We are Threespot, a Washington, DC-based agency founded on the belief that creative strategy and strategic creative can bring about meaningful change.
We believe that our work should have a positive impact on the world around us. That the things we make will not last, so it’s the lasting effect of our work that really matters. And that whom we work for is every bit as important as what we do.
We’re a values-driven agency of thirty-six like-minded people who give a damn. We love that we get to work with amazing clients making a positive difference and take our work very seriously, but we also like to have a little fun. From our annual scavenger hunt to Beer Fridays, we make sure to find a good balance of work and play, fostering a positive and creative atmosphere. Get to know us a little better below!
We help organizations do good, better. Working together, we take the long view to solve our clients’ toughest challenges. We work for organizations that are creating positive change in the world by:
We’ve been in business for over 17 years and during that time we have had the opportunity to do lots of different things for our clients. Below, find a few of our favorites. To talk to us about what else we can do, drop us a line.
2015 was a great year for Threespot. We moved to Chinatown, became a certified B Corporation, and in the meantime kept busy working with 60 different clients on over 100 different projects.
In May, Threespot moved from its office above the Tivoli Theater in Columbia Heights to its new location in Chinatown. This made the fifth office in our venerable history—and one that's quite a bit more auspicious than our previous locations in Adams Morgan and one of our founder's living room.
In February, we celebrated 16 years of being in business. Ten of those years had been spent at our address in Columbia Heights, the aptly numbered 3333 14th Street NW. Ever been at the same place for 10 years? You accumulate a lot of crap. We also accumulated office space. At our height, we were spread out over three locations on two different floors, meaning 73 people spent too much time running the stairs, sprinting from conference room to conference room, like high school students switching classes. In evaluating the situation, we quickly realized that what was built for a company of 73 wasn’t necessary for a company now intentionally half that size.
So, after Memorial Day weekend, Spots arrived to our new office at 806 7th St NW. For a bunch of post-punk kids, there was a time when the neighborhood would have been familiar territory. It was home to the old 9:30 Club with its indescribable smell and walls that would sweat. That location is now an Anthropologie. The Verizon Center (and its fans) and Hooters (and its patrons) make strange neighbors—until we remember we are steps away from The National Portrait Gallery, Chinatown Coffee Company, and E Street Cinema. Our new offices are a short walk from many of our clients, and for the first time in many years we are all in one open-concept office together. We have since settled nicely in our new Chinatown digs, and have found new favorite hangouts that celebrate our love of dive bars, coffee, and good food.
In November, Threespot became a certified B Corporation. For those of you don’t know what that means, it’s a big deal! B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.
Unlike conventional businesses, our mission is socially conscious. For years, we have had an explicitly stated focus on progressive clients, supported family-friendly policies, taken a humanist approach to management, and been dedicated to a positive contribution to our planet, country, and community. As a company, we are committed to much more than making an honest profit—we’re committed to using our creative, strategic powers for good, so it only made sense to codify that fact by becoming a certified B Corporation.
Threespot’s ideas, words, images, and technology help progressive organizations create positive impact on the world around us. We believe our work should have a positive impact on the world; the things Threespot makes will not last, so it’s the lasting effect of the work that really matters. Threespot exists to help the good guys do good, better.
To make this positive impact, Threespot has established the following practices:
A quick overview of a few of our launches that took place in 2015.
Over its 60-year history, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and their innovative venture
philanthropy model has helped raise the median survival age of individuals with CF from 2 to 41. As the CF community grows and matures, the foundation has had to expand its efforts from adding tomorrows to helping those with CF live better today. Spurned on by perceptions that they were out of touch with adults with CF, the foundation created a new strategic roadmap that boiled down to a simple message: put people with CF first. As they finalized this roadmap, Threespot was hired to re-envision their digital presence.
Building on the foundational research and organizational strategy that CFF provided, we set out to create a best-in-class digital platform that would show the CF community that the foundation was not just “high tech” but also “high touch.” We reached out to community members to understand their needs and secure their participation. Through research and testing we arrived at an intuitive, scalable information architecture and key feature set. As site launch approached, we worked closely with our core client to build awareness of, and support for the new site through a series of presentations to internal and external audiences.
