Happy Tenth Anniversary To Long-Time CCNY Collaborator, 12 Grain Studio!


Who are 12 Grain and what do you do?

We are a small group who likes to draw pictures!  We’ve got design skills too that we use to interpret ideas, products, and services for clients.

Oishei from Promotional Productions on Vimeo.

Laura saysWe were asked to participate in this outcome film for the Oishei Foundation.  Matt had the harder-than-it-looks task of hand illustrating with chalk while being filmed and watched by a group of people.  Chalk is already a hard medium but having an audience is a lot of pressure. 

How did you get started?  Where does the name come from?  Any relation to Arnold Bread?

When we got tired of working for a larger website development company, we started 12 Grain as a layover between jobs.  We’re a couple of goofballs— we wanted a silly name so clients would know they were going to have a different experience working with us than working with an agency.  In the grocery store one day we had a discussion about 12 Grain bread being a good compromise between standard white and over-the-top seedy bread.  No other company in Buffalo at the time had a number in its name so it seemed like a good idea.

How did you first come to work with CCNY?

CCNY was referred to us by another long time client, Mike Cardus.  When he told us that Heidi liked unicorns and had monsters painted into thrift store art around the office, I knew we’d be a good fit for each other.

But the true test of a good fit is in the middle of a project.  For the CCNY rebrand, we showed concepts that ranged from run-of-the-mill to really wacky.  When they didn’t chose run-of-the-mill, I knew they were a good catch.

Who are your client base?  Any non-profits?

Yes, a lot of not-for-profits over the years!  That’s really the industry we’re most comfortable working in.  I know more than I should about working within grant requirements and working collaboratively with boards, which many people in our industry don’t prefer to do.  We really love the ‘give back to the community’ mindset.  We both come from families who value volunteer work and were raised to see beyond paycheck.

Laura says: The Lockport Community Market Branding & Poster was fun, simple, and stylized [digital illustration] because we wanted it to be as legible as possible and vibrant to reflect accurately the mood of the market and its offerings.

We also work with the University at Buffalo (Social Work, Education, Arts & Sciences, Engineering) and an array of small local businesses like cafés, furniture makers, breweries, salons, and other artists.

Laura saysChoose Both University at Buffalo Campaign: again, we were give creative license to explore how we wanted to relay the dual degrees program.  This is Matt’s style when he’s not illustrating under client control.  Everything in his sketchbook looks like this style.  Hand-drawn, then digitally converted to print at 6 feet tall.

How do you choose clients?

I think it’s about personality fit first and then whatever set of values you live by, or, what the mission of the work is.  That sounds almost too personal for a work environment but really, I end up spending a lot of time researching and analyzing a business up front so that Matt has a really clear view of their world when he sits down to do the creative.  If we don’t believe in or like their work, we just won’t be able to do our work well— and you can tell.  Bad design happens when there’s a lack of interest or trust.

Laura says: This issue of Buffalo Magazine is hitting Newsstands the last weekend in July.  We needed to create [a conservative digital illustration] that could span a wide audiences taste and fit the magazine’s editorials.

Why do you continue to work with CCNY?

We’ve worked together for five years now.  I think we’ve gotten to the point where I can anticipate what CCNY wants to see for aesthetics and they trust that we’re going to pitch them an idea within their brand, for the correct demographic, and that we can take a lot of data or information and consolidate it down properly.  Not to say there isn’t still back and forth, there should always be collaboration, but projects can move faster because we know each other well.  Also, I just really like the people there.  Heidi is my favorite Instagrammer and David has introduced me to workflow systems that have saved me so much time.

What advice do you have for someone who finds themselves in the wrong kind of design program or not enjoying art school but still wants to pursue a creative career?

Like the real world, sometimes you just have to pay your dues and find the value in what someone is teaching you.  It’s isn’t always going to be something you’re interested in or feel like doing but you do it anyways because that’s the lesson.

