The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 8th Annual Shorty Impact Awards

Smile Train's 'Setting the Standard for Cleft Surgery' Graphic

Entered in Data & Insights


As the Graphic Design team of the world’s largest cleft charity, we face a persistent problem: Our issue is serious and deadly for millions of children and adults around the world, but our research consistently finds that the vast majority of Americans don't really know what clefts are, and, even among those who do, over 90% think they are only a cosmetic issue. For us, this meant that our previous graphic approaches weren’t doing enough to elicit the change the cleft community needed. We owed it to them to do a better job visually explaining both 1) why clefts matter and 2) why our model of educating and equipping community healthcare workers around the world to treat them is more sustainable, efficient, and comprehensive than the traditional misson-based model. So, we decided to rethink our entire approach to graphic storytelling.

Strategy and Execution

The imperative to rethink everything about the way we tell visual stories required the courage to actually follow through on new ideas and abandon old ones. While traditionally images of children before and after cleft surgery have been Smile Train’s most important–and most attention-grabbing–assets, we decided to experiment with an animated graphic in order to engage new audiences while still capturing readers’ highly precious attention on social media.  

This was a bold move. Before-and-after patient images have always performed well for us and are all but synonymous with our work, so we were very fortunate to have the organizational backing to swing big and try something new. 

Working in close collaboration with our programs and social media teams, we landed on a simple, yet powerful message: “Setting the Standard for Cleft Surgery.” We believed this gave a clear, accurate, and quickly digestible understanding of what can often feel like a complicated medical condition.


Our gamble paid off. This graphic surpassed our goals - it was well-received and started a robust conversation in our community. It got people excited about our plans for the next few years and generated thoughtful conversation surrounding Smile Train’s goals and how we planned to accomplish them. With a potential reach of 11,000 and a useful tool to link back to, this graphic continues to generate buzz about the future of our organization.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Smile Train


Entry Credits