Behind the Mask
Yee: Behind the Mask had expressed its difficulty in
communicating with audiences outside of the LGBTI
circle. Past web and print materials were reviewed and
several design problems were identified. The world
always judges the book by its cover. If the book shows
no clarity or appeal in its aesthetics, then delivering the
content and message is tough.
How could we create a stronger brand? It was important
from the beginning that the core values of Behind the
Mask become the foundation of the re-design, so we
asked the staff to share information with us on the
NGO’s initiatives and goals. BTM allowed Joe and me to
conduct weekly meetings that served as time to review
project expectations, details, and progress. Each week
we looked forward to this “Fellows Meeting,” as our
work was driven by feedback from BTM’s contributing
journalists and reporters. The powerful voices of Behind
The Mask needed to be represented in the graphics.
Staff input was at the center of the process.
What were the core messages to be delivered to the
NGO’s audiences? What image or personality does this
organization have? The answers to these questions
would have to guide our creative work.
Software Requirements and Web Development Mauriello: We wanted to leave BTM with a full arsenal of tools to continue to develop and publish media. These tools had to be easy and inexpensive to use. As for the web site, the NGO wanted a complete overhaul. Rather than just delivering information the site needed to be interactive so as to act as an online platform to discuss LGBTI issues and to support advocacy efforts.
Yee: The resulting master plan included developing a
new and distinct brand identity that was elegant and
bold. We established guidelines for ourselves that
would continue to serve BTM after we were gone.
• Establish a palette. Use variations of the same colors as design elements.
• Keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm readers or visitors.
• Stick to a font family. Too many different fonts make it hard to read.
• Our mantra became ‘Make it Strong, Make it Bold!’
Once we created a BTM style guide we produced a collection of visual advocacy pieces that spoke to both the LGBTI population and a wider audience — those interested in getting involved to lend support. This kind of outreach was one of our main goals and we felt that we reached it.
Software Requirements and Web Development Mauriello: As for tools for the NGO to carry on with after our departure, Doris and I set about finding open source solutions. Finally, after research and testing we identified a suite of free products, including Primo PDF Maker and Jon’s Smooth Gallery. We installed the software and trained staff members on proper use so BTM could continue to create and mount effective communications campaigns. We worked with BTM to identify the scope and feature set for the new version of the site. Drupal, an open source content management system would be ideal, but it was new to me, and the unreliable Internet connection made development difficult. We planned to postpone the major part of the build until we returned to New York. Once there we recruited other students in the Design and Technology Departments to help. The finished system includes a news section, an events calendar, multimedia capabilities for streaming both audio and video, and microtransaction capability for donations. The new site is easy to maintain and keep up-to-date while providing rich and varied content.
Behind the Mask (BTM)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Behind the Mask is a communication initiative around Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Intersex (LGBTI) rights and affairs. Its main endeavors are print and journalistic activism and the publication of an online magazine. The organization’s web site gives voice to LGBTI communities and provides a platform for exchange and debate for groups, activists, individuals, and allies. Its mission is to change negative attitudes towards homosexuality and same sex traditions in Africa.
Yee continues to consult for OSI under the auspices of her own company Design for Social Good. Her focus is design for development, focusing on topics such as social sustainability and urban agriculture. Yee has completed design research and visual advocacy projects in the Netherlands and Africa.
Mauriello works as a web developer and game designer while teaching the same to high school students. He is particularly interested in creating stories through the act of play. Lessons learned while earning a BFA in Industrial Design apply well to his current work in usability and user experience.