He’s Alive!

This blog post originally debuted in May 2014. With a new, prominent feature on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website, we figured hey, why not take a walk down memory lane? Haven’t met the Bionic Man yet? Let us introduce you.


Last week the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) launched the “Bionic Man,” an interactive, explorable 3D model that illustrates cutting-edge research in the field of bioengineering.

We got excited about this project the moment we read the first line of the statement of work:

Bioengineering research supported by NIBIB is leading to advances that were previously known only in science fiction.

It’s true. The Bionic Man includes a therapy for cartilage regeneration (think Wolverine from X-men!). And that’s not all, there’s also a device that will let you control robots with your thoughts!

hotspot-zones-2-01So how did this all come to be? Well, NIBIB maintained disparate existing articles on multiple fronts of research but needed a way to visualize them. And not only did it need to be visual, but the end result also needed to engage the general public and inspire the next generation of biomedical engineers. Most medical illustration in the space felt cold and clinical. Through several rounds of 3D and 2D illustration we landed on a style the felt scientifically accurate, yet fully human and approachable with a slightly sketchy feel.

Our team had a blast working on something as cutting edge as this. Several of the technologies started showing up in the news. First, I read about a similar development about glucose sensing contacts. Then, there was a TED Talk about the importance of the micro needle patch.

UPDATE: The projects mentioned above are similar technology but separate projects (not funded by NIH).

One of the goals of this project is to try and inspire the next generation of Biomedical Engineers. The project certainly inspired us!

Below I’ve listed few of my favorite elements. Be sure to check out the Bionic Man over at NIBIB!BioMan_Spots-01 copy

  • Cartilage Regeneration + Wireless Brain-Computer Interface
  • Robotic Leg Prosthesis – A prosthetic ankle and knee that functions like a real one.
  • Artificial Kidney – Imagine how many lives could be saved if we could circumvent kidney failure!
  • Microneedle Patch – I hate needles, this is game changing for so many reasons.
  • Synthetic Body Glue – A biomimicry inspired version of Crazy Glue.
  • Glucose-Sensing Contacts – Wearable tech. This is the future.
Photograph taken at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA

Hope in Action        

Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have a dream.

I mean no disrespect with that statement, but it’s true. He had hope.

That distinction is important and one to which I was introduced while coffee-potting my way through graduate school.

Academic researchers Bonny Norton and Farah Kamal write that in his book, Teaching Against the Grain, Roger Simon “draws the distinction between ‘wishes,’ in which there is no possibility for action, and ‘hope,’ in which action becomes central in the fulfillment of desire.”

Wishes, or dreams, are wild fancies and involuntary visions in which, at most, you can only observe yourself participating. Hope is tied to the belief that change is possible—inevitable—through collective and conscious action. To be hopeful is to be expectant… This will happen.

For 20 years and counting, our hope at Banyan Communications has been to create change for good. By working with government agencies and nonprofits wanting to deliver complex information and crucial services in more engaging ways, we’ve been a part of projects that have had a positive and lasting impact on public health:

  • Our public service announcements for our first client, the Boys Town National Hotline, help connect children and families in crisis to immediate help. We also developed My Life My Voice, a mobile app that provides teens with an outlet to record their thoughts and track their moods through voice, text, and emoticon entries. When teens report feeling depressed, the app suggests activities they can do to change how they are feeling and helps them contact a free, professional counselor.
  • In 2003, we won a national Emmy Award for our work on No Greater Love, a documentary that highlights the increasing need for organ donation and transplantation in the United States. The film depicts what it’s like to wait for a phone call and a donor, as well as the loss and rebirth of life, through the stories of families whose loved ones have donated and those who have been given a second chance at life as organ recipients.
  • More recently, we launched an updated version of VetoViolence for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This interactive website provides tools and trainings that support individuals and organizations as they work to prevent violence in their communities. Content covers child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, suicide, and youth violence.
  • We’re also working on new digital stories for HIV Treatment Works—one of CDC’s Act Against AIDS campaigns—to encourage people living with HIV to get in care, stay in care, and live well. The videos feature people living with HIV sharing personal stories, advice and encouragement, and one will be in Spanish—a campaign first.

As people across the country honor Dr. King’s legacy of hope in action by volunteering on Monday, Jan. 19, for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, we’ll continue to approach our work here at Banyan by asking ourselves a question. And not just any question, but one that Dr. King deemed to be “life’s most persistent and urgent”—“What are you doing for others?”

What did you do today? What will you do tomorrow to create change for good?


Happy Birthday, Banyan!

I still remember meeting our president, Sally, at a client meeting not long after I joined CDC in 2008. I didn’t follow a typical path into public health – I more or less stumbled into the field, a burned-out local reporter looking for a way to parlay my journalism skills into another profession. Through a connection with a former roommate, I landed a media relations / health communications gig at the agency.

One of the first projects I took on introduced me to Banyan.

