Established by philanthropist George Soros, the Open Society Foundations fund a range of programs around the world, from public health to education to business development.
“Mule melds deep strategy with imaginative design. They'll challenge your thinking, sometimes forcefully, but great things will come of it.”
To untangle the complex organizational relationships, we conducted in-depth stakeholder research. We traveled to offices in 4 countries to interview representatives from over 30 programs and initiatives. The deep understanding we gained proved indispensable to our work. We developed a unified communication strategy that allowed the leaders and staff to understand both what the redesign required of them and what they stood to gain.
We examined the existing website and publishing processes to understand how the various types of content and their subject matter interrelated, online and off. Our design emphasizes contextual navigation over hierarchical relationships to encourage visitors to explore by issue, region, or topic. Forging these connections between sometimes divergent perspectives on the same topic underscores the Open Society theme of plurality.
Documentary photography is a core aspect of the Open Society approach. Frequently, the image is the work, not merely a vivid accessory. We collaborated with the client to capitalize on their access to documentary photography as tangible evidence of the issues. In addition to photos presented in context throughout the site, we devised a special treatment for the home page, which functions as an overlay framing a photo relating to a featured story. Visitors need only click to reveal the entire photograph and information about the photographer.
As with any foundation, grant seekers are one of the largest audiences for the site. The previous grant directory was cumbersome, with little room to point to related grants and topics. Because of the system constraints, users might see only one or two possibilities. We overhauled the grant finder to show more relevant results, encourage browsing, and help potential grantees understand application requirements.
The Open Society blog is the only place on the site with content aimed at a more general audience. However, the format and presentation presented barriers to both readers and contributors. Before our redesign, contributors faced two hurdles: a counter-intuitive publishing system/workflow and hazy expectations as to what they should produce. We worked with the Open Society team to establish editorial guidelines for each type of content. We also refined the publishing interface and workflow to spur frequent, regular posting. The result is a compelling publication that offers varied perspectives on critical issues.
One big challenge was handling multiple languages. Open Society work is global, with a strong focus on Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Yet the majority of the audience are English speakers. We designed a system to display any given language depending on their needs. We also tied associated materials, such as translations, to reports and other documents. This project is a fantastic example of the type of complex, meaningful problem we like to solve. Together with the outstanding Open Society and Phase2 Technology teams, we made a site that is cohesive and adaptable—and a fine testament to the multifaceted work of the Open Society Foundations.
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