From 8:00am on September 20 to 8:00am on September 21, I had the pleasure of participating in CreateAthon, a 24-hour creative blitz, where I got to work with a non-profit to create their logo and website. I was surprisingly awake for all 24hrs, from the creative brief to the client presentation, but that was mostly due to copious amounts of caffeine, a midnight yoga session, walnut smashing, and dance parties to Ylvis’ The Fox.1

My project was an organization called Smashing Walnuts. It was founded by a 10yr old girl named Gabriella who was diagnosed with a walnut-sized brain tumor last November. The day her family found out, they bought walnuts and brought them home for her to smash with a frying pan to symbolize destroying the cancer; thus the name was born. Smashing Walnuts aims to raise awareness for childhood brain cancer, and Gabriella has done her fair share of advocacy, giving speeches, and encouraging people to smash walnuts.

The morning began with meeting Gabriella’s mother, who gave me a history of the foundation, and a bag of walnuts. She didn’t have a specific vision for the logo, but she definitely wanted to feature photos of people smashing walnuts on the website. Since the foundation was founded on the basis of physically smashing a walnut, the biggest component, naturally, is photos and videos of people doing just that. Their Facebook group has already generated hundreds of fan submissions, from friends and family, to those who have heard Gabriella’s message and want to spread it.

For the next couple of hours, I worked on creating their logo, where I discovered that walnuts are extremely ugly and illustrating them was, in fact, very difficult. Physical appearance aside, the end result features a cracked walnut, and a fun, childlike font set half in yellow—which is the color for childhood cancer awareness—and another half in blue to compliment it. I had another version in purple at one point, which is the color for general cancer awareness, but decided blue is brighter and more cheery.

smashingwalnuts-logo

The next step was the most challenging, and the most fun: designing and building the site.

Gabriella’s mother stated that she wanted photos and videos of people smashing walnuts featured on the homepage. At first I went with your usual cookie-cutter solution with a featured slider, a few callouts, an introductory paragraph about the organization, etc, etc. It would have been quick and easy to accomplish given the constricted time frame. But please, this is CreateAthon. I participated to challenge myself, and a challenge I will get!

InstagrammedAround 2pm, inspiration struck and I scrapped my original idea—16hr time limit be damned! We decided to take a break and go outside to smash the walnuts Gabriella’s mother had given us that morning. We took pictures of ourselves laying down hammers to walnuts with Thor-like ferocity, sending projectile shells all over the sidewalk. I then uploaded my photo onto Instagram, applied an awesome filter to it, and hashtagged it #smashingwalnuts.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. I hit the #smashingwalnuts hashtag which linked to a page of photos that had already been tagged. Apart from a few stray, irrelevant photos, there was already a good collection of photos of walnuts being smashed! So I thought, why not feature an Instagram feed for the hashtag?

For the sake of time, I grabbed an existing theme that pulls featured images from posts and arranges them nicely on the homepage (it’s responsive too). I took that loop and modified it to display images that are hashtagged #smashingwalnuts.

Three cups of tea, countless bathroom breaks, and a massage later2, I pieced together this solution:

Want to learn about the components of the Instagram feed? Stay tuned for a tutorial in the Rocket Academy.

At around 7am, we stopped the presses to gather up all the projects for the final client presentations at 8. With delirium slowly setting in, we mustered our last bits of energy to show the fruits of our labor to a roomful of excited (and well-rested) people. Personally, I was very pleased with the final result of the CreateAthon Smashing Walnuts site.

Staying up for 24hrs was tough (driving home afterwards was even tougher). If it weren’t for all the caffeine and the desire to create and learn something, I don’t think I would have survived! It was definitely a memorable experience (at least the parts I can remember) and I would do this again… just maybe give me a year to catch up on my sleep!


Rocket Pop Media got a chance to smash walnuts! Take a look through our album on Facebook!

If you want to smash walnuts too, take a picture or video of yourself and your friends doing so, and share it with Gabriella on the Smashing Walnuts Facebook group. You can also upload it to Instagram and tag #smashingwalnuts. Even if the Smashing Walnuts Foundation doesn’t use my CreateAthon site, it’s still a great way to raise awareness for childhood brain cancer!


1. See also: Russian Unicorn. ↑ back to top

2. Oh yes. It was amazing. ↑ back to top