My very first blog post, I suppose it’s appropriate that it marks a significant point in my career. For the past six months or so I’ve had the pleasure of working on a project that has been truly fulfilling. I’m pretty passionate about my projects in general. I consider myself a “dedicated” project manager – but this, this project was different. I felt like I was doing something for the greater good. And I know that my fellow GS team members felt the same way.
Once you meet Damian Buchman you’ll be drawn into his story and his vision. You won’t be able to help it – everyone I’ve worked with on this project has stated, “As soon as I met Damian, I knew I had to be involved.” We are no exception.
Damian is a childhood cancer survivor, a one-in-a-billion survivor to be more specific. But that’s just a small piece of his story. He’s a visionary, whose passion for life and making a difference in the lives of others drives him.
Damian’s vision is “The Ability Center” (TAC), where everyone has the opportunity to play. Imagine a facility. Where no one is left on the sidelines. Where people with disabilities and the able-bodied public feel equally comfortable. Where “accessibility” is a part of the natural landscape. Where sport chairs share equal status with running shoes. Where the only stares are those of wonder and amazement. The Ability Center is just such a place.
Sounds incredible, right? We thought so. GS Design was approached by mutual friend and colleague Clay Feller. Damian and Clay explained that they were looking for GS to create a Website. The Website would need to tell the story, it would need to be authentic, and, of course, be highly accessible. It should be professional and beautiful, and set the foundation for what would likely be a multi-phased approach.
We jumped at the chance to work on this project. Our core team met and developed personas for each of our potential audiences – helping us define the best way to architect the site. User Experience Architect Jim Broennimann lead the charge as we identified the goals of the Website for phase one, before TAC is a reality, and then the goals for phase two, once TAC is built.
We worked very diligently to research not only the standards on accessibility but also strove to exceed those standards, similar to the way TAC will exceed the standards of accessibility once it’s built. The website features large type, high-contrast colors, and large clickable areas. Our designers, Nick Krueger and Andrea Zehnder, led by Creative Director Sean Donnelly, found the perfect balance of beauty and function.
It was developed on Drupal CMS as a low-cost and user-friendly solution for Damian to easily update his site going forward. We also were diligent not to include any “hidden text” and used Web fonts versus graphical fonts further ensuring accessibility. Developers Steven Schrab, Jeffrey Schrab, and Kirill Edelman are known at GS for their attention to detail and innovative technology solutions, and it shows.
We were also happy to have our Social Media Strategist Chris Krasovich help make some recommendations so that Damian could streamline his social media presence and drive traffic to his new site.
In addition, our design team also defined the photography style and GS photographer Mark Brautiguam took many of the photos of the board of directors, the story photos, and the photos of Damian right here in our GS studio.
Damian was by far one of the most prepared clients I’ve worked with. He had much of his content, articles, thoughts, and business information ready for us to work with. Mike, our writer, masterfully crafted those thoughts and content into engaging copy that tells a wonderful story on the Website.
The Ability Center Website was launched at an incredible event at the Hyatt in downtown Milwaukee on March 22, 2012. It was attended by more than 200 people who all share Damian’s vision and are working toward making TAC a reality. The GS team, including Jeff Prochnow, Sean Donnelly, Andrea Zehnder, Jim Broennimann, Mike Zimmerman, Jeffrey Schrab, Steven Schrab, and I, all attended. It was incredibly rewarding to hear the genuine gratitude from all of our new friends involved with TAC and to meet so many good, kind people. And, our very own graphic designer Andrea Zehnder volunteered her time outside of her busy work schedule to design a printed brochure that, similar to the Website, is an educational and inspirational piece that was handed out at the event.
I could go on and on about the project, the people, and the vision for The Ability Center, but instead it’s my great pleasure to invite you to check out The Ability Center Website. As a GSer, as a parent, as a person – I will tell you that this has been such an incredible learning experience and one that I’m really proud to have been involved in. I’m confident that once you read about Damian and TAC you’re going to understand exactly what I’m talking about. And maybe, hopefully, you’ll help to make it a reality too.