I didn’t realize companies like Banyan existed before joining CDC. I remember coming home from work and telling my husband, “I met the most interesting women today, who are at the helm of a really fascinating company. How do I get there? On that side of the work?”

A couple of years ago, I finally figured it out. And as luck would have it, it’s kind of an awesome place to be.

It’s not perfect, but I don’t think any worthwhile opportunity ever truly is. Working with creative folks spread across two offices in two different states certainly presents its fair share of challenges. But it also provides incredible opportunities, not least among them work on a wide-array of interesting projects with some truly wonderful people.

Not to mention the fine fortune of celebrating one heck of a birthday. But what’s a birthday celebration if you do it all alone? So we’ll be having our cake – and eating it with you – all year long.

Party favors in development include:

  • An interactive timeline of our work and growth over the last 20 years
  • Our best effort to highlight 20 years in 60 seconds
  • Orange out! (you’ll just have to stay tuned)
  • Celebrating Change for Good
  • Our most massive community service event in company history
  • A fun, new way of honoring the people who are Banyan (allowing you to get to know each of us a bit better)

We hope you’ll check back here often for updates.  It isn’t – and would’ve never been – a party without you.

20-year sapling

Our New Mark: 20 Years of Growth

It’s an exciting day. Today, we unveil a new mark for Banyan Communications.

Over the past several years our company has grown. We’ve developed new services, brought in new people. And in many ways, we had outgrown our previous mark. Our 20th anniversary has given us the opportunity to update our mark to reflect the company that we’ve become.

Now, I’m happy to officially introduce you to the new visual mark that will carry Banyan Communications forward.

The new mark is simple and elegant… and has been designed by our best visual designers to be used within a system.

Let me tell you about a few of the little details that make this mark special.

1) It respects the past (trunk)

The Trunk: After 20 years our sapling is all grown up. The trunk is a minimized element in the new mark, mature and thick. Inside each ring represents a year of our history. We have realized the potential in the sapling and it reflects a reality of 20 years of growth. We honor the original trunk (storytelling & filmmaking) with a shadow.

2) We are Banyan…literally (letterforms)

Letterforms: Our company and the Banyan tree have a similar growth pattern. This unique tree system expands by sprouting new trunks.; similar to how we have brought more people and services into the company. We have added: strategy, engineering, research, and design. The letterforms represent the people and services we provide – We are “banyan” in a very literal way.

3) Our work is our product (canopy)

Canopy: The rectangle above is referred to as the “canopy” and represents our work. The collective output of our company is the work that we put out into the world that inspires change for good; The Banyan tree works together to push out many tiny leaves that are visible as a mass (the tree canopy) from a distance.

So that’s the new logo.

It’s a more accurate depiction of who we are as a company. We’ve grown beyond a 20-year-old sapling into an elegant and more readable mark. It respects the past, it represents us…and our work in a very literal and meaningful way…

So the next time you come across a Banyanite, congratulate them on the 20-year mark… oh, and ask for a new business card, they are really cool!

Long. Strange Trip

Celebrating 20 Years

1995 to 2015…that’s 20 years. That’s the time it takes for a child to grow to adulthood – and for a small creative firm to grow into a robust health communications agency.  And, as Jerry Garcia is credited with saying, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” 

On January 1st, 1995, Banyan basically consisted of two staff; one client; one dog; 800 square feet of office space; one computer (with no Internet); a box of print-your-own business cards; and a single passion for creating “change for good.”

That’s the humble beginnings of how Banyan came to be.  Committed and passionate people (some said crazy) who were willing to leave their established careers in marketing and filmmaking – to risk forming a new company committed to “change communication.” A business created with the optimistic hope to enhance people’s lives through responsible and creative media …crazy, right?

Since those small beginnings we have worked hard and stayed focused; gained a broad range of clients and experiences; greatly expanded our staff, capabilities, and skillsets; won lots and lots of awards for our work; and managed to stay motivated by our mission – to create change for good.

This leads us to where we are today. In 2015, the Banyan team now has 30+ staff and works from two office locations (St. Louis and Atlanta).  We are honored to work with a broad range of government and nonprofit clients and regularly provide services that we could have only dreamed of back in 1995.

(In fact, if someone had told us back then that someday everyone would be carrying around powerful computer phones in their pockets – we would have looked at them as if they’d told us aliens had just landed on the front lawn!)

That’s all about where we’ve been and where we are now.  But the really interesting part of the Banyan story is where we’re going.

Throughout the year of our 20th anniversary we’ll be sharing some very cool new products, specialized skills, and innovative communications solutions – as well as highlighting our sensational new staff – all of which we will roll out over the course of the next 12 months.

And while 1995 to 2015 has been a thrilling and rewarding journey for Banyan – we’re even more excited about our plans for the future.

All we can say is – hold on to your hats, folks.  It’s going to be quite a ride!