Celebrating their 50th anniversary, students help promote the work of international development organization PCI through visual communication projects.
There is a different level of engagement when you are working with design students—their enthusiasm and energy are palpable. Their perspective on this project, as well as our organization, was both refreshing and inspiring. You can’t find this type of feedback anywhere else.
—Shawn Ruggeiro, Director of Institutional Advancement, PCI
Project Concern International (PCI) is a San Diego based international health and humanitarian aid organization dedicated to saving lives and building healthy communities. PCI works around the world to prevent disease, improve community health and promote sustainable development.
The PCI 50th Anniversary Campaign Designmatters Transdisciplinary Studio (TDS) is the final phase of a two-part project. In Spring Term 2010, a dedicated studio focused on an overall rebranding of the organization. Through the work of the class, PCI recently changed its name from Project Concern International to Positive Community Impact, as was recommended in the outcomes of this TDS. This second phase focused on developing a visual communications programs promoting PCI’s 50th anniversary, both recognizing its past accomplishments and looking to revitalize the future of the organization over the next 50 years.
For 50 years, PCI has worked with underserved communities around the globe finding sustainable solutions to their most fundamental needs such as health care, clean water and economic development. What sets PCI apart from other humanitarian aid organizations is their approach—they focus on lasting impact, rather than charity. Last year, PCI assisted 4.5 million people worldwide, providing life-saving vaccines, clean water and educational programs that aim to teach people how to break the cycle of poverty.
Despite their rich history, PCI felt a need to expand public awareness of their work and mission, and to reinvigorate a very loyal donor base in both celebrating 50 years of accomplishments and also looking ahead. As a result, they challenged Art Center students to create a modern, engaging campaign that could renew the organization’s communications strategy around its 50th anniversary. Students were tasked with celebrating and promoting PCI’s 50th year, while crafting a new and fresh identity system to re-engage supporters and attract new ones as well.
To gain an accurate and thorough understanding of PCI, their mission and their challenges, students underwent a period of extensive research that included key consultation with various staff, board members and stakeholders, including beloved PCI founder Dr. James Turpin in San Diego. They also performed extensive interviews with a diverse sampling of PCI donors, to gain a better understanding of who donates to PCI and why, as well as outside perceptions of the organization.
Students also did a great deal of research regarding other international humanitarian aid organizations, identifying those similar to PCI and sharing the same donor base. As a result of this research, students were careful to avoid the commonly used clichés of international humanitarian aid organizations when creating this new identity for PCI. They found through their research that many aid campaigns focus on what’s wrong—death, disease, poverty and the lack of much-needed services. Rather than focus on the problems that PCI faces in the field, the team chose to focus on the solutions PCI finds for these problems.
In August, a group of photography and film students traveled to Zambia with PCI to observe their work in the field, meet those they serve and heavily document the success stories of the organization in the region. PCI’s Director of Institutional Advancement Shawn Ruggeiro was integral to the implementation of this trip to Africa, travelling with the students providing them the access needed to get the very best footage. Students filmed and photographed the beneficiaries to capture their unique stories, which will be featured in a promotional video to be revealed at the 50th anniversary launch in November 2010.
What better way to celebrate 50 years than to visit PCI in the field, see the people they serve, and say thank you to their supporters? Students felt that by thanking advocates for their backing over the past five decades, they would stand out from other organizations and provide an uplifting and positive message.
After much brainstorming and deliberation, the students set out to create new solutions for PCI, including a consistent look and message that would be integral to a successful reinvention. Students determined that the campaign should be modular and easily customizable, depending on where and how it is being used.
The Thank You campaign is a comprehensive visual identify encompassing a variety of communications vehicles including film, print and the Web. The primary objective is to celebrate PCI’s five decades of changing the world and saving lives. The campaign was designed to give PCI a unique voice in an increasingly competitive landscape.
With many voices making up PCI, the materials were created with the idea of showcasing the different constituencies in mind. The term “Thank You” is the device through which various stakeholders—donors, beneficiaries, organization members—address the many facets of PCI. The donor thanks the beneficiary for their profound strength. The beneficiary thanks the organization for teaching them sustainable change. The organization thanks the donor for their continued support. These different voices and stories create a unified campaign.
Students created a highly emotional visual style relying on photography as a main focal point. The powerful photographs used were taken by photographer Jeffery Brown in Africa, India, Mexico and the other regions in which PCI operates. The imagery used was carefully selected as being intimate, but not gratuitous.
A modern palette of gray, yellow and blue was used, and a series of icons were created that are used throughout all materials. These circular icons were very simple, making them immediately easy to decipher—a loaf of bread represents food, a medical bag represents health care, a faucet represents clean water. These reoccurring icons serve as a linking mechanism between vehicles.
The phrase “Thank You” was repeated throughout the mediums: Thank You for being part of our community. Thank You for education. Thank You for health care. Not only is the term “Thank You” an impactful, unexpected angle for PCI to use (and one that potential donors will remember), but it is easily translated into many languages.
Another important aspect of the Thank You campaign is that its components are modular, easily adaptable and changeable. PCI can customize the components as needed for a particular region, audience, or as the organization adapts over time. The simple design allows for the text, photographs and icons to be easily changed and swapped for whatever needs the materials are addressing.
The value in a project like this one, bringing several different disciplines together, is showing the students how creativity can, and should, be a collaborative effort. The end result is so much more powerful when it was executed in a united fashion.
—Tyrone Drake, Graphic Design Faculty
Students were informally divided into five working teams—print, online, environmental graphics, promotional items and video and photography. They produced a wide variety of work, of which each component can have various uses.
The online team structured the site around “50 Years, 50 Faces,” focusing on the individuals making up PCI and who they serve. Their simple and clean design was quite striking when paired with tightly-cropped portraits of various PCI beneficiaries.
The print team produced a variety of items including a calendar and posters. A 50th anniversary calendar was created focusing on the dramatic photography and using the modernized palette. A multi-panel brochure continued the look and feel, keeping those PCI serve as the focal point. Both can be given to a variety of constituencies.
Double-sided posters were created featuring a single, black-and-white image of a beneficiary on the front, and on the back, a map of where the photo was taken along with applicable icons that quickly relay to the viewer what PCI does in that area (water, medical care, education.) These posters, due to their size and design, could easily be used as gifts to donors and supporters.
Outdoor banners were identified by the environmental graphics team as the easiest and most effective method in which to communicate to a large, external audience. Larger-than-life photographs of PCI’s different constituencies present the different stories of PCI. Various Thank You messaging—”Thank you for being strong,” “Thank you for letting me grow with you”—create a poignant and easily accessible message about the group and its mission. These banners were also made into extra-large, double-sided street banners.
Smaller, banner flags were also created, using a simpler design approach. Featuring a limited palette, 50th anniversary logo and icons, their flexible design and smaller size makes them perfect for event signage.
Promotional items such as t-shirts and bags were created by the promotional items team, using the icon series and various “Thank You” tag lines—”Thank you for health care,” “Thank you for education.”
A series of wall projections created by the video team will be displayed at PCI’s 50th anniversary gala. Using simple imagery such as a fork or book, the projections show a specific problem PCI is tackling, such as lack of food and education.
The” solutions” that PCI provides to these problems were presented as projections into recycled water. Field images of playing, happy children were projected into the water and accompanied by a soundtrack of laughing, playing children.
Another set of projections focuses on the Thank You theme, projecting life-sized individuals thanking PCI supporters for their help over the years.