Archive for June, 2010

June 30, 2010

Metal Construction Association

PLEASE NOTE: MCA has changed its logo since this review. Unfortunately, the new one lacks the distinction of the one they let go.

overview
Graphics must be viewed and evaluated for appropriateness by industry. The Metal Construction Association presents what is expected for an industrial group: visuals that are bold, geometric, classic, direct, and structural. They infuse the theme of metal construction into a strong strategy. With a fine line between looking classic and looking old—at their best, the presentation is classic. But at its worst, old.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Metal Construction Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The geometry of MCA‘s logo supports interesting visual effects, like the background stacking on the website’s left column and newsletter. Classic and bold, the flat geometric shapes represent the materials that they promote. It is imagery that MCA could develop more.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
MCA’s logo begins a crisp professional presentation. Because their mission is to promote the use of metal fabrication in architecture, their materials must appeal to a spectrum of viewers from architects to contractors to developers to suppliers. So using a template that unifies all content is the easiest technique. But the approach allows little visual interest beyond the first absorption.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Like most organizations, MCA uses a static template on their website. The most interesting portions are the showcases of member projects. Much more can be done with second and third level pages to better use the online space. Under their Publications segment, they give a choice between viewing in fast low resolution or downloads to print in high resolution. Demonstrating their sensitivity to the range of viewers, they delineate audiences at the top, allowing content to be tailored.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Sometimes consistency can be overdone. MCA graphic strategy is at its best when showcasing member projects. It is at its worst in the static presentation of content—where the template dictates format so strongly that everything looks the same. However, their bold color, logo as illustration, and concise navigation, the overall effect is crisp yet inviting.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
The most recognizable and distinctive aspect of MCA’s graphics is their logo.  It is used to anchor agraphic decisions, though not beyond backgrounds. To build more distinction, they could incorporate the geometric forms of square, circle, and triangle to greater symbolism.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 29, 2010

Green City Market

overview
Raising awareness of local food resources is a community responsibility. In Chicago, Green City Market assists this effort through a friendly communications strategy—linking farmers to chefs to the public through programs and online. Although their graphics are simple and basic, they are fun, easy, and engaging—presenting a range of attractions.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Green City Market

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Though thin and light, the balloon images represent the positive and upbeat personality of Green City Market. Simple and flexible, the tag line integrates well with the symbol, but the name overpowers. Though the three elements function as a compositional unit, the stylistic blend could be more creative.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although Green City Market’s theme of balloons, begun by the logo, is not expanded upon, the typefaces, colors, and burlap textures set up a friendly environment.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
From the pictures of farmers to the recipes of Chicago’s best chefs, the Green City Market website is fun and educational while it supports an environmental cause. The site is a good introduction, but could be enhanced with more highlights, features, and interaction.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Throughout their website, Green City Market’s template is static. The typeface, though strong, is not enough to push towards a visual potential. The organization’s goals are to create an “inviting ambience and sense of community.” Though the pages have engaging content, they don’t change often. And their blog indicates a “post and ghost” problem with old entries and few comments. They demonstrate a pattern that affects many organizations: excitement with new opportunities but difficulty in sustaining the communicative projects once begun.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Few causes affect more people that sustainable food sources. Throughout Green City Market’s materials, their dedication to promoting local produce oozes from their pages. With perhaps the greatest potential of any organization covered in te Sebastian Study, a graphic foundation could sustain communications as their mission can sustain food production.

Viewers want more than a one-way presentation. This organization offers a platform to showcase members by offers chefs’ signature recipes—leading the viewer through key information.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 28, 2010

Chicago Zoological Society

overview
Attendance-appeal depends on bold graphics. The Chicago Zoological Society promotes zoo visits and support through a fun graphic personality. But they do much more: dedicated to conservation and education, their graphics blend mission and expression. At their best, the character and personality of the animals themselves are captured in high quality photography and video.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating Chicago Zoological Society