No one would tell you I excelled in college or that my designs were unmatched.  But my takeaway was learning how to critique work and how to take critique which is what makes me a good project manager.  I can be subjective without letting my emotions get in the way.  You find the lesson.

If it’s really unbearable, then I suggest doing your homework on faculty at schools you’re considering. For example, Niagara County Community College has some of the highest caliber of working artists I know teaching in their fine arts program.  At Buffalo State, quite often the professors are just out of college themselves or are not working artists.  Form relationships with the professors outside of school as well— many of them run small businesses.  Something I think is lacking in art school is a curriculum focusing on how to sell your work.  Maybe an internship is a better fit than school.  I have been thinking about approaching one of the colleges to teach this course.

Do you find that there is a sea change in the industry that allows people to focus more on portfolios in lieu of proof of education or formal credentials?

Absolutely I do.  We’ve had three interns in the past three years and I couldn’t even tell you where or if they went to school.  What matters is that they can produce a high quality concept, have a refined style, and work well with others.  Other friends in the industry say the same.  That’s what makes our industry unique.  After all, you can teach technique but you can’t teach talent.

Laura saysMatt’s most loved color palette steampunk-style, for a coffee roaster/ café in Lockport.  This mural took a long time and it’s not even done!  We’ll be completing a second half next winter.  We had fun interpreting the Erie Canal Locks in this.

What would you recommend to an organization seeking design/ re-branding guidance or services?

Don’t waste your time writing an RFP!  Once you have a project in mind, find a few designers whose style you like and meet with them in person.  Narrow it down to who you enjoy conversation with the most, get a quote, and then have another conversation with them about cost if it’s an issue.  Most designers are willing to work with you on budget and timing.  Never choose a designer on price alone because if the project doesn’t have the outcome you want, you’ve wasted time anyway.  And the way to get the outcome you want is by having a good relationship with your designer.

What does design mean to you?

Organizing information to make sense in an instant.

A precise, visual explanation.

An image that moves people to action.

An image that makes me feel something.

Being able to render an image as beautiful as something nature could have created.

I have so many, many answers for this!

What projects are you particularly proud of?

I’m always most proud when we have a numbers of projects for one brand and everything looks cohesive.  Like CCNY – the logo, the website, the animation.  There’s no doubt in their customers’ minds whose brand they’re looking at.

And anytime we get to combine traditional methods of fine art with design.  We recently completed a collectible print and event poster for the Chautauqua Institute where Matt hand-drew, collaged, and painted an image of a “flow of ideas” for the Writer’s Center.  We wanted the image to end up looking classic, busy but refined, feeling like the grounds of the Institute and accurately representing a varied demographic of attendees.  This was no easy feat but that’s where Matt and I work well together: we thought, process the heck out of a project.  It also really shows off Matt’s illustration skills.

Laura saysWe had creative license to express our vision of how the Reader’s Series could appeal to a range of ages while still capturing the history and essence of the Institute.  Traditional, simplified realistic style.  Hand-drawn then digitally converted for printing purposes.

What does 12 Grain do well or want to do more of that the business community does not necessarily know about?

Animation.  We always want to do more animation.  Locally, there really isn’t anyone who in-house can write a script, illustrate, storyboard, and animate with quick turnaround for use in a number of settings like a tradeshow, or on a website, or in an email campaign.

There are other animators but they don’t have the range of style and abilities we do.  We develop our own characters, or a style specifically tailored to the individual brand.  We can animate from photography.  We can start from scratch.  Most animators would say they want a script up front to follow.  Or they would have to budget in a copywriter.  We develop a storyline, terminology that the general public would understand, a look for the graphics, and the music accompaniment in-house, which saves the client a ton of time and money in the end.

Animation is typically done for larger clients rather than small business because it’s a very time consuming process but it’s so very effective.  The animation we created for CCNY was born from a PowerPoint, the notes from a sales rep, and three different products.  The challenge was to show what the products did, how they worked together and individually, and to do it all in a minute or less.

