Designing for Global Impact: How Visual Storytelling Elevated the March of Dimes Report

Explore how innovative design transformed a complex global health report into an influential tool for change, driving action against birth defects worldwide.

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  • Designing for Global Impact: How Visual Storytelling Elevated the March of Dimes Report

About the March of Dimes

Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes is a leading nonprofit organization committed to improving infant health by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality through research, community services, education, and advocacy.

Project Overview

Birth defects are a significant cause of infant mortality and disability worldwide, yet comprehensive data and strategies for prevention and management were lacking, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The March of Dimes aimed to create a comprehensive report that raised awareness about the prevalence of birth defects globally and advocated for improved prevention and care.

The March of Dimes provided extensive data and insights into the prevalence and management of birth defects worldwide. I was tasked with designing, developing, and managing the project, which consisted of:

  • 84-page primary report with executive summary
  • 18-page executive summary
  • 36″ x 24″ wall chart featuring a color-coded global map
  • Comprehensive 6-foot long fan-fold appendix containing 9,792 data cells

Challenge

As the project designer, I was faced with the challenge of creating:

  • A report that would effectively communicate complex information to a global audience
  • A global map that would not create political issues
  • An appendix with nearly 10,000 data cells
  • All within an expedited project time frame

Since the report was a collaborative effort involving researchers and doctors from various countries, I also needed to navigate different time zones to ensure smooth communication and coordination.

Solution

To address the challenges, I employed several strategies in my design approach:

The cover design, featuring multifaceted shapes, symbolizes the global scope of the research and the depth of the issues addressed. The text “Birth Defects” was intentionally left in white to emphasize the report’s focus on a topic often overlooked in public health discussions.

The report’s layout was carefully designed to enhance readability and engagement. The use of color-coding, clear typography, and informative graphics helped make the dense content more accessible to readers from diverse backgrounds.

The wall chart, featuring a color-coded global map, required careful consideration to ensure it would not create political issues when distributed internationally.

Although the appendix’s size, due to the immense amount of data that needed to be communicated, pushed the limits of Adobe InDesign and computing power, I used my skills to design a chart that was readable and produced in a fan-fold format so it could be distributed with the report in an inside back cover pocket.

To adapt to the expedited time frame, I added another team member from a different part of the world, allowing us to work across time zones and ensure the project was completed on time. This innovative approach enabled us to work 24/7, with each designer picking up where the other left off, resulting in a seamless and efficient workflow.

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Page Report

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Page Exec. Summary

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Countries

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Data Cells

The Results

The March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects has become a foundational document in public health, shaping policies and spurring action worldwide:

  • Distributed globally in print and electronic formats, and in multiple languages
  • Cited and adopted by major health organizations like the WHO
  • Influenced WHO efforts to promote birth defects surveillance systems
  • Pivotal in advocating for newborn screening programs, like the SEAR-NBBD Surveillance Initiative
  • Raised global awareness about prevention and the disparities in care between high- and low-income countries

By highlighting the effectiveness of preventive measures and the need for improved care, the report continues to drive efforts to reduce the incidence and impact of birth defects globally.

It was an honor to work with you. The report is stunning! Thank you on behalf of the March of Dimes, me personally, and the millions of babies who will be born healthier and live better lives because of your work.
Christopher P. Howson, PhD
Vice-President for Global Programs, March of Dimes
It was an honor to work with you. The report is stunning! Thank you on behalf of the March of Dimes, me personally, and the millions of babies who will be born healthier and live better lives because of your work.
Christopher P. Howson, PhD
Christopher P. Howson, PhD
Vice-President for Global Programs, March of Dimes
During the time we worked together to get out the March of Dimes Report I really did not have the opportunity to let you know of my awe and appreciation at how you turned the database and our original word document with some pictures, tables and graphs into the incredible publication it now is. ...
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Professor Arnold Christianson FRCP Edin
Division of Human Genetics, NHLS & University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
During the time we worked together to get out the March of Dimes Report I really did not have the opportunity to let you know of my awe and appreciation at how you turned the database and our original word document with some pictures, tables and graphs into the incredible publication it now is. My copies only arrived in SA a few days ago and since then I have really enjoyed reading something that a few months ago I was truly tired of seeing. The layout, design, colours etc make the Report so readable.
Professor Arnold Christianson FRCP Edin
Professor Arnold Christianson FRCP Edin
Division of Human Genetics, NHLS & University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Industry

  • Non-Profit
  • Public Health

Project Type

Involvement

  • Art Director
  • Creative Director
  • Project Manager

Tools

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word