Designing Change: Compass to Care

When you visit a website that’s so well-designed that it feels like you’re enveloped in a story with every click, you know that the creative team nailed it. When the story being told is that of an organization that helps everyday families conquer cancer in children by easing the financial burden, your heart opens up as the mission unfolds.

Compass to Care Childhood Cancer Foundation arranges for a child to obtain the best cancer care by scheduling and paying for the travel arrangements of the family. These costs can easily soar into the thousands with just one treatment.

You’ll love hearing from designers who are creating inspiring work—like Debbie Millman, Jessica Walsh, Justin Ahrens, James Victore and more—at HOW Design Live, June 22–26 in San Francisco. HOW Design Live

Compass to Care founder Michelle M. Ernsdorff knew that the organization’s site was in desperate need of a redesign to further its mission by appealing to more donors and partners. She quickly jumped at a chance to work with EPIC, a Chicago-based organization that provides the infrastructure to pair talented creatives with nonprofit clients to tackle a mission on a pre-determined timeline. (EPIC is HOW’s official nonprofit partner.) “Words cannot express the gratitude,” Ernsdorff says. “It will certainly translate into our ability to help more children as they seek a cure from cancer.”

Team lead David Handschuh heard about EPIC through a friend and knew that he wanted to “give back” in some way using his design and leadership skills. His team, assembled by EPIC, was composed of designers of all levels, web developers and strategists, a writer and an illustrator whose talent shines through.

Early on, the team identified a desire to incorporate an illustrative approach to tell the stories of children battling cancer. Ernsdorff, a childhood cancer survivor, wanted the website to both balance the fundraising mission while also helping families stay hopeful of their child’s cure by giving them the resources they need to get to the best treatment. “We felt that our site needed to appropriately reflect this in a way that was childlike. The amazing team developed our site with illustrative elements that can be felt immediately when a visitor enters the site,” she says.

Handschuh says that the team would meet for one day each week for eight weeks and divide and conquer all the elements of the site. “I figured that a good collaboration would be key to the success of the project, but the extent to which the collaboration happened is what surprised me. We just all got together and put our heads in the center and came out with something good,” he says.

Hear from other designers who work with nonprofit clients:

  • Michael Osborne explores the philosophy, process and work of Joey’s Corner, his nonprofit design studio.
  • Sarah Durham, whose firm Big Duck works exclusively with nonprofits, talks about requests for proposals.
  • School of Visual Arts professor Daniel Schutzsmith shows how leveraging the power of change-agent thinking can help you make waves for your clients, your compan, and your career.