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Diary of a Launch: A Performance Report That Performs

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Radish Lab aims to help organizations that tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges tell their stories with maximum impact and style. To do our job well, we zero in on solving the little problems so our clients can focus on solving the big ones. An interactive performance report we launched two weeks ago reinforced our credo that sweating the small stuff helps make the big picture shine.

Humanity United (HU) is a U.S.-based foundation that seeks to build peace and advance human freedom at home and abroad through a combination of network building, direct engagement activities, social-awareness campaigns, and grants. Like many organizations, HU decided to move away from print format and go fully digital with their 2014 annual performance report. They wanted to bring their accomplishments to life with some serious interactive wow factor, while sticking to an ambitious timeline and budget.

In consultation with HU, we decided that its content—punchy articles, vivid photography, descriptive data—was particularly well suited to a single-page parallax site with a contoured browsing experience. Inspired by the stunning program-specific photography provided by the client, our design intern Kelsey Bryden sourced a knockout image for the landing page. This expressive photo packs an emotional punch and sets the tone for the site that follows. Curating the remaining images from HU’s surfeit of riches proved an interesting challenge, one that we negotiated in close dialogue with the client. The process was not unlike doing layout for a traditional editorial publication.

As happens on just about every project, it didn’t take long before we hit a rut in the road that threatened to lead us into a ditch. Fortunately, having a terrific, detail-oriented team and an imaginative yet flexible client always helps when navigating the rough patches. In this case, the sticking point was a data visualization section in which the challenges were several: create a series of vivid, easy-to-digest fiscal snapshots of HU’s programs; find a common design theme among disparate datasets; incorporate the client’s brand palette while drawing on a palette established in the landing image; avoid shapes that look like sausages. We regained traction by bringing in a freelance illustrator to try some new approaches. Once we got back on course, we handed the graphics off to our own Lucy Reading for some fine-tuning. Chris Heuberger, our indomitable design lead, added the finishing touches and seamlessly integrated the graphics into his design template. Crisis averted!

We all pitched in to find creative solutions for the timeline feature, which was something the client was trying out for the first time. How could we keep it delightfully simple and clear, yet feasible within the project scope? This was one of those elements that didn’t translate as expected from the design to development phase. Anticipating how a design is going to actually behave in the real world is a bit like public speaking: sometimes things don’t go as well in front of an audience as they do when you’re practicing in your bedroom. Fortunately, our developer Caley Steward is like a performance coach for skittish design concepts. People overuse the term ninja, but Caley is a true martial artist when it comes to making a design go flying in the right direction. With his mysterious maneuvers, he fine-tuned the timeline and integrated it into a silky-smooth UX.

A truly collaborative effort from start to finish, the Humanity United 2014 performance report shows how great design can help an ambitious organization showcase its mission and achievements, and how a tenacious band of designers, developers, and project managers can problem-solve with purpose.