Now, potential customers can gain a basic understanding of the their products without having to meet with a sales rep.  We’ve almost eliminated a first step – a cost for CCNY – and customers can call CCNY knowing already that they are ready to obtain the product.

Thanks so much to 12 Grain for speaking with us and many happy returns!

Check out more of 12 Grain’s extensive portfolio here and here.

Full STEAM Ahead!


Last year, the Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) partnered with CCNY to create a special report to improve enrollment, community involvement, and funding strategies as well as strengthen and demonstrate the value of their after-school program.  Over an eleven-month period, CCNY utilized a mixed-methods approach to work with BCAT staff and stakeholders on facilitating logic model development, compiling organizational data and program implementation recommendations, and informing data collection and quality improvement efforts.

BCAT’s mission, as part of Buffalo’s economic and cultural revitalization, is to:

  • Keep youth in school through high school completion and graduation so they are eligible for the post-secondary opportunities the “Say Yes” scholarship program provides to them.  This is achieved by offering a safe space to access high-quality arts instruction and studio space.
  • Assist unemployed or underemployed adults in securing jobs with wages sufficient to support a family.  This is accomplished through NYS Education Department-approved training programs that lead to jobs in the healthcare industry.

The Buffalo Center for Arts and Technology (BCAT) has a strong interest in ensuring that the programming it delivers makes a positive impact on Buffalo communities and the persons served.  The study looked at both the Adult Workforce Development Program (AWDP) and the Youth Arts Program (YAP).  To condense the study results, CCNY enlisted the help of local graphic design wizards, 12 Grain Studio.  Together, we embarked on a collaborative journey to make key data from this report as digestible and visually appealing as possible (read on for full interview with BCAT, CCNY, and 12 Grain).  The end result was a clear and information-dense one-page summary (pictured below).

We spoke to BCAT’s President and CEO, Gina Burkhardt, CCNY’s lead project evaluator, Dr. Molly Ranahan Arent, and 12 Grain’s co-founder, Laura Duquette, to unpack this process.

1. How did the BCAT project come about?

BCAT: My understanding is that BCAT recognized how important it is to track impact for the various constituents we serve.  Having a logic model/theory of action in place to drive the questions asked, the data collected, and the analyses conducted ensures that the organization is tracking outcomes efficiently and in a timely manner— and using the data to drive productive change and continuous improvement.  It is also important that BCAT has a way to demonstrate an ROI to our funders and to the community.  Part of that is understanding how our adult program moves the graduates off of social/ county/ city support systems to be financially independent (and to what degree this happens over time).  My hope was to have a comprehensive evaluation that could allow BCAT to make more and better claims about impact.

2. Why and how did you decide to create these visual summaries?

CCNY: As part of an early project meeting with BCAT, we identified the need to have to have a one-page summary of the project results that would engage a variety of different audiences – potential funders, BCAT staff and stakeholders, partner organizations, and the broader community. Rather than developing a more traditional, text-based executive summary, Heidi [our Executive Director] brought in the expertise of 12 Grain to help us take our work to the next level.

The CCNY project team met with Laura from 12 Grain to describe the project, share our client’s goals, and do an initial brainstorm for the one-page summary.  Laura asked us a number of questions about color, graphics, and content. We then shared everything we had with Laura from the project, including the proposal, background information, the BCAT website, and early drafts of the report.  The team at 12 Grain took several weeks to immerse themselves in this information.  We then sent a more concise outline of the content we would like to include in the summary, such as sections and headings and data points. 12 Grain prepared a draft and we worked together from their to refine the content.

We integrated the process of developing and refining the visual summary as part of the overall process for the final project deliverables.  We engaged BCAT in all stages of this process and helped to communicate their needs and feedback to 12 Grain.

12 Grain: We create a lot of infographics for our clients and so we’re well versed in consolidating a ton of information into a smaller [single] page of graphics. CCNY has been a long-time client and so having created their brand, it makes sense that they might ask for our help.

