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Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the
competition, in which an esteemed jury
identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear,
compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design
thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on
Client Brief: Feed the Future is the United States Government’s global hunger and food
security initiative. It supports country-driven approaches to address
the root causes of hunger and poverty and forge long-term solutions to
chronic food insecurity and undernutrition. Drawing upon resources and
expertise of agencies across the U.S. Government, this Presidential
Initiative is helping countries transform their own agriculture sectors
to grow enough food sustainably to feed their people. The Feed the Future website has been developed and managed by the United
States Agency for International Development (USAID) to illustrate the
advocacy and communications agenda of the Initiative. The goal of the
site is to illuminate the issues of food security and global hunger and
to demonstrate progress towards agricultural sustainability.
Overview of Market: Feed the Future is the United States’ contribution to a collaborative
global effort that supports country-owned processes and plans for
improving food security and promoting transparency. Through Feed the
Future, the U.S. Government is renewing its commitment to agriculture
and economic growth, focusing on harnessing the power of the private
sector and research to transform agricultural development. Feed the Future represents a $3.5 billion pledge to work with partner
countries, development partners and other stakeholders to tackle global
food security challenges.
These collective efforts advance global
stability and prosperity by improving the most basic of human
conditions: the need that families and individuals have for a reliable
source of quality food and sufficient resources to purchase it. These
efforts, in turn, ultimately advance international security and benefit
the American people. While there are certainly other initiative websites that aim to raise
awareness around issues of food security and global hunger (e.g., ONE, FWD), Feed the Future is unique in that it represents the whole of the
United States Government, providing information that is transparent and
accessible to a broad audience, from the private sector to international
political leaders and local stakeholders.
A significant amount of research and background analysis informed the
development of the Feed the Future website. A series of websites were
reviewed in preparation for the design process (see list below), which
helped the team better understand the context and players in the field,
and better frame the niche for the Feed the Future website:
the KDMD team had the benefit of developing the Agrilinks website (www.agrilinks.kdid.org), which provided a great deal of knowledge about
the field of agriculture and food security, as well as imagery and
messaging that resonated with these stakeholders. Between the
independent research and the development process, the team was
well-informed and well-positioned to create an exceptional website that
pleased the client and resonated with the larger audience in positive,
The design and development of the Feed the Future website was not
without its challenges. From the start, there was a lack of clarity
among partners and stakeholders. As an “all of government” Presidential
Initiative led by USAID, the site had to appeal to and reflect a wide
audience, while simultaneously reflecting the goals and strategies of
multiple agencies. Anyone in Washington, DC can attest to the fact that
this challenge alone can become an impossible feat.
Both the content
and the design of the site had to find a delicate balance, being broad
enough without losing the identity of the Initiative. This opened the
door for a plethora of interagency implications around messaging,
coordinating timelines, managing expectations, ensuring inclusivity and
respecting the realities of staff resources and their capacity for decision making. At the same time, it was critical to take a site that was trying
to be everything to everyone and clarify the target audience and goals, to ensure that the content and design could be customized to foster
maximum impact. This led to a very real tension between the desire to
get ideas across in a visual way and the sensitive nature of interagency
government work: What’s published online represents the American
people and it had to be right.
Besides the stakeholder and audience coordination challenges, there were
a number of hurdles to overcome with the existing site itself. The
information provided on the site was stagnate and stale; a troubling
issue for an initiative that positioned itself as forward-thinking and
dynamic. The look and feel of the logo and the entire site needed to be
upgraded to reflect positive imagery and a sense of impact and success.
The original logo was confusing (incorporating “see,” “feed” and
“change”) and the typography was weak. The revised logo needed to be
neutral but still stand out, and it had to exhibit some continuity with
the old logo while representing the symbolism of each of the
Content also needed to be generated and displayed
in live and engaging ways. There was an abundance of data that needed to
be visualized in a clean, clear manner. The navigation required
organization and categorization that facilitated ease of use and
brevity. Content had to be determined through a strategic, transparent
process to ensure that the best information was being shared in the best
ways for a global audience. Above all, the site needed to demonstrate
the transparency of Feed the Future’s approach and progress in every way, from the content to the organization and design.
The KDMD team applies a similar process and strategy to all web
development projects, one that includes a thorough discovery phase,
architecture and design, content development, site build and continuous
feedback and validation. This flexible process allows us to make sure
we have the appropriate requirements and assumptions in place before we
begin the design and development, with input along the way that ensures
responsiveness to change, and justification and buy-in for the final
The process for the Feed the Future website development began in July
2011 with a set of stakeholder surveys, interviews and user stories
that resulted in a deeper understanding of the objectives, goals,
audiences and priorities for the site itself. A usability advisor paid
close attention to how people reacted to the the redesign plans and what
they hoped to see. User personas were also developed to better
understand the needs, interests and behaviors of key stakeholders, and
to determine how this knowledge aligned with site objectives. Combined
with an analysis of existing and necessary content, site requirements
were documented—including tips and recommendations for site
development—and used to inform the subsequent phases of the process.
The architecture and design phase included the creation of a site map
and wireframes that demonstrate the site and page structure, navigation
and behavior. Branding assessment and recommendations were presented,
and templates were designed. This phase also incorporated feedback from a
focus group of sample stakeholders.
