An Ideal Service Learning Client
Last September, Reaching Beyond Limits, a then-18-month-old organization co-founded by Amy Hartman (a Misericordia alumnus) and Robyn Ruckle, was doing great with a growing client base, a strong reputation, and a solid Facebook following.
Reaching Beyond Limits (RBL), located in Kingston, Pennsylvania, is an adult day program for adults with intellectual disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. Like any new organization, they had many plates to spin. Their priority was and is their clients: helping them to learn, thrive, and maximize their quality of life each day.
So it was only natural that branding and website development fell low on their task list. The months started to add up and their website continued to be “under construction.” They were also interested in developing a new logo.
That’s where Misericordia’s Department of Mass Communications and Design stepped in, taking on RBL as a service-learning client in COM 485, Powerful, Persuasive Marketing Design, taught by Assistant Professor Rachel Urbanowicz.
Aggressive Goals, Great Results
The goals were ambitious for this small class of five students, but Urbanowicz knew these individuals had the talent to make it happen. At the end of the semester, the COM 485 class delivered the following items to RBL:
- Logo: new design
- Website: all-new, fully-populated website (http://www.reachingbeyondlimits.com)
- Video: one-minute promotional video (http://reachingbeyondlimits.com/lifeatrbl/)
- Brochure: printed tri-fold brochure
- Flyer: electronic, one-page flyer
- PowerPoint: template design with boilerplate presentation
“I was fortunate that I knew these students and their capabilities, having taught them previously,” Urbanowicz said. “They were all seniors, and the skills they had developed as communications majors at Misericordia—website development, journalistic writing, video production, photography, and graphic design—were strongly in place and ready for the next level: client work.”
Students laid the groundwork for the project through site visits to RBL, as well as a client visit to the class early in the semester, in which Hartman, Urbanowicz, and the students brainstormed together to create a chart of key messages with supporting facts. Hartman was so pleased with the result, she said, that she planned to use this chart in future employee training sessions.
The First Step: Written Content
Using the key messages as a foundation, Communications senior Matt Gromala, the writer in the class, developed text content for the brochure, which was also repurposed and edited for the flyer and website content. Gromala later completed the PowerPoint template and boilerplate presentation for RBL.
The Logo Collaboration
Communications majors Christa Porasky and Erin Dougherty (both December 2016 graduates) designed multiple concepts for the logo, several of which were seriously considered by RBL; however, the final logo ended up being inspired by a chalk drawing of the letters “RBL” done by one of their staffers. Urbanowicz took that design and refined it, creating a puzzle-piece-shaped outline/background field (puzzle piece images are commonly associated with autism spectrum disorder) that also resembles two people next to each other, and mimicking the lettering from the photo of the “RBL” chalk letters. Students helped select the final logo color scheme.
“Both Robyn and I like it,” Hartman wrote of the logo in an email (referring also to her business partner, Robyn Ruckle). “The fact that it's one of our staff's writing and that you created the puzzle piece to look like two people...makes it really special.”
Flyer and Brochure
Porasky and Dougherty, in the meantime, designed the RBL electronic flyer and printed tri-fold brochure, respectively—using the text from Gromala, the color palette they helped develop, and ultimately, the final logo.
Communications senior Melanie Quintanilla built the Reaching Beyond Limits website. As digital editor-in-chief for the Misericordia student newspaper The Highlander, she was familiar with WordPress, the hosting/development platform use to create the new RBL site. This background was helpful as she navigated new challenges of finding WordPress “plugins” (added site functionality components) that would support the RBL site, especially the calendar. Said Quintanilla: “I tried 12 different calendar plugins before I found the one that worked best!”
Additionally, Quintanilla’s graphics training at Misericordia informed the design component of the job, as she applied a color scheme for the website based on the new logo, made layout decisions, and formatted images—including photographs she had taken during a site visit to RBL.
Quintanilla met with Hartman to train her on WordPress, so that RBL could take over edits for their site. Hartman was particularly happy for the calendar functionality, as many of the clients and their families are interested in keeping track of the various community outings for RBL clients. Outings are scheduled most days RBL is open, but when a weather or other event affects the schedule, “it will be nice to refer people to the website,” Hartman said.
Communications senior Matt Scanlon wrote, shot and produced the RBL video, which can be found on their website as well as on the RBL YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gx6FEMRlCQA). Scanlon is interested in a career in video/film production, and this provided a great opportunity for a showcase piece. His prior class training and his work on the Misericordia-produced web TV show “Hey You MU!” helped make the job a fun and speedy one. Porasky did the voiceover for the video.
A Happy Client
“Seeing everything come together has been amazing,” said Hartman. “The class has surpassed all of our expectations—we are really thrilled!”
About the author: Rachel Urbanowicz, MA, is an assistant professor of Communications at Misericordia University.
For more information on Misericordia University's Mass Communications and Design Department, click HERE. It all starts at the arch!