Designing ‘Basecamp’

An educational activity book to help manage anxiety won the Best Designed Educational Primary / Secondary Book award at the 2018 ABDA Awards. A collaborative effort, Leonardo Rocker and Lisa Diebold take us through this three year project.

Basecamp® – A fun-filled adventure about managing anxiety –  is the result of three years of collaborative work between Lisa Diebold, Kathryn Berry and myself, Leonardo Rocker. It features a gobsmacking 182 pages of activities, tools and text, all carefully created to assist children and their parents (yes you, anxious parents!) to manage anxiety.

Three years gestation – yes, a very long time. But for us to create this publication to the standard we dreamed, there was simply no other way. We launched into the making of Basecamp® with such care that the concept, design and content required each and every minute of this timeline.

Basecamp® is the third major publication to come out of Quirky Kid. The first two ‘experiments’, so to speak, were The Best of Friends® and Power Up. I am not sure how things roll at other publishing houses, but here we always aim to make our new projects bigger and better. Although the first two books still make us swell with pride, we were really keen to push ourselves to the next level with Basecamp®. Being a very small team, we were able to learn from past mistakes and change up our processes completely in order to maximise our creativity time, polishing each and every page to exactly how we imagined.


Choosing the national park concept was the defining moment (thank you, Kathryn!). Once we had a theme, the project rolled naturally. The national park made sense – kids love adventure; we could illustrate nature and cute animals; and create games for the outdoors. When you explore Basecamp, you spend time at the Campfire, help animals at the Sanctuary and relax with turtles in the waterfall, all in the name of fun and learning.

The next major break came when we defined our map locations. This is how we were able to flow from one lesson to another without boring chapters and worksheets. From that point, it was all about fleshing out the fun details: creating characters, illustrating the scenery and turning activities about anxiety from those dreaded dry clinical worksheets into something bursting with colour. While still being approachable for kids as well as their parents.

Budget, what budget?

To be completely honest, we still don’t know how much Basecamp® has cost us in dollars (finance guys please don’t read this) and this feels so nice to write. We are in a unique position as our publishing work occurs in parallel with our clinical work. The day to day looks something like this: four hours of clients, two hours of publishing and creation, two more hours of clients. While we could use the two free hours to do other important work, everyone enjoyed prioritising Basecamp®.

The approval process was very collaborative between Lisa, Kathryn and I. At times, Lisa and I had to reassure Kathryn that our design and concepts would deliver on the outcomes required and still steer away from traditional educational designs (a.k.a boxes and texts).

Each spread had to be tested with young participants to ensure we hit the mark. As you can imagine, this was incredibly rewarding but time-consuming. We created various reiterations of many activities and, at times, we really got stuck and had to move on until a fresh idea came to mind. Overall we had three preliminary versions of the entire product with many more of some of the chapters.

Looking Back

We still get goosebumps when we look at what we achieved (winning the design awards was a long dream of ours). We felt so privileged to have had the time to participate in a project like Basecamp® as it meets all our criteria when it comes to job satisfaction: to do good, work with amazing people, solve complex challenges and use graphic design to communicate information.

If we could go back, we don’t believe we would have changed anything really.

Oh, one thing … we would have travelled to the printers to check production first hand. We had some faulty copies and this was disappointing as we really wanted a clear production. But alas, the process of creating an amazing publication will always have its ups and downs and luckily we avoided major complications.

– Leonardo Rocker and Lisa Diebold