Though business networking groups continue to multiply like mogwais in a downpour, we maintain that the most worthy introductions continue to happen by accident.
Our case was proven when we crossed paths with Patrick Rutledge, co-founder and Executive Director of Big League Book Club. We had called a local company for a signage quote and Patrick happened to answer the phone. We got what we needed (a solid, competitive quote) and, about an hour later, Patrick called us back and got what he needed (some help with his passion project, Big League Book Club [BLBC]).
Since 2007, the non-profit has offered a literacy-based basketball programs in select Toronto schools. Their mandate is to facilitate literacy and life skills in young boys and girls using sport as the motivation. Kids are supported by professional athletes and role models, giving them real-life insight on how much academics and character can affect futures, united under the tagline, Basketball is the practice, Life is the game.
As the organization approached nearly ten years of successful operation with countless parent and teacher testimonials backed by impressive TDSB research on the program’s positive outcomes, it was time to evolve. The success story was there, but the organization lacked the resources and support to source new funding and grow their footprint.
Toronto Raptors #10 DeMar DeRozan has been an active and invested program supporter and role model of BLBC’s primary and junior program, DeMar’s Slam Dunk Book Club, since his arrival in Toronto in 2009. His personal belief in the importance of literacy during kids’ formative years drew him to the program, and the measurable difference his presence makes has only deepened his involvement. “Literacy—learning to read—is so important for a child’s success. I understand what these kids are going through. I was once in their position. When I was a kid, I wanted someone to look up to and I want to be that person these kids look up to.”
Realizing that we could help—both with design and volunteer support—we took the brief and ran with it. We partnered with BLBC under our T+K Community banner, part of our agency’s enduring commitment to donate 5% of our creative and project management hours to select charities and non-profits in our community.
The original program logos and graphics were…all over the place, as were the audiences, the messages, and the brand narrative. We started with an intensive strategic restructuring exercise, to design a brand and program hierarchy to support an intuitive set of graphic elements and an audience-focused communication platform.
The new brand was simple, unified, and inspired by classic urban graffiti letterforms and incorporated a custom vector pattern based on the original Chuck Taylor basketball shoe sole pattern.
We piloted the new organizational brand strategy and visual identity system on a modern and clean website designed to declutter the organization, engage the community, and balance the program’s star power with BLBC’s literacy mandate.
To connect with both parents and students from the moment they land on the site, we needed to be proactive, anticipating and responding to distinct audiences. Applying a refined and more intuitive content architecture ensured all visitors could easily understand the three-part programming structure and find ways to engage.
The site is both responsive and AODA compliant, with key design and content presentation adaptations in anticipation of varied demographics for desktop, tablet, and mobile users. BLBC now has the fluidity to easily engage and tailor their dialogue with a more complex and diverse range of people, from players and parents to sponsors and community partners.
Revitalizing the website allowed us to collect and incorporate custom profiles to showcase the hard-working coaches and volunteers as well as testimonials from some of the students and parents explaining their love of the program and the benefits players derive from their experiences within it.
The public debut of the new BLBC and DeMar’s Slam Dunk Book Club brands in action at Rawlinson Community School in downtown Toronto saw over 100 kids and their families on site to meet DeMar DeRozan himself and show him the results of their hard work both on and off the court. Our friends and imaging partners, Jonathan Bielaski and Jeff Garriock, joined the project to produce outstanding still and motion assets to support the brand vision.
We’re looking forward to many more gratifying acts of intelligent design to come. Who says you can’t occasionally use your powers for good?