Once decisions were made on the site architecture and design, content
and management plans were developed. Content was inventoried and mapped,
taxonomies were developed and a gap analysis was conducted to discover
where additional content needed to be developed. The team quickly
learned that getting information from the client was going to be a
challenge given the variety of interagency players. Midway through the
development process, it became evident that adjustments needed to be
made to accommodate client approvals from legislative and public
affairs offices, as well as from the USAID administrator, Raj Shah.
Since this was a high-profile government site, buy-in at the highest
levels was essential. The Feed the Future website is graphic heavy, and
input on the content as it related to the graphic elements was critical.
In fact, it was impossible to move forward without the proper
approvals. To navigate this, the team worked closely with our client to think strategically and listen closely—and to deliver the right information,
in the right ways, at the right time to receive the maximum feedback
that allowed us to continue the development process. In light of this, a
development plan was created to foresee future content development
needs, roles and requirements, and a management plan helped to
facilitate workflow, roles and permissions.
The final stage of the Feed the Future website development process
resulted in the actual site build, which included elements such as
hosting, programming and theming, content migration, analytics
implementation, quality assurance and a usability focus group with
sample stakeholders. Additional components of this strategy—which should
not go unmentioned or underappreciated—included the implementation of an
outreach and engagement plan to not only promote the site, but encourage
users to actively seek information and contribute their feedback.
Training was held for key content contributors, and ongoing maintenance
and support were provided. Ultimately, this thorough level of engagement
and planning paid off with a great deal of buy-in and enthusiasm from
the highest levels of government.
By all accounts, the Feed the Future website has been a success based on
a variety of compelling factors. As a vehicle to leverage the goals of
the Initiative itself, the website is a powerful example of mobilizing
global change and sustainability through visualization and information
sharing. Indeed, the issue of food security and global hunger requires
visionary, creative and sustainable solutions, and the website must
reinforce these values and demonstrate them in dynamic, accessible ways.
One concern for all government agencies is the issue of transaction
costs; the hours of manpower and resources that it takes to address all
the questions, ideas and requests that pour in from every corner of the
globe. By creating a well-designed website, transaction costs can be
reduced as people are able to find the information they need in a
transparent fashion. The website then becomes a “one-stop shop” for up
to date information, and a trusted source of news and background
details. What had been a static site became an easily managed site where
the client is empowered to create their own updates and feature news
and videos on demand.
The interagency coordination efforts that occurred
during the discovery phase of the development process means that staff spent less time explaining and more time focused on impact.
Additionally, the Feed the Future website was developed on a Drupal
(open source) content management platform, meaning “it’s built, used
and supported by an active and diverse community of people around the
world.” This free platform is improved and shared cooperatively,
allowing for growth, transparency, quality and reliability across the
The crux of the Feed the Future initiative, and therefore the ultimate
objective of the website, resides in the ability to improve the lives of
people around the world. By designing a site that is visually engaging
and creating content that is transparent and informative, changemakers
have the resources to make decisions that make a difference in reducing
global hunger and saving lives.
Regarding the environmental impact, proper design and use of a website
not only enables a platform that is infinitely sustainable, with easy
upgrades and improvements, it also reduces paper production and waste by
making documents available electronically. All those brochures,
studies and catalogs that were once printed and shipped can now be
viewed with the click of a button.
The Feed the Future website has been intentionally designed to cross
cultural borders, literally and figuratively. The need to appeal to a
global audience is one of the most significant features of the site,
which specifically identifies 20 countries throughout Latin America and
the Caribbean (e.g., Guatemala and Haiti), Africa (e.g., Liberia and
Tanzania) and Asia (e.g., Cambodia and Tajikistan). It provides a forum
for these countries to learn from one another and enables other
stakeholders to better understand the approaches taking place in Feed
the Future countries. Through the private sector hub, partnership
opportunities are launched between private sector organizations and
country-led Feed the Future initiatives.
The website has also become a
model for other U.S. Government sites and information-sharing platforms.
From the beginning of the strategic development process, the engagement
and decision-making approach for an interagency initiative was
successfully democratized. The design of the site has changed the
perception of government bureaucracy by softening the look and feel of
the traditional media while still remaining official.
The goal of this effort
was to reach people emotionally by projecting a vibrant, active nature.
In the short time since its launch, the Feed the Future website is
often heralded as an example of what a good government website can look like.
Feed the Future site analytics: Compared to 2011, prior to relaunching
the redesigned website, the Feed the Future website had 2,000 to 7,000
more views per month.
Learn more about the jury’s perspective on the competition and their
rationale behind the selections.
Section: Events and Competitions -
AIGA’s national design competitions celebrate exemplary design and
demonstrate the power of design.
Section: Events and Competitions -
An inside look at redesigning a book that introduces HTML and CSS
to an audience intimidated by the style of traditional tech titles.
Section: Why Design -
Competition, Justified, book design, editorial design, print design, web design
Alex Center of The Coca-Cola Company shares his story, lessons, and tips on getting ahead as an in-house designer at a small and massively large organization.
Like it or not, disciplines other than graphic design are holding sway over the design of Web sites and applications.
Section: Why Design -
web design, digital media, business, students
A campaign designed for NGO Nutre Hogar helps raise awareness and funding to combat childhood malnutrition in rural Panama.
Section: Why Design -
Design for Good, graphic design, nonprofit, pro bono, social responsibility, design educators, students
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External Resources (cont.)
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