CCNY provided the actual report to us along with an overview of what they thought should be included.  We then thoroughly read through the report, reviewed the client websites and researched any other information out there on BCAT so we could get a really good feel for who the client is and what the programming is about.  Next we digitally illustrated a few different styles of graphics that might match the clients branding, chose one that we thought was crisp and concise and began working on a layout.  It is sometimes difficult to consolidate a lot of information onto one page so we started with the most amount of information that could be included and kept scaling back until we had something legible and still functional.  We do all of this portion directly in Adobe Illustrator.  Once we were happy with the layout, we presented to CCNY for their feedback.  After that time, it’s mostly small revisions to numbers and copy.

3. Would you recommend that others create visual summaries as well?  Why or why not?

BCAT: Yes, the visuals are so much easier to digest and they can convey a lot of information in a very concise way.  The visuals should be designed for the sophistication of the audience, i.e., there should be clear, accurate, targeted data that are not cluttered and that don’t try to be too colorful or cute.  The report has not been released but I am hoping the visuals give readers a high level summary that encourages them to want to know/ read more.

4. What challenges arise when creating visual summaries?

CCNY: From an evaluator’s perspective, we had a pretty good idea of how to narrow down the content and the findings from the overall report we had developed from our work with BCAT.  However, we felt challenged on how to organize this information succinctly and present it in a way that was both engaging and clear to digest.  Collaborating with 12 Grain to achieve this goal really helped us to achieve this for our client in this project!

12 Grain: You have to really understand the client and the concept before even thinking about visuals.  Otherwise you end up with something out of brand or out of sync with the project.  This typically happens with new clients who you’re still getting to know.  Then the next challenge is to create a style that hasn’t been done before— or at least isn’t closely related to someone else’s work.  This is a challenge because we’re always inspired by other artists and we’re online all the time.  It’s easy to come up with an idea and not realize you saw something similar six months earlier.  You need to be careful that whatever is created is proprietary.  Lastly, the information itself: when you have a lot to consolidate, you have to be very careful to maintain the correct information in the correct wording.

5. How would you rate the complexity/ challenges of this endeavor compared to similar projects?

CCNY: From my perspective, the integration of the collaboration with 12 Grain really improved both the process and quality of the work that I was able to do on the BCAT project.  As a team, we had to start thinking about the key messages of the research we were doing from the beginning in order to develop the content that 12 Grain needed to create the visual summary.  We also kept thinking, “Who are the intended audiences of this project?”  It really helped us with developing not only the summaries, but the final reports.

12 Grain: CCNY always comes to the table prepared.  We have many clients that want infographics or data driven designs but they don’t have data.  In those instances, we have to dig up the data ourselves and hope it’s current and correct. It is so much nicer to be provided the content and focus on the creative.

6.  What should organizations always have on-hand for a successful collaboration?

BCAT: Communication structures [including] organization staff specifically assigned to be the liaisons to work with the evaluators.

12 Grain: I don’t think they need to have anything on hand— they really need to just make time for a few in-depth meetings and be prepared mentally to answer questions about the full spectrum of what they do. And I always recommend these types of meetings happen in-house with the whole team for multiple perspectives.

7. What do you find often hinders organizations from meaningfully presenting their data?

12 Grain: Expense, I think.  Some clients think about saving money and creating in-house but the final outcome isn’t as good because their staff doesn’t have the experience behind them to know about layout.  Layout is so important because of legibility and attention span.  Also, getting attention in the first place.

8. Why are visual summaries important/ necessary?

12 Grain: Most people are visual learners and current average attention span is just a few seconds.  You can gain something or lose something in those few seconds.  For BCAT, busy funders need to know that their money is being used wisely and for policy makers/local government they need to know that change is happening, in the quickest way possible.  They may not read through a whole report and therefor make untrue assumptions.  With a one-page summary, they have irrefutable numbers in front of them without taking up too much of their time.

