melded into wearable art. In one shot she looks like a piece of forest with moss on her head.
The piece she wanted me to shoot was a dress made entirely of Buddhist prayer flags. At the Monkey Temple in Swoyambhu, we were instantly greeted with dirty looks and a comment from a woman who said, "She can't do that." I started to get a tad bit nervous as we are in a developing country where religion is taken very seriously. I've seen placid situations escalate into mass maiming in a nano second in Kathmandu and I was sure we didn't want to see that.
I told her we should shoot what we can and get out quickly. Seems like this won't fly for too long. So we shot about two scenes and a monk appeared at her side. "No no no no no," was all he snarled at her as he ripped off some of her flags. He was very angry. So I shuttled our human prayer flag into a bathroom and she changed quickly while the masses got riled up behind us on the stupa.
I'm caught in the middle on this one. Because I get it. I really do. And I'm not in love with fashion, ever. But those prayer flags are made in a factory by common men and women with common tools.
Yet feet are very unholy and truly the dirtiest, at times, in Nepal. Even to point a foot at someone is considered disrespectful. So I understand how blasphemous walking on flags that signify prayers to god sounds.
It was an interesting experience either way.