When you are given an assignment to demonstrate the awesome special effects possible on paper, you need subject matter worthy of such dazzling printing feats. Superheroes. Pirates. Bigfoot. Weird larger-than-life creatures. Spies. It didn’t take long to figure out where to find all of them in one place – at 826 National, a nonprofit network of tutoring, writing and publishing centers for kids, ages 6 to 18. The 826 centers are “disguised” as retail stores, selling gear for “real” working pirates, superheroes, time travelers, bigfoot researchers, robots and so on.
Bear with me. This is hard to explain. We got interested in this story because we loved the graphics and packaging for the new Museum of Unnatural History in Washington D.C., which isn’t a museum and not a real store either. It’s the Washington D.C. location for 826 National, a nonprofit tutoring, writing and publishing organization founded to assist kids aged six to 18 with their writing skills. It got its start at 826 Valencia Street (hence the name), a storefront location in San Francisco’s Mission District. To make the place seem “cooler” to kids, the 826 founders decided to disguise it as a “Pirate Store” and stocked it with pirate supplies like peg legs, message bottles and hooks. Kids loved it and sales helped support the tutoring programs.