Over the course of the website redesign, we worked closely with CFF to improve and expand their overall communications efforts. We assisted with hiring for key social media positions while interim-managing their social media efforts. Working with key stakeholders, we helped CFF develop standard operating procedures and internal communications around social media, content production and editorial planning. We helped create analytics frameworks to help CFF evaluate and improve their communications efforts, from website to social to email.
The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation approached Threespot with a communications challenge: the organization was changing quickly (changes in leadership, growing professional expertise in the field by programs staff) but their branding and digital communications tools were not keeping pace with the Foundation’s evolution. Hilton needed a new identity that would both capture their history and position them for their future, and a new website and digital tools that would lay the groundwork for a more developed communications practice.
Through an intensive discovery phase, Threespot worked with the Hilton team first to understand the current state of the Foundation—its history, unique qualities, and its future. Our audience and analytics research, stakeholder conversations (staff, board and leadership interviews), and peer research guided us to develop a brand print that more accurately reflected and differentiated Hilton in the landscape. Through rounds of review with stakeholders at all levels, Threespot developed a new logo that reflected the Foundation’s history and enduring values but also pointed toward the future.
As the brand development effort defined the new look, Threespot began the planning efforts for the website redesign. The new site needed to be flexible, intuitive, and design-forward, backed by a modern CMS with tools to quickly produce and promote content. We prioritized features that enhanced the experience for both key audiences (grantees, the general public, and stakeholders) and administrative users alike. We developed an architecture and page structures that channel users toward the most important content, highlight relevant stories, and avoid needless menu–diving to access the most critical information. We created an elegant, responsive design system that emphasized photography to highlight grantee impacts.
The new brand for the Foundation rolled out to the public along with the new website in September 2015. The Foundation has embraced the new brand, taking the opportunity to announce the brand and site with a blog post focused on how an organization’s brand connects all parts of an organization and helps to give meaning to what the organization does.
Shortly after the launch of the new site and brand, the Foundation also debuted the identity at their most public annual event–the Hilton Humanitarian Prize symposium–where a complementary identity system for the Prize was also on display in media, on print materials, and banners.
Since the site launched in September 2015, sessions are up over 17% since this time last year. Additionally, visitors are spending more time on site–over a minute more–and the bounce rate is down by 57%. Mobile traffic increased 53% compared to last year. The new site has been well received by board, grantees, and staff. Programs staff are using the site to post current news and highlight grantees in new ways
For nearly 100 years, National Park Conservation Association has served as an independent, nonpartisan advocate for America’s national parks. While its activism has resulted in the strengthening and protection of our nation’s rich natural, historical, and cultural resources, its website could no longer support the ambitious plans of the organization. In partnership with Threespot, NPCA set out to bring several sites into one coherent experience.
Armed with NPCA’s impressive brand, we built a fully responsive design and introduced illustrations and textures to highlight the stunning park places central to their work. Among the different experiences we designed as part of their content ecosystem were new immersive magazine-like pages, inviting them to learn more about the regions, people, stories, and advocacy that make up NPCA’s work.
Threespot and the NPCA team worked closely together through a series of content strategy workshops to identify ways that digital content could extend the mission and advocacy work. The result was a set of content types—issues, threats, and actions—that allow users to follow advocacy work through each challenge or battle to keep our nation’s parks safe. The site also features a robust taxonomy that allows publishing and dynamic curation of interconnected content to curate deeper connections between issue areas, stories, and the people and places integral to the park system.
Our work began as a simple site design and resulted in an experience that embodies NPCA’s powerful stories of park conservation and advocacy.
The mission of the National Constitution Center is to inspire active citizenship by inviting audiences to learn about, debate, and celebrate the U.S. Constitution. The NCC wanted their digital presence to better reflect their role of America’s Town Hall, but their existing site was not only disorganized, but also lacking mobile responsiveness. In addition, the centerpiece of the NCC’s website–the Interactive Constitution–was difficult to navigate and failed to make important connections between the Constitution’s articles, amendments and clauses. Through a partnership with the Templeton Foundation, and with the Federalist Society, the American Constitution Society, and the College Board, the NCC set out to create a dynamic, best-in-class learning experience that brings the Constitution to life and inspires active citizenship.