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Although the Chicago Zoological Society’s logo isn’t very strong by itself, it sets up a visual style of silhouetted animals and plants. Better in the website banner when combined with other images, the logo is serviceable.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The expectation of zoo graphics is to be friendly, fun, inviting, and enriching. It is easy to illustrate animals, but not to present them in a comprehensive way. The Chicago Zoological Society uses photography to highlight every aspect of conservation and preservation.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The Chicago Zoological Society excels in their homepage presentation: above the fold is a fabulous use of video combined with directional attractions. Below the fold proffers choices that are organized and inviting. The writing isn’t too much to absorb; segments are accessible. It would be a shame if they did not take advantage of photographic opportunity. Fortunately they do, and their site inspires the viewer to learn more. However, there are no obvious publications beyond the Exhibit and Animal Guide—if they offer a newsletter or magazine, these are not easy to find.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Although the Chicago Zoological Society’s website banner stays the same on every page, the content is varied through photographic placement. Space could be better utilized to increase both variety and appeal. Pleasing colors in muted greens are visually arresting. The quality of the photographs is exceptional and presented in unique ways—although adding more portraits (like the second-level leopard) on the third-level pages would enhance their character.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
The colors, graphic consistency, presentation of topics all make the Chicago Zoological Society’s graphics worth examining. Online, the template allows visual variation in the handling of photos to unify a range of programs, exhibits, research projects, and the base-line of zoo visitors.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 25, 2010

Intl. Association of Lighting Designers

overview
Simple is generally best. The International Association of Lighting Designers exemplifies elegant simplicity in their graphics. They have placed emphasis where it belongs—in the overall look and feel of their presentation. As a foundation to build upon, IALD’s personality is distinctive because as a rare case of starkness that is active.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating International Association of Lighting Designers

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Usually a logo that is a typeface and a line will not be very exciting. IALD’s logo is unusual in its expressive use of such simple elements. The imagery of light, symbolized by the yellow vertically fading line, is supported by the white light of the type. Crisp, the only limitation is the dependence on the black background, making it ink-consuming in print applications. If reversed, using black lettering, while maintaining the yellow beam, it is still unusual but not as dramatic.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Black and yellow are thematic colors that express the concept of light. As IALD is an association of lighting designers, the colors are the most appropriate. The logo beams like a ray of light out of the large black background. The association has a wealth of photos to show off the gorgeous interiors, yet they could be larger or have the option to click for larger. Since their mission is to raise visibility of their members’ work, highlighting the lighting could be stronger.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Beginning with the splash page on the website, even though simple and elegant, IALD’s graphic personality is crisp and upbeat. Usually such a heavy use of black is not uplifting but serious and bold. Here, black is welcoming when paired with yellow, the photograph, and the literal use of negative space in the banner. In the templates, the strict grid of the left column is barely noticeable. The dominant color treatment, photo variation, and clear navigation make this site easy on the eyes and invokes a fluid visit.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Though there is a good thematic foundation, IALD’s graphics stop there. Beyond the template and the photographs, all information is treated the same way. The typography is well delineated and there are occasional snapshot-sized images to break up the page, but these features and portfolios could be better accented. For example, their newsletter could have a graphic banner and structure to enhance visual samples of members’ work. Also their publications are difficult to find.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
It takes a lot of ability to maximize minimal elements. IALD gains distinction through effective and unusual simplicity. They illuminate the influence of lighting and exemplify its aesthetics. With such rich graphic potential, they could take more advantage of their photographic library, member experiences, and further push their mission of visibility.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 24, 2010

Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association

overview
Contrasts are often the most educational. Although this organization calls themselves ISSA (International Sanitary Supply Association), they really should be called WCIA (The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association), as their information explains that they changed their name five years ago. Yet they show imaginative thinking, innovative approaches, and robust offerings in other areas. This is a great example of some interesting approaches despite a serious identity problem.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating ISSA: Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
If the ISSA is not engaged in a logo change, they should be. The name change is obviously justified, but they didn’t carry through with the project. Name changes are complex and the only help for it is to plan. Their Association History explains that the change was made five years ago, ample time to establish a visual foundation. Making a name change is never done lightly, and the logo is part of the process.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The appeal of an innovative home page dims upon subsequent pages. There is little thematic opportunity begun by the logo or the animation. Nowhere is this more noticeable than their e-newsletter: ISSA Times. The template overpowers the content, yet the navigation is well structured. ISSA has all the elements needed to set up a strong theme. Hopefully their plans include development.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The site ISSA has a portal page that offers nine publications. Most are monthly. The archives are inviting in structure and include a few visuals for emphasis. But the visitor has to be a member to read them. The range of content on the site and the variety of publication offerings are extensive. It would be more inviting if they offered samples for prospect viewing. Many organizations allow downloads of current features to demonstrate the quality of their content.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
ISSA’s graphics are minimal and subservient to functionality. It bespeaks of either low budget or low priority. The name change is a missed opportunity for graphic development. Not offering any sample articles or publications online limits interest. They will allow a free account with registration, but many prospects aren’t ready to get their names on a list without checking quality first.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
ISSA is an organization with contrasts: an international focus with a confused identity, an inviting home page with limited access to the most interesting content. An engaging beginning, however, can’t sustain visual interest of the total visiting experience. Because communications and providing information are several of ISSA’s missions, visual content should be a part.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 21, 2010

