Sound on!

This was a short, but intense project with an internationally recognized non-profit to design two short animated videos. The videos were about highlighting an incredible writing platform to help teachers teach argumentative writing.

Main Contributions

+ Visual Design

+ Video Production

So... what is Topeka?

Topeka is an online writing platform by an internationally recognized non-profit, that initially launched in March 2018. After it's initial launch we heard from teachers using Topeka BETA that even reading all materials on the site it was hard to fully understand what Topeka is - and why they should care. As a part of a site-wide enhancement which included UI/UX enhancements - two short, animated videos were produced. See Part 1 - UI/UX Enhancements here. 

Establishing brand and style

Existing brand guidelines were simple. Topeka was bright, bold, with visuals that were friendly, flat and had many round characteristics. The team worked with a talented motion designer to help bring the videos to life.

Hard angles and straight lines were not on-brand for Topeka. This style was considered a bit too modern, and not the friendly tone that Topeka was going for. 

Accent details did not match what we wanted. Facial expressions were considered but ultimately would have added to much scope to the project. 

Final visuals had rounded features and had simple shading. Details such as facial features and hands were simplified to reduce the complexity of the video and save time and scope. 


It was very important to us that the tone of the videos were informative, but never like a sales pitch. We worked closely with the Gates team to finesse copy and had 20+ rounds of revision! 


Prior to starting the motion design workstream, it was crucial that all visual assets were completed and storyboards were approved by all stakeholders. I created a storyboard in a deck and the script was written per slide as though each slide were a shot. This helped our animator understand the pacing of the videos. 

Supporting our client through decision making 

The internal team collaborated extensively with the client throughout the refinement process. While most refinements were minor some requests would impact the overall scope of the project. I outlied each decision's impact and other possible options were provided. 

In the example above, I looked into the impact of updating 1 line of the script. The implication of the change was that voice over had to be re-recorded, studio space had to be rented and actors had to come back into the studio. 

One of the options the team provided the client was to re-visit the illustrations. This would have reduced the overall costs for the client. Ultimately the team decided to go ahead and re-record one line of the script. 

What I learned


Scope creep happens. 

Sometimes despite your best efforts, scope creep will happen. When this happens you must focus on mitigating the situation, and if not as a consultant you have to clearly articulate the risks of every request that might delay the project's completion. This is not easy, but it must be done.  


In UX design you can iterate, in motion design, you have to be a lot more certain. 

When working on a project with animated assets, extra care must be placed on finishing visual assets as soon as possible. In a typical screen-based UX project, it takes a couple of minutes to update the color of a button, however, in an animated video, it can take a couple of hours to change the color of 1 item!