The BCAT YAP is open to all high school youth attending Buffalo Public and Charter schools.  It provides students with access to arts-focused classes, college and career counseling, individualized support and academic tutoring, and a healthy snack.  The program is uniquely positioned to provide a positive impact on Buffalo communities and the persons served due to its program model.  Effective outreach and engagement efforts have led to the participation of 248 students in 2017-2018, with 130 youth registered for year-round programming.  Students described a positive impact of program participation, including changes in school-related behavior, relationships, personal growth, and goals and future plans.

Research shows that an arts education is instrumental in fostering creativity, innovation, and emotional well-being.  No wonder then this multi-faceted approach has resulted in a 96% graduation rate amongst high school seniors who attended BCAT.  CCNY is proud to work with organizations who recognize and embrace STEAM as the path to a better future for everyone.

Learn more about YAP and how you can get involved here.

Thanks to BCAT, 12 Grain, and Dr. Ranahan Arent for their time and input.

Take A Bite Out Of Child Hunger


We are pleased to announce that Arounja now contains nearly 200 summer meal sites throughout WNY and the Southern Tier!  Please check each resource entry for hours and program start/ end dates as they do vary.

Head on over to or download our app on iOS/ Android to find a summer meal site near you.

Learn about the other ways Arounja can help you here.

If your organization is not listed or needs to correct its details, please e-mail us at

Friday Feature Q&A With Martha Helwig


Watch our fourth Friday Feature with Director of Administrative Operations, Martha, and find out more about HR matters as well as our raffle winners!

June’s theme was Employee Inclusivity, Retention, and Wellness.



June Friday Feature Teaser


Happy Summer Solstice to our dear readers 🌞  We will be announcing our June Friday Feature winners tomorrow so be sure check back to see if you’re among them!  Thank you and good luck to everyone who took the time to participate 🙌  And remember, if you don’t win this round, there’s always next month 🌈🦄🎇

Free WNY YOUTH POWER! Event For Youth and Parents/ Caregivers


YOUTH POWER! of Families Together (NYS) are still accepting applications for the 2018 Western Region Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) and accompanying Foundations For Leadership parent/caregiver workshop series.  Please note that it is not required that youth and their parent/caregivers both attend the YLF to participate in this opportunity.

Apply online or download the paper application below.

FOR YOUTH: 2018 Western YLF: Saturday, July 21-24, 2018 | Adam’s Mark Hotel and Event Center | Buffalo, New York
YOUTH POWER!’s AMPLIFY-NY Initiative will host the 2018 Western Region Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) for young people with disabilities to speak up, build skills, and prepare to take on leadership roles. This peer-run forum brings opportunities to Youth and gives the next generation of leaders the tools and support they need for success. The YLF is a safe, youth-friendly environment with plenty of fun activities to complement the wealth of knowledge being learned!  This 4-day, 3-night forum is FREE to attend and includes panel presentations, hands-on activities to practice leadership skills, and supported leadership activities. Future leaders do not want to miss this opportunity to build leadership skills and become empowered with self-confidence and self-determination!

  • It’s a unique opportunity; have the chance to attend as one of 30 young people.
  • Be connected with an experienced advisor to complete a leadership project that interests you.
  • This event is FREE if accepted and includes your meals, housing, and transportation assistance.
  • In order to be selected you must:

o    Have a developmental or other disability.

o    Be in the age range of 14-24 (Youth under 18 must have guardian approval).

o    Live in New York State.

o    Show demonstrated leadership potential in your application (*now easier to apply!*).

o    Complete the application and return it by June 17, 2018

For Parents/ Caregivers: Foundations for Leadership: Saturday, July 21 AND Tuesday, July 24, 2018  Adam’s Mark Hotel and Event Center | Buffalo, New York

Young people with disabilities and their parents/ caregivers can greatly benefit from connecting with their peers in order to support their personal growth. Additionally, young people want to be heard by their caregivers and receive that support as they grow into young leaders and become more self-sufficient.  Through this FREE workshop series that brings together both the family and youth perspective, we give caregivers the tools they need to support the young people in their care as a vital part of their transition team through teaching, modeling, and support.  Lunch will be provided on both days.

