case Study

Adler forward

The arrival of Dr. Michelle B. Larson as Adler Planetarium’s first female president and CEO was an exciting step forward in the evolution of the Adler brand. We were proud to help tell that story to Adler stakeholders and donors.

Her predecessor, Dr. Paul Knappenberger, had transformed the Adler from a venerable historical landmark on the lakefront into a world-class space science center, with a focus on curricula and activities that invited citizens of all ages to participate in science actively, both at the planetarium and out in the field.

Michelle, a distinguished astrophysicist and educator, was committed to accelerating the community engagement programs that Knappenberger had begun. Her energy and commitment to citizen science, hands-on exploration, and STEM programs—especially for disadvantaged urban youth and young women—was absolutely infectious.

Dr. Larson and her development team asked us to help them position Adler as a pioneer in their space, breaking down the perceptual barriers of museum campus and leading the charge to engage youth and families wherever and whenever they were available.

Over the next two years, we embraced this charge as we collaborated with Ginevra Ranney (then Vice President for Institutional Advancement) and Kelsey Nelson (then Manager of External Affairs) to develop Adler’s annual reports and marketing for the Annual Meeting & Donor Celebration.

The annual reports, in particular, were the primary means of telegraphing the sorts of seismic changes on the horizon. We had to make sure that loyal donors (as well as the more youthful prospects Ginevra was cultivating) knew their money wasn’t simply life support for a sleepy museum. Rather, they would be funding the growth of life-changing experiences and educational opportunities for the entire community.

We worked closely with Kelsey and Ginevra to break the mold, structuring the annual reports as a series of visual, skimmable, magazine-like stories packed with bold metrics. Can “science” be “fun” or “exciting”? Our annual reports left no doubt that this was a major thrust of Adler’s mission. 

Donor event invitation

Annual report