December 22, 2014 - 1 comment.

The Well Book

At charity: water we have a very unique business model. 100% of donations from the public go straight to the field. That's possible because of The Well. For those of you who have never heard of The Well, here's a quick lil definition for ya: it's a membership program that supports all of the overhead, the credit card fees, events, and all of the behind-the-scenes finances. To put it simply, without The Well there would be no charity: water, or at least it would be a very different looking version of charity: water. These generous people make the transparency of c:w possible, and that was one of the biggest factors that brought me into working here. Their idea of reinventing the way charity is done is addicting. I wanted to be a part of that.


In February of last year, I was asked to update a booklet for prospective Well members. I took one look at it and said, how about we rebrand the entire program instead? The Well is something c:w sort of stumbled upon, and up until our rebrand the collateral felt like that. It was printed on a nice linen stock of paper and there was a semi-established logo, but it just lacked the consideration I felt it truly deserved. These people are our lifeblood. They are the reason we can go to work every day. I wanted to give them something to be proud of and really rally behind.

So we went to town on a full on rebrand. Revisions on revisions, sent to Well members for their opinions. We narrowed it down to two options. A script-like mark, and a bold word mark with a supporting W crest. It was a tough call but we all agreed that the script mark didn't have enough legacy behind it. It felt too hip, too new. The Well has been thriving for the past five years (which is a majority of c:w's existence) so we wanted to touch on that history.


Once we had a new mark and some new concepts for what we thought The Well had the potential to be, we wanted to explore what would be the best tool for our Growth Department to grow The Well. Was it an on-boarding kit? Was it a microsite? Was it a trifold or some other print collateral of some sort?

We came up with the idea of a recruitment book. Something that we could give to current Well members as a coffee table book to honor them and for them show off to their friends. It's also a tool for our Growth Department / Scott to send as a follow-up to their conversations with potential new members. Until now, we haven't showed off our Well program to the outside world. It's always been a sort of word of mouth thing. You had to know someone who knew someone. This book was made to break down that barrier. It can do the selling on its own. Anyone can pick up this book and know exactly what The Well is, what it does, who is in it, and how they can join.


It has always been a career goal of mine to lay out an entire book, like a big one. I don't think I was aware of how challenging it is to maintain consistent systems over 100 pages. I'd be half way through the book with one particular paragraph style and then change my mind and have to go back and re-typeset everything over again. I think I did this three or four times. I'm definitely not an editorial designer, but I was extremely grateful for this learning experience with grid systems, paragraph styles, captions and all the other production goodies that come along with book making. It's definitely something I'd love doing more of in the future.


We wanted this book to show off the diversity of our current Well members. It's a widespread, fascinating group of people. We have Well members from tech, business, finance, nonprofit, Hollywood, music, comedy, and any other field you can dream up. We wanted to create a book that lets people see themselves in the program. At the same time, we wanted our current members to feel honored and included when they look through the book.

No matter who you are or what you do, The Well should feel like home. It's a community where you can be in a room with people that feel like family, people you admire, people you have things in common with and people you normally wouldn't have the opportunity to chat with. Diversity is key and it's something we're extremely proud of.DSCF8796DSCF8809We developed an icon system to be used throughout the book and brand. It shows where our members come from and the things they've done for c:w. We featured profiles of a handful of current Well members. And instead of listing all the things that they've done for us, we wanted to make it a little bit more visually engaging. Some of the bios are long and might not mean much to particular people, so we wanted to make a quick and easy way for them to see why these people are so important to us.

It's about more than money. For instance, our Well member, Shakil Khan, has given our entire team a gift every year. Last year, he donated a snack wall that was kept stocked with some amazing treats all year long. Michael Birch coded the first version of our mycharitywater site on his own. Marissa Sackler has spent endless hours volunteering for us, hanging photos and preparing for four charity: balls. I could go on for hours. These people aren't just donors. They are part of our team.

DSCF8850DSCF8897DSCF8895DSCF8883DSCF8878DSCF9043DSCF8936DSCF8952DSCF8955DSCF8959DSCF8975All in all, the book took about seven months to design and print. This was the first project where I was basically in charge of everything, and boy was it a learning experience. I'm pretty sure I hit every imaginable road bump along the way: stats changing after we'd already sent the book to print, aligning 14 different schedules for interviews/photoshoots, typesetting for hours all to be changed again the next day, every word of caption styles being illegible in our first version, and so on. I definitely had a few mental breakdowns and "I give up" moments.

But I got to work with some amazing photographers from all over the world: Casey Catelli, Douglas Friedman, Esther Havens, Jeremy Snell, Joey L., Joseph Fox, Julian Lennon, Katch Silva, Mackenzie Rollins, Marissa Sackler and Tyler Riewer. It was a nice bonus, and this book would have been pretty boring without their images. I also got to work with the amazing Chara Odhner for the first time since I left 160. She wrote the whole thing, interviewed Well members, gathered information/statistics, called me out for all of my orphans and widows, and proofread the entire book, front to back, at least 100 times. Thanks for making me look super professional.

My biggest thanks has to go to Artifact Uprising for printing this book at cost. I knew from day one that I wanted them to print this beast. The quality and care that they put into their printing is unsurpassed. Even though they had never worked on a project like this before, they took it on without a single hesitation. We hit some bumps along the way, which was expected because neither of us really knew what we were doing. But they were always there to help us work through it and get the books to where they needed to be on time. You guys are saints and I could not be more grateful for your patience with me throughout this whole process.

And finally, a special thanks goes to The Well members that took the time to talk to us, give us feedback, let us take their photos and give us something to write about in general. This book is entirely dedicated to you and all you do.


Published by: Mike Smith in charity water, Design, Editorial


July 7, 2016 at 7:03 am


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