The Medici Circle Provides grants and funding to creatives at Bowling Green State University. This volunteer board meets to discuss meaningful ways to grow their donor base, provide financial support to emergent creatives, and offer study abroad opportunities to young artists. Primavera is their annual gala congratulating their recipients, honoring their donor base, and celebrating their mission.
Each year The Medici Circle selects a senior design student to take part in designing their Primavera invitation. I was selected for the 2016 gala.
Upon entering the board meetings I noticed a number of opportunities to improve outcomes. What began as an invitation to create a print mailer turned into much more.
The design process in place for students was not very fleshed out. I worked with the board to determine a better timeline for future collaborations, setting a date for mailing needs and working backwards on that timeline to allow printing, design, and revision. I also worked with the board to instigate a thematic idea for the invitation that could be carried across the event branding. From my understanding, previous years had no specific direction or theme, so this year it was decided that "Prisms of Color" would be the thematic driver. Subsequent years will also have a theme decided upon by the board in advance, as well as copy provided including times, dates, addresses, RSVP requirements, and an overall budget.
Prisms of Color was a solid first choice for the board as it incorporates the purpose of Medici scholarships. Recipients of scholarships and awards study any of the fields of art & design offered at BGSU including Design, Painting, Illustration, Glass blowing, Sculpture, Digital Art, Metals, Printmaking, and everything in-between.
I selected an oil painting from the library of congress by Gustave Courbet "Bouquet of Flowers in a Vase" featuring spring flowers supporting the theme of spring growth and renewal. I added the painting to Cinema4d and generated 3d prisms allowing the colors of the painting to refract through the prisms, creating a colorful abstraction of the theme.
Before I started the invitation, I did research on what The Medici Circle was known for in terms of events so I could design with their brand in mind. I found little to no information as such. This led me to investigate what the brand of Medici itself was like so I could design in line with this vernacular, and once again found little to no information. It dawned on me that the organization was somewhat of a ghost in the machine, a team of volunteers somehow raising funding for hundreds of artists each year, but with little brand support and little university integration.
I culled what I could find of their original brand. I found a Parisian style script M as a mark, and a few newsletters, all within the mast of the university. The university web presence for Medici was a simple brochure style webpage with little attention. This led me to investigate just how the board was driving funding. The primary funding driver was the "give" option on the university webpage, but considering the demographic of donors the process for providing donations was complex and cumbersome.
Visitors land on the give page and are met with a login screen, or the option to continue as guests. After tackling this sign up process, they enter a long and bloated list with multiple levels of hierarchy and hidden options listing hundreds of funds that a visitor can donate to. A search for Medici reveals no less than four funds. How could a visitor who may have little familiarity with web payments be certain they were giving to the proper place? This is a challenge I had bumped into with another passion project of mine, the creation of bgsugd.com.
To solve the dilemma, I built simple powerpoint that walked the board through their old brand presence and sold them on a simple but solid rebrand utilizing geometric proportions. This mark would be much more functional across modern digital devices. The board wasn't expecting the presentation but were on board by the end.
Next, I started working on a website for the board outside the university system that I felt would be more on target for their audience. This caught the attention of the university marketing team. The marketing team wanted to keep all happenings underneath their .edu masthead, which I was happy to oblige now that a focus was present.
I began taking meetings across the school of art with the acting chair Charlie (instrumental in this process), the Medici board, and members of marketing. What followed was a series of meetings, emails, and content conversations where I acted as art director for the project. The university has since updated their giving platform for the Medici, providing a common sense vanity URL to deliver visitors directly to the appropriate funds. This common sense measure will be rolled out across all funds in time. Also, vanity URLs are being applied to Medici so they can be accessed without swimming through the long URLs buried within the site. Lastly, a new type of web template has been instigated that will allow the Medici to stand out with a better brand presence and feature their exclusive content within the network, a home within a city, as it were, with a clear address and common sense directions. The marketing division is taking over the collection of emails, member roles, and donation tracking for the board as it should be. The board will benefit from the university mailing support, as well as some innovative new fundraising methods that were previously not tied into their efforts.
These steps are the starting point of changes that will now be applied across many divisions within the school of fine art and began an important conversation about how design, UX, and content can better reach talented young creatives searching for quality education.
Working with this team has been rewarding and moving forward our improvements will hopefully impact many students. I hope to see many of these changes live within a year. As I recently graduated, I passed the responsibilities onto members of the university but have subsequently been asked to become a permanent board member for The Medici Circle to help usher in the next steps of funding talented young creatives. I am truly humbled by the opportunity.
Thanks for looking!