Parents/ caregivers attend the workshop on the first and last days of the Youth Leadership Forum, providing them the opportunity to support their youth attending a new event and witness them graduate the forum with pride (if they are participating).  The parent/ caregiver workshop series includes both individual sessions and joint sessions with youth participants.  YOUTH POWER! has partnered with Families Together in New York State, Parent to Parent of New York State, and INCLUDEnyc to develop this opportunity.

Download (PDF, 125KB)

Download (PDF, 805KB)

Happy Towel Day


If your organization or agency is in need of assistance improving outcomes and visibility, take a tip from Douglas Adams: don’t panic!

CCNY offers a wide variety of products and services that can be tailored to your unique needs. We understand that establishing new partnerships require time and trust, thus we take pride our proven track record of quality, reliability, and end-to-end support. In fact, when we surveyed our clients, we found a great deal of conceptual overlap when ideating process and delivery.

We’re also pleased to offer the community a free digital towel to protect against the Vogon poetry of life.

Give it a spin and let us know what you think!  Now available on desktop, Android, and iOS.

Arounja Now Available In App(le) Store!


Many Americans are only a missed paycheck or unexpected medical bill away from hunger and homelessness.  CCNY and Americorps want to help because life shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be this fraught with uncertainty and instability.

If you don’t have to constantly worry where the next meal is coming from or whether you can afford a babysitter, that’s more energy you have for finding a job, finishing your homework, starting your own business— you know, actually living your life.

We understand that it can be frustrating and time-consuming for the average person struggling to get by to seek out aid.  To that end, CCNY are pleased to announce that Arounja is now available for iOS devices, making it easier than ever take that power directly in your hands.  You just type in what you need help with, whether it’s food, domestic violence, education, legal advice, etc., and Arounja will search for what’s available within a given area that you specify.

Android and desktop versions are also available.  Whether you’re a resource provider or seeker, all basic versions are free to the community!

Interested in going Pro?  If you live and/ or work in Erie County, e-mail us to request a free license.

ACCESS of WNY Seeks Vendor Services Supervisor



Reports To: Executive Director

Weekly Hours: Varies 20-30 hours flexible but may include weekends or evenings

Department: Case Management

Position Overview

Assist in the development of a new Vendor Services program at ACCESS of WNY to provide individualized, time-limited, home-based supports to families served by Child Protection Services.

Responsibilities (Essential Functions**):

  • Recruit and hire a diverse staff team, with an emphasis on filling needed positions in identified geographical locations and for identified skill sets
  • Develop and facilitate trainings to staff to enhance skill set and onboard new hires Provide monthly supervision to both clinical and non-clinical staff
  • Model and endorse a Solution-Focused, Trauma Informed approach Ensure prompt assignment of vendors to service recipients and timely entry of progress notes
  • Develop strong professional relationships with Care Coordination agencies, Vendor Service Network, ECDSS, ECDMH, CCNY and community services providers
  • Market the program in the community to increase awareness and utilization of services offered Monitor program budget and timely payment for services rendered
  • Provide on-call consultation to vendors after hours Complete agency and System of Care reporting
  • Attend relevant coalition meetings to represent the interests of our agency/program and work collaboratively with stakeholders and colleagues


  • LCSW is preferred, equivalent licensure will be considered
  • Ideal candidate will have 2 years supervisory experience, and experience in High Fidelity Wrap, Vendor Services, or Preventive Services.  Reliable transportation is preferred, with a willingness to travel as needed
  • Ideal candidate is outgoing, able to develop relationships, familiar with the human services landscape, and able to think innovatively and creatively
  • Knowledge about best practice models, specifically High Fidelity Wraparound preferred
  • Candidate must have a strong understanding of home-based practices, the needs facing families engaged in the child welfare system, and strategies to serve both urban and immigrant populations.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite
  • Excellent organizational skills
  • Solid written and verbal communication skills
  • Trained in trauma informed care (current or shortly after hire)