Golden Apple Foundation

overview
The Golden Apple logo is one of the most exciting nonprofit logos in the Midwest because it says so much. To educate the educators, this organization needs communications as a unifying force for a wide constituent base. Inviting applicants, gathering teachers, and reaching supporters puts great focus demands on graphic strategy.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Golden Apple Foundation

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
The Golden Apple logo is one of the best mission expressions in the Midwest. It transports the common elements of apple, hands, and color to a highly recognizable level. Simple, classic, flexible, and beautifully executed, this logo sticks in the mind and easily becomes synonomous with an inspiring mandate.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
It seems that The Golden Apple organization knows that they have a strong identity because they use their logo as a graphic bullet to highlight content. Not the best use of an identity. They could build a theme upon the ideas of achievement, quest, and attaining the apple. It seems their graphic emphasis ends with their logo, as there is no strong theme to hang a hat upon.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
The point of view represented on The Golden Apple is supported more by good copywriting than good design. There is little, other than logo or photographs, to carry the emotional impact of educational importance. The topic begs for a creative and exploratory approach! As they hope to inspire educators, the presentation itself can go a lot further to inspire the reader.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Serving three constituents, The Golden Apple’s publications follow strict templates. Simple and geometric, information is easy to find and handled consistently. Their newsletter crosses the line between print and post. Although the design is generic, the content links are very useful. It may not be fun to look at, but it is easy to grasp the content.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
It is easier to change the graphics around a logo than it is the logo itself. The Golden Apple begins with an advantage because their logo is so targeted and crafted. Then they seem to drop the ball graphically by offering little visual enhancement. The photographs carry the graphic load. If GAF were to improve the visuals of their materials, their distinctiveness and vital programs could be seen as well as heard.

It is amazing to find an original and exciting image created with very common visual cliques: apple and hands. Yet these images clearly express education, the award, and is a classic portrayal for a 25 year history.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 17, 2010

The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

overview
The best graphics lead the viewer on an adventure. Where better to do this than at a nature museum? The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s graphics visually echo the richness of their location. Their publications demonstrate a considered integration of media. How they tie a great variety of features and attractions together can teach lessons for audience interaction.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
As expected for their genre, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum’s logo expresses exploration, variety, expansiveness, and fun. It provides a sense of adventure in a cut-paper style that can appeal both to children and adults. Without reading the museum name, the viewer knows the focus. It is rare when a logo comprised of many images can unify simply. Flexible for many uses, this image is also highly recognizable.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
The animals and plants introduced in the logo permeate the museum’s visual language—even through style changes. Blending the cut paper abstract illustrations from the logo with realistic photographs, borders, and new media begins the ambient experience.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Most website animation is gratituous. But on The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum site, the crawling images support the content. The museum provides an inviting collection of short videos on their Public Programs page—a great and seamless use of YouTube. However, their publications seem skimpy. The webpage presents magazines that are not kept up to date.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum website template is static but supports a huge variety of visuals to represent programs, exhibits, and events. The little animal icons, colors, and typography keep the personality flowing. The static pages, such as Who We Are have more visual tie-in to the theme. Elastic enough to bring a large choice of media viewing, the major features on each page below the fold encourage browsing. The ultimate goal of publications results in visitors to the museum—so efforts clearly lead in that direction.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
The communication graphics for The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum make such a strong visual statement that they create an experience as a glimpse to an actual visit. Setting up consistent expectations, the museum is distinctive with a strong integration of range.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 16, 2010

Society of Women Engineers

overview
To organize information for compelling communications, skillful marketing encompasses a blend of making the complex simple, using space wisely, and choosing media for meaningful features. The Society of Women Engineers accomplishes a strong understanding of strategic integration. Investigating their graphics is a tour of handling the fundamentals effectively.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Society of Women Engineers

spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Though simple and almost elegant, the SWE logo is not as exciting as their website design. Although the logo conveys industry symbolism with the gear image, the design is not as contemporary. However, it scores highly for flexibility, simplicity, and recognizability.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Although subtle, the look and feel of SWE’s graphics is crisp and ties together through color and symbolic icons. All programs and features have visual clues that support the stylistic approach and tie them together. The use of video to support the various programs is particularly well done.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
SWE’s site excels in the layout of information and inviting pages. With consideration to screen size, the home page is exciting to view, pulls the reader into the main choices from “above the fold” and places further attractions below. The designer is sensitive to how people view and how to prioritize content.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
The friendly and accessible approach continues through all SWE’s publications. Particularly worth viewing is their online newsletter with links to current programs and features. Easy to read with short drop-down articles, the All Together newsletter represents strong communicative policies. It brings their comprehensive offerings together in a monthly overview. Conversely, though SWE’s magazine uses high tech features online, it demonstrates the difficulties of trying to make print e-legible. The scrolling and cumbersome interface works counter to their otherwise savvy use of e-functions.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Anyone who wishes to express a professional, visually inviting, and integrated presentation can learn from viewing SWE’s materials. It is exciting to see blended media support a range of initiatives, provide useful and easy online features, and develop an engaging visual language. Their graphics make me wish I were an engineer!

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 14, 2010

Churchill Centre

overview
In a market where a niche focus is strong, The Churchill Centre has an advantage. Conveying mission and purpose clearly can be an organization’s greatest communication challenge. But with such a focused dedication on the study of Winston Churchill, transforming past wisdom to current relevance is an inspirational journey.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating The Churchill Centre
spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Although obvious, The Churchill Centre logo gives the Churchill portrait a graphic distinction. Crisp, memorable, and communicating without words, this logo offers flexibility and reflects the greatness it represents.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Strong and succinct design makes the reader feel that Churchill’s example and wisdom is as current today and when he lived. There is a blend of education and entertainment—even a timeline of his daily activities. The range of offerings invokes an adventure into “one of the longest and most interesting lives of any person who has ever lived.”

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
A great example of editing and organization, The Churchill Centre’s website has an accessible amount of choices—offering a range of interests—but is not overwhelming. The presentation, although conservative, supports its content, which is engaging and even fun. The site alone invokes a comprehensive educational journey. Redundancy, however, on many internal web pages between narrative and side links seem to not take advantage of the page space.

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Supporting a terrific logo, The Churchill Centre’s overall graphic approach is simple, yet provides a sophisticated geometry. The logo, which can appeal small, inspires icons as part of its visual vocabulary.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
From exploring The Churchill Centre’s website, the visitor is led to comprehensive resources for information on Churchill—even including “books of dubious merit.” Using web media to perfection, the casual visitor receives a quick overview and the dedicated historian finds a complete resource. Both discover the relevance of Churchill as a visionary.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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June 13, 2010

American Society for Surgery of the Hand

overview
Simple is generally better. Too many organizations make the mistake of trying to be comprehensive at the cost of clarity. As busy eyes scan, the shorter and snappier a message can be, the more likely comprehension will thrive. American Society for Surgery of the Hand expresses a range of offerings with an elegant and inspiring approach.

Five Criteria for Graphics that Work:
Evaluating American Society for Surgery of the Hand
spiral bullet Use of logo: An organization’s logo has a story to tell—encapsulating the personality, philosophy, and tone of an entire organization.
Hands are one of the most challenging of forms to illustrate. Art schools teach that the test of drawing skills is the ability to render hands convincingly. ASSH achieves a graceful and elegant representation. The brush-stroke infuses a humanness that blends with a simple graphic treatment, though the typography is not as imaginative.

spiral bullet Theme: The visual first impression is dominated by the total gestalt—look, feel, purpose, and benefit. Further contact is consistent and supports personality and philosophy.
Carrying the friendliness of the logo to the website home page, the viewer is welcomed by simple choices, directed at viewer interest. The photos communicate the three audience segments even without the words. However, the template overwhelms the theme on subsequent pages.

spiral bullet Content composition: Building from a recognizable theme, the presentation is easy to grasp, clear, and engaging.
Classic and simple, the logo and homepage presentation is distinctive. Almost a splash-page, if there is content that appeals to all the groups, this page could be extended below the fold. However, few organizations do as well above the fold!

spiral bullet Consistent style: A series presents a visual language and an ambient atmosphere, promoting a positive experience and relationship with the audience.
Although the ASSH website presents a geometric style with rounded corners, the simplicity of the homepage is not reflected as well on subsequent pages. Navigation is clear, but lacks the warmth they began. A better template could be chosen that makes more efficient use of space.

spiral bullet Distinctive: The most successful presentations have a memorable twist—something extra that is unique.
Any organization with such a strong logo should make greater use of it. Rounding corners on boxes adds a flair but doesn’t take advantage of the potential present. Yet, it is refreshing to be so welcomed and supported with strong and clear information. Unusual, the ASSH ABOUT segment, so touted by the other 99% of sites, is found under the Member section.

See the Overview of the best Midwest organizations to present strong and compelling graphics.

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