Threespot and NCC worked together to develop the content strategy for the new Interactive Constitution, settling on a multi-layered approach to content presentation that would center on the text of the Constitution, but allow visitors to easily see and explore multiple interpretations and scholarly analysis, historical material, judicial decisions, lesson plans and classroom activities. For the homepage, Threespot retained the existing Information architecture but re-ordered and prioritized menu items, and designed a responsive drop-down menu to clean up the overall navigation of the site. Threespot designed a system that prioritized recent news and blog posts to promote the identity of the NCC. We partnered with Pedrera to complete development on the museum’s existing ExpressionEngine CMS.
The new homepage and Interactive Constitution launched successfully on September 17, 2015, in time for National Constitution Day. During this event, traffic to the new homepage was double that of the previous year, and the Interactive Constitution, already a popular feature on the site, reported 4x more traffic than the year before.
More of the same, only better.
Everyone goes a little mad in December. While the whole world upends itself with the usual mad hustle of the holiday season, businesses like Threespot are simultaneously engaged in a mad dash for the finish line of New Year’s Eve and the mad speculation that comes with “annual planning.” Roll the bones, gaze into your crystal ball, read the tea leaves, and hope you’re right.
This past December was no different. We felt in our gut that 2015 was a good year; the work was good, staff and clients were happy, the financial picture looked solid, and we by and large nailed all of 2015’s audacious goals to recover from a pretty lousy 2014. We looked at ourselves and in a rare moment of reflective generosity, liked what we saw.
So we decided to “challenge” ourselves in 2016 with what some might consider the lowest bar of a challenge: “More of the same, only better.” Fortunately, William and I don’t have any outside investors to chide us for not being big, hairy, or audacious enough, so we get to make the call to take a pretty conservative approach.
Understand that we have had Big Issues™ in the past and have taken dramatic steps to address them in our strategic planning, so we know what it feels like to have the urgency to change breathing down our backs when it comes time to set the table for the year. At various times over the 17 years we’ve been in business, we’ve been too small, too big, too complicated, too processed, too political, too generous, too _____. We have felt the sting of needing urgently to correct those weaknesses in our long-range planning. Not fun, usually, but necessary: always.
Come December, 2015, though, we were in a really good place. The strategy—a multi-year path to position ourselves as leaders of the pack in providing creative communications services for clients who serve the greater good—was working. Through some often dramatic efforts over the year, we reached a size we loved (around forty staff), moved office to a much better-sized space and location (Chinatown, DC), and delivered a bottom line that enabled us to be generous with both year-end bonuses for staff and charitable contributions to local causes we care about. We ran the team hard, but nobody ever said it would be easy. We were winning, and we were happy about it.
If it ain’t broke, so the saying goes, don’t fix it. “More of the same, only better” indicates to us a desire to focus our energy this year on fewer big changes like we went through in 2015, and instead train our sights on fine-tuning what worked. The machine was running well, and we just now need to find the last few wheels that could still use a spot of grease.
Our finances last year were dogged by just a couple of projects, for instance; what can we do in the new year to identify those projects at risk and take action on them before they go off the rails? Creatively, we were firing on all cylinders, but where in the new year can we find opportunities to be more daring with our ideas, our designs, our technical approaches? Where can we tweak our approach to business development and marketing to lower our cost to win better engagements with clients we care about?
It’s comforting to come at these issues not from a place of crisis but of optimism. We were successful in 2015; how do we now capitalize on that success to make what was good even better? When we have the luxury of a good year to look back on, it would be a shame not to take advantage of it to enthusiastically dig into the last lingering “trouble spots” and more, take some mindful chances to make what was good even better.
Now, we’re looking at every corner of the business, appreciating what has been working, and seeing what we can do to amplify those successes into a 2016 that we can all write home about. Come December, I can only hope that we will look back on yet another year well done. I hope we find ourselves with undeniable proof that we can actually repeat the pattern, and use that confidence to take perhaps, just maybe, a bolder approach to our planning for 2017 and beyond.
For now, though, we stay the course, and enjoy ourselves in the process.
by Bill Barbot