New website for Free Minds Book Club Nonprofit Pro Bono Project

We have been honored to work with Free Minds Book Club as our 2020-21 TLC from The Heart nonprofit website refresh project. After the events of 2020 and the murder of George Floyd, Design TLC affirmed our commitment to supporting causes that promote racial justice. Free Minds has been standing up for racial justice and criminal justice reform for almost 20 years, and we are happy to help them get their message out and forward their mission online.

Free Minds uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and adults to their own potential. Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these poets achieve their education and career goals, and become powerful voices for change in the community.

Logo & Branding Refresh

Free Minds’ website and logo reflected their age. The logo was created by an artist by hand, and was in black and white. Because it was not a vector art image, it was hard to reproduce and was blurry and small.

We developed an “interim” logo for Free Minds, to harken back to their former logo with many similarities, while adding some new life to it. This allowed us to create a vector image, and to create alternate layouts to make a version that works for social media icons. As part of this branding review, we created a color palette that kept the same teal color as the former website, but added in some brightness and warmth.

Old Free Minds Logo
Reworked Free Minds Logo
Free Minds nonprofit logo
Stacked logo for social media use
We used the page title area to harken back to the old logo.

Website Redesign & Refresh

The former Free Minds website functioned well enough for the staff, but needed some improvements to simplify their process. It was hard to update, requiring the Free Minds’ staff to update duplicate content on the home page in addition to other pages on the site. The design needed and update, too.

Home Page

The old website Home Page design was dated-looking and hard to update. It was not clear what the organization does or how to get involved.

Old Free Minds Book Club website
Old Free Minds Home Page

The new Home Page uses a full width design and a Hero area with rotating photos and a clear message about the organization and call to action. We also designed a compelling Get Involved section that really pops to highlight for visitors quickly what they can do, and links to more information.

New Free Minds Home Page

The Home page also adds some statistics that highlight the success of Free Minds programs, in addition to news, press links and upcoming events.

Technical Improvements

One of the challenges of the refresh was working with over 500 poems written by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated members, and corresponding 4500+ comments from website visitors. A core element of the Free Minds program is the feedback and communication from the public on the poems written by Free Minds members in prison. Free Minds’ staff collects these comments, prints them out and mails or delivers them to the jail. These comments and words of encouragement are very meaningful to the poets in knowing they are heard.

To help manage these poems, we converted the poems from the old website to a Custom Post Type just for poems. This makes it easy to manage this content separate from other news/blog posts, and create consistency in the presentation of the poems. This also allows an excerpt of one “featured poem” to appear on the Home page without having to duplicate this content in two sections of the website.

Free Minds Poem
Featured poem automatically displays on the Home Page

In addition to the online commenting on poems, Free Minds holds “Write Nights” where groups get together and write comments and words of encouragement on print-outs of poems, which are delivered to the incarcerated poets. Before COVID, these events happened in person, but since March, they have been held virtually using software called Miro which allows people to type their comments just like they would if they were hand-writing them, We added an Events plugin to help Free Minds staff better manage registrations for these events and send them the link for the virtual event.

Please visit the Free Minds Book Club website and check out the amazing work they are doing, and support a poet by reading and commenting on a poem or two!