The project began by blindfolding and introducing fellow students lounging around the common areas at the University of Central Florida. After seeing two participants walk away together and date for three months, the trial-run handkerchiefs were replaced with every imaginable type of paper and the one-on-one introductions soon turned into group round robins. Eventually this led to blindfolded icebreakers with entire classrooms on the first day of the semester with the help of Professor Cynthia Hutchinson in the College of Health Education and Human Performance.
Soon, this grass-roots social initiative took off as countless volunteers facilitated events and utilized the free, engaging, and versatile Broaden tools. Printable 8.5×11 paper blindfolds, detailed facilitation instructions, and lists of categorized questions helped empower volunteers with the confidence to meet, convince and introduce complete strangers blindfolded.
In order to thrive, we need the freedom to do so together. With this belief, sensory-deprivation is used to reduce inhibitions, amplify active listening, and create an environment for mindful discussion.
Diversity takes center stage in Broaden’s ethos, with each of its sightless icebreaker formats being dynamically adapted to the audience size and background. No two interactions are the same as different questions, blindfolds and seating configurations have been improvised to facilitate conversations with over 5,400 participants to date.
Building on the platform of diversity, the logo and visual language is deeply inspired by the Pentagram identity for Warner Records; with a fused double sunrise logo nodding to the power introductions have to broaden horizons. The mask-shaped logo can serve as a sponge to display photos and reveals participant faces when cut out of digital rectangles. The logomark void on a digital blindfold illustrates the core brand messaging – that the future of communication is open and accepting.
Broaden’s commitment toward bringing unique individuals, conversations, and organizations together in service of an open-minded future, and produced a brand line that acts as a totem for the movement to lean on: “hear, together”.
The retro-inspired typography and widened sun trademark echos a simpler time. A time where people talked more than texted and exclusively enjoyed in-person conversations, an aspiration at the heart of Broaden’s spirit.
The color spectrum incorporates a warm yet bold palette through the filter of tones normally tied to sunlight, happiness, playfulness, vitality and friendliness. Orange and black are used sparingly to subconsciously imbue Broaden with the identity-blurring nature of Halloween.
The bright and together-forward emotion of the photography (Pexels & Unsplash) captures Broaden’s personality, giving viewers an anchor for the connecting, empathetic side-effects they can look forward to from a blindfolded introduction.
Michael also designed and developed the (now retired) Broaden website which housed a myriad of question lists, blindfold templates and how-to guides used to attract and engage new advocates.
The spirit of the project lives on with teachers continuing to utilize the blindfolded icebreaker method and friendships enduring from blindfolded introductions to this day.