Nonprofit Encourages Creative Writing in an Inspiring Classroom

Screen Shot 20151113 at 9.59.29 AM

Academy student work visualizing the work “The Universe to Fly to with My Wings” by 826 Valencia author Marlon Hernandez, age 10. Courtesy of Lillian Guo.

It’s safe to assume you are reading this. Literacy makes thought solid and transports communication across time and space. Sharing the gift of reading and writing is an urgent task, but sometimes the instruction and mentorship of training young readers and writers is banal, dry or just plain absent. Worse, writing can be seen as an insider activity, with few young people identifying as “authors.”

These two needs are addressed at 826 Valencia, the nonprofit established by Dave Eggers and Ninive Calgary in 2002. This center located in the Mission District is dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages six to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to help teachers inspire their students to write. A robust and dedicated staff along with many volunteers create a program of support, mentorship and resources for these students. Does 826 Valencia resemble a sterile classroom? Hardly. The front of the writing center contains a “pirate store” which interfaces with the public in the form of a showcase for student work, but also as a destination of whimsy and wonder in the Bay Area.

BBDO SF, an award winning agency in downtown San Francisco, took on 826 Valencia as a pro bono client to bring excellency to the design and strategy of the organization. As part of a campaign, they filmed several of the student authors on-site at the center. They then began a search for animators to bring to life the readings of the works. This led them to Academy of Art University, and they were ultimately referred to the WNM 663 Advanced Topics in Motion Graphics, a graduate level course offered at the School of Web Design + New Media.

Students at the Academy were divided into teams and were assigned work from the youthful authors to visualize. Over the course of 10 weeks, these teams created all the requisite design and animation for producing a short motion graphics spot that visualized the written stories for a fun and friendly media campaign for 826 Valencia. Academy students pitched artwork, worked integrally with the seasoned BBDO SF creatives and gained valuable experience around the creative, production and review process.

IMG_6865 2

School of Web Design + New Media graduate students Pantipa Muangdee (“On”), Sheryl Baza, Muy Chessy Kong and Paige Burlington are given a tour of the 826 Valencia writing center. Photo by Colin Evoy Sebestyen.

The students were also given a tour of the 826 Valencia facility co-ordinated by BBDO SF. Profiling the needs of the center helped the students with the concrete task of design, but more urgently, they were exposed to the community and the unique environment at the writing center. Students worked to insure the animations were on brand, accessible, inviting and inclusive in presentation. “Design for Good” issues were just as core to the success of the assignment as the technical outcomes.

The animations are now live and viewable at the 826 Valencia website and both the youth authors of the initial pieces and the center are satisfied with the results and look forward to sharing the videos out in the world, and encouraging all to engage with the written word. Check out the work at

More information about BBDO SF can be found at and student spring show Web Design + New Media work is viewable at