With its website aging out, Abell Foundation used a website refresh as an opportunity to live its values and support its partners. They chose Baltimore City-based, woman-owned, black-owned studio, Points North, to guide their collaborative process to tell their story, illuminate their values, and highlight the people working for change in Baltimore.
Abell Foundation is a mission-driven philanthropic organization which, for a long time, put its own communication strategy and website on the backburner while supporting equity and innovation in Baltimore through its investments, grants, and research.
When their previous website needed to be migrated to a new platform, Abell established a cross-functional team to redesign and rethink the keystones of their communication strategy. With stakeholders from across the organization representing a multitude of perspectives — from a newly hired staff member to a 20-year veteran, from finance to program to grants management — the group worked together to tell their story with the guidance of Points North Studio.
“Everyone on our team was really thoughtful about how we wanted to communicate who we are and what our work is,” said Dr. Sarah Manekin, Managing Director of Research and Communications at Abell, noting that they hadn’t gone through an internal process around communications strategy. “The website project became the vehicle for that process. We were able to – and required to – develop language we never had before. Is this who we are? Is this how we want to represent ourselves? And Points North was really great at hearing all of our different perspectives and working with our team to get us to a point where we could come up with an answer.”
“Points North really understood and appreciated our work and so was able to help us through this process.” -Sarah Manekin
Abell Foundation wanted an optimistic and approachable website that was just as easy to navigate for first-time visitors learning about the Foundation’s work as it was for returning partners looking for a specific research report. We worked with the Abell team to balance their diverse set of objectives and audiences in order to create a site map, structure and flow that tells their story effectively and sends each visitor type on the appropriate journey through the website.
Speaking about the process of working with Points North Studios, Grants Administrator Irene Tai noted how the needs of the new website structure guided their discussions around how to best steer unique users through the site. “It was the driving force, helping us streamline not only our processes but also how we explained them to folks looking to understand what we fund, how we fund, and whether they should consider applying.”
With a robust history dating back to its founding in 1953, the Abell Foundation needed to bring clarity to the different aspects of the Foundation’s work, while highlighting the amazing things being done in Baltimore by the organizations they support. To do this, we built the design upon the historic Abell logo by incorporating its strong blue and use of dots throughout the website in new ways. The dots of the logo are echoed throughout the website with curved strings in the background and the curved edges of the photographs. The icons and buttons use the logo’s blue with eye-catching accents of teal, turquoise and orange. This fresh take on the historic logo carries the tradition and legacy of the Foundation into the current moment.
Abell wanted to bring the people they serve — the people of Baltimore — center-stage in their website redesign, so they worked with their grantees and with local nonprofit Wide Angle Productions, a social enterprise of Wide Angle Youth Media, to bring the website to life with photographs of real people doing the work of creating opportunity and changing lives in Baltimore.
Points North is encouraged by the good work Abell Foundation is doing and honored to be a small part of their story.
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