Your friends at Viget present Flourish, a Viget News & Culture Blog

Khan Academy’s New Avatars: We Made Them, Now You Can Name Them

If you’ve ever wanted to name a cute avatar that’s going to be seen by thousands of people around the world, here’s your chance. We’ve been working with our friends at Khan Academy to help brainstorm, design, and illustrate avatars for the new learning dashboard that they launched in August.  As students progress through courses, earning points and gaining badges for their new skills and knowledge, they can “level up” their avatars. It’s a fun way to keep students engaged, and we were happy to lend a hand. 

When Khan Academy introduced the first version of profile avatars, students loved them—so much so that they wanted more. They petitioned the designers and garnered more than 2,900 votes, making it the most frequently requested feature.



Nearly three and half years ago, Viget helped Khan Academy with their very first branding and design explorations. So we were thrilled when their Lead Designer, Jason Rosoff, wanted to work with us again, this time to help improve their avatars (below) and come up with new and updated concepts.



We began this fun little project by thinking through several concepts centered on updated versions of “Spunky Sam” and “Purple Pi” while also considering user requests found on the forums. Our team then realized that, just as Khan Academy helps students learn and grow, so too should their avatars evolve and grow as students earn more points and progress through the learning dashboard. After several internal discussions, we landed on the idea of avatars that start as seedlings and evolve into full-fledged creatures. Here’s an early sketch:



Now that we’ve created these designs, Khan Academy needs your help and input! Use the awesome HTML/CSS submission tool and help name these cute little buggers. We can’t guarantee any prizes or fame; but, if your name is selected, know that you’ll be supporting a great organization that’s revolutionizing the way the world learns.

A Movember to Remember


Around town, awkward moustaches are sprouting up all over the place. Your social feed shows both men and women alike on maniacal, moustachioed missions with everything from the real thing to fingerstaches and sunstaches. Is this some sort of new Thanksgiving tradition? Is this a visible warning to all the turkey birds that the grim reaper is approaching? Though I’m sure they had the most debonair facial hair, this can’t be what the Plymouth Pilgrims had in mind. What the heck is going on?

It turns out that this mad movement goes by the name of Movember and all the turkeys are really just ordinary people banding together to help raise awareness for men’s health issues and fund programs that help make progress. More specifically, the funds go to the Movember Foundation which, for the last decade, has been actively supporting campaigns to raise awareness about testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and men's mental health issues.

Brief History

This all started in Australia in 2003 when Travis Garone and Luke Slattery thunk up the idea over a few pints. It began with a question about where the art of the moustache had gone. It ended with the start of a new campaign. Inspired by a friend’s mother who was fundraising for breast cancer, the gents set off to do something similar for men’s health, with prostate cancer as their initial motivation. Today, the movement has become a worldwide phenomenon. In 2012, over one million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas together raised $147 million for the cause.


According to Movember, here are a few interesting stats:

  • 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, 1 in 3 women will be.
  • Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34.
  • 97% of prostate cancer cases occur in men age 50 and older.
  • Men generally have lower levels of awareness of mental illnesses than women.
  • One of the most common manifestations of mental illness is depression.
  • Over 6 million men (7% of the population) are diagnosed with depression each year.

How to Help

Friends of Viget have joined up with friends of DC’s Web Development Group to form a team to help with this worthy cause. We’re encouraging you and your friends to join our team of 20+ in support of this effort. Anyone is welcome, so please tell a friend.

Pre-mo baby faces. Viget (left). Web Development Group (right).

Also, if you’re in the Washington, DC area on November 21, 2013, we hope you’ll join us at the Gathering of the ‘Stache party organized by WDG, co-sponsored by Viget, and hosted at Canvas Co/work. Space is limited so grab your ticket today. We’ll see you there.

Launching Vitae with The Chronicle of Higher Education: An Online Career Hub for Academics

Professional growth and sharing is a big part of our culture at Viget — with each other and the larger web community. And whether it’s blogging, joining a panel at a local event, or planning a meetup with industry peers, we know the value of building a network within your professional community.

So when The Chronicle of Higher Education approached us about building Vitae, a product to help members of the higher education community grow their careers, we were excited to dive right in.

A Safe Place to Fail

Image Credit: Blair Culbreth

This recent Huffington Post article about the culture differences associated with hiring Generation Y has gotten a lot of buzz within HR and recruiting circles lately.  However, as a company with a lot of Gen Y employees (between 56% and 90%, depending on how one defines Gen Y) which interviews an even greater number of Gen Y job applicants, we very seldom encounter the unrealistic expectations portrayed in the article.  The few instances that come to mind have occurred with the youngest folks we interact with—summer interns—and, those episodes can just as easily be attributed to youth and inexperience as the notorious unrealistic expectations HR lore attributes to Gen Y.

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I do sense one generational difference with those entering the workplace these days—not in terms of unrealistic expectations with respect to needing to work hard to gain experience —but, with a willingness to fail.  Raised by a no-nonsense generation whose general guidance can be summed up with the expression “no complaints, no excuses,” my colleagues and I entered the workplace in the mid-1980’s with the full understanding that we would be put in situations where we: 1) didn’t know what we were doing; 2) failed miserably, both publicly and often; 3) owned our mistakes and embarrassments as badges of honor; and 4) knew that we had to rely on ourselves to improve our situations. 

Launching Documents of Freedom, A Digital Take on the Traditional Textbook

The Bill of Rights Institute is dedicated to teaching young people across the country about America's founding history. Besides offering access to the the texts of founding documents like the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Institute also works creatively and vigorously to provide teachers with guidance and innovative materials. And, as today's student body becomes more and more tech savvy, that means turning to digital for new ways to engage students.

Explore the Course

The Institute called upon Viget to build a custom authoring platform that would give them the freedom (no pun intended) to create, edit, and publish a digital high school textbook, available across multiple devices, complete with teacher lesson plans, student readings, activities, quizzes, and videos. The project came with a variety of exciting technical challenges, and, in meeting them, we’ve been thrilled to help the Institute reach more students and teachers.