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Posted May 6, 2014

Telescoping a dazzling year of community engagement at Adler Planetarium

2013 was an exciting, evolutionary year at Adler Planetarium. Dr. Paul Knappenberger had recently retired as president after 21 years of service. In December 2012, the Board of Trustees elected Dr. Michelle B. Larson as Adler’s ninth leader — and notably, Adler’s first female president and CEO.

Dr. Larson, a distinguished astrophysicist and educator, has been committed to accelerating the community engagement programs that Knappenberger initiated — curricula and activities that encourage citizens of all ages and backgrounds to participate in science actively, both at the planetarium and out in the field.

The 2013 Annual Report was a fantastic opportunity to tell that story to Adler stakeholders and prospective donors.

Our engagement began with a call from Kelsey Nelson, Manager of External Affairs, who had seen samples of Jell’s work for Free Spirit Media and invited us to meet with Dr. Larson and Ginevra Ranney (Vice President for Institutional Advancement) to kick off the project. Their enthusiasm and commitment to citizen science, hands-on exploration, and STEM programs — especially for disadvantaged urban youth and young women — was absolutely infectious.

We knew immediately that this annual report could be much more than some financials dressed up with a few photos. The report was an opportunity to capture the living, breathing energy of Adler’s brand — and to make sure that loyal long-time donors (as well as prospective supporters) knew their money was funding life-changing experiences and educational opportunities for the entire Chicago community.

Starting from the Dr. Larson’s mantra “Wonder. Observe. Discover.”, we worked closely with Kelsey and Ginevra to break the typical annual report mold, structuring the book instead as a series of visual, highly-skimmable, magazine-like stories underscored with bold metrics. We also developed a matching invitation for the Annual Meeting & Donor Celebration, where the 2013 Annual Report premiered to an audience of key supporters.

At Adler, both kids and adults discover — again and again — that science can be a very personal experience, often surprising, and frequently fun. We hope the 2013 annual report left no doubt that direct engagement with the community is a major thrust of Adler’s mission.