My body is my enemy
New Annual Campaign. Copywriting and Visual Design

New Website Campaign. Copywriting and Visual Design

“Before we worked with Specto Design, our outreach capabilities were limited to listing our faculty and mission, and providing directions to the Institute. Specto enabled us to create an online community through provocative and compelling web stories and menus. It changed the future of LJI and resulted in tremendous financial returns through fundraising and new faculty recruitment.” — Erin Righetti, Director of Development & Outreach 2007-2010

I worked with the Institute for several years on various projects, but the first project was a rebrand of their website, which included content strategy. There were two main goals for the website redesign: To attract top research scientists from around the world, and to use a donor tool to increase donations from individuals.


LJI is a world leader in immunology research. Marla took on our web site project and in a span of 4 months she led our company through a major rebranding process. She was extremely diligent, with a strong attention to detail. Marla and the team she led at Specto Design consistently exceeded our expectations in terms of the level of creative as well as technological savvy. —Erin Righetti, PR Manager at EBD Group.

My work on the project

Content Strategy. LJI needed an entire overhaul on how they organized information. After gathering and sorting content from the different labs and research centers as well as information from annual reports, white papers, press releases, news coverage, I created an Excel document to organize the various types of information. Then, I went to work on the information architecture. I interviewed various scientists and gathered their top 10 lists for the new LJI website. I created user personas, then journey maps for users including research scientists who might like to call LJI their home, postdocs who were in search of a lab, philanthropists, and individual donors who had a personal interest in a particular disease area. The end result was an entirely new approach. In this portion of the project, I suggested research areas, which included quotes from lead scientists and provided links to the lab, postdocs and white papers. Prior to this they scientists were not highlighted at all on the website. I also suggested adding diseases rather than just research centers, giving donors the ability to instantly see which diseases the institute was studying. In each disease area I created an area to highlight breakthroughs. I suggested the use of cell images as eye-catching headers as well as small icons throughout the website. The information architecture also included a microsite structure for each scientist’s lab. The microsites had a common visual language, including the same headers, sections, and areas of information to ensure consistency when users navigated the website. The content strategy has proven to work well for LJI as they are still using the same content strategy today, seven years and one website later.

Content Development: I wrote and edited content for all disease and research areas.

Visual Design / UX: I worked with Axel Muench, my partner at Specto Design. Together, we designed the look and feel of the website, the interactions, and the experience. The cell images were so successful as a visual piece that LJI chose to create a massive installation in their lobby of multiple screens that highlighted their state of the art cell imaging system.

Content Management System: Once the content management system was installed, I worked on designing templates, setting up categories, taxonomies and implementation the visual design inside the CMS.

Ongoing Relationship: Post launch I continued to work with LJI for three years on various projects including design and UX strategy and visual design for fundraising, events, and their 25th Anniversary annual gala. Deliverables includes annual letters, takeaway gifts, sponsorship kits, invitations and programs for events.

Marla is both knowledgeable and creative – an excellent combination for the branding and marketing services she provides – whether it is in web site design or printed materials. Truly a personable professional and a pleasure to work with. —MaryAnn F. Stewart, President, Integra Center


  • LJI is still using the same information architecture for the website today, even after a redesign seven years later.
  • Within two years of launch, faculty increased 30% from 16 to 21 faculty members. Prominent scientists from top universities including Harvard and USC joined the Institute.
  • In 2010, one year post launch, revenue increased to all time high of $43 million.