a group of about 20 children, all with black hair and medium skin, sit on the floor; the camera is behind them so we can't see their faces. about half of them are raising their hands energetically in the air. in the background, two light-skinned adults (a woman and a man) smile and seem to be deciding who to call on. they are all in a room full of silver chairs, bookshelves and numerous framed papers on the wall. a projector displays some writing on the wall behind the adults.
Honoring student writing through a digital platform
with 826 National

Co-founded by internationally acclaimed author Dave Eggers and award-winning educator Ninive Calegari, 826 Valencia inspired a network of creative writing and after-school tutoring centers in seven US cities. 826 National serves this network with leadership, administration, and other resources.


US / Nationwide

Topic Areas

Youth Development

Project Types

Digital & Physical Tools
Visual Identity

Writing can be particularly transformative for students from under-resourced schools. It’s a chance to dream up brand-new worlds and express emerging opinions—to be authors, not just observers. Yet for many elementary and middle-grade students, writing simply isn’t fun, and there aren’t many examples of writing they love. Especially when “the classics” are typically written by, as one student put it, “old dead white guys.”

Fortunately, 826 National supports a network of writing and tutoring centers nationwide that know how to inspire kids to fall in love with words. But with a model based in high-density urban centers, there were limits to how many 826 chapters they could open, and how many students they could reach. The organization came to us with a challenge: how could they scale their impact in an effective and sustainable way beyond their physical locations?

Project Outputs


We created an interactive proposal that 826 National could share with funders and stakeholders, in order to build momentum for this new initiative. The pitch was successful in garnering support for the design and build-out.

We designed 826digital.com to reflect the overarching principles of 826, while giving a distinct identity to the newest member of the 826 family.

We defined the content types as Sparks, Lessons, Projects and Student Writing. Then we brought the website to life with copywriting, UX design, a logo and a set of brand standards.

Teachers can access linked resources; in other words, they can search a lesson and see the student writing it yielded, or search a writing sample and see the lesson that produced it.

headshot of a dark-skinned man with a bald head and gray/black beard, smiling, wearing a white shirt with thin black stripes, and in front of some trees

This process was one of the best professional experiences I have had in my career. In essence, GGS became embedded in our organization to learn about us, our culture and our pedagogy… Their work was at a depth I have received from very few consultants. It will be a game-changer for us.

Gerald Richards 826 National

Client & Community Outcomes


The client team at 826 National truly embraced the mindsets of human-centered design, including empathy and experimentation. Actively engaging them in the teacher feedback sessions was an excellent way to align our visions, bringing them closer to the day-to-day needs and experiences of classroom and after-school teachers. The team has also embraced the notion of “sacrificial concepts,” sharing ideas with potential end users before they are fully-formed, in order to gather feedback and iterate.

The ultimate mindset shift is for more students across the country to be excited about writing, understand the writing process, and feel engaged in writing during parts of their school day. As of summer 2018, the site is being used by nearly 1,000 subscribers, including 675 self-identified educators who collectively serve over 25,000 students.