Medical student Aditi Kantipuly has always been fascinated by rare diseases but knew that, given their unusual nature, most people know very little about these conditions. While he developed the idea of integrating verbal and visual images to make educating the public about rare genetic conditions as easy as ABC! She sought to combine letters of the alphabet with watercolor paintings to transform complex rare genetic conditions into recognizable images that one can relate to on a regular basis—but the thing is, she didn’t have the time or skill set to create the images herself. So she worked with Fiverr illustrator dianeo2 to create her book, The Zebra Alphabet. Read on to learn how Aditi went from planning to publishing, then head over to Kennedy Krieger’s website to purchase some the artwork (all proceeds benefit disease research).
Tell us about yourself. Who you are, where you’re from, your background, and a little bit about your work with rare diseases.
I grew up in Buffalo, New York. My fascination with rare diseases started when I was a kid. I remember on Friday, we’d order pizza and watch the TGIF lineup on ABC. I was sort of a rebel and didn’t want to go to bed, so I’d stay up late to watch 20/20. I distinctly remember watching an episode about a boy with a rare genetic condition. Fast forward to 2016 when I had the privilege of serving as a Fulbright Scholar in India, studying rare genetic conditions. Looking back now it’s clear that particular episode could have very well been the catalyst for what my life revolves around now.
Tell us about the Zebra Alphabet. What inspired you to create this project?
Rare genetic conditions are not widespread, so naturally, they do not get a lot of attention for funding and research. Even though the conditions are individually rare, they collectively affect 350 million individuals worldwide. I think the word “rare” is a bit of misnomer.
I wanted to shift this perspective. I wanted people to care more about rare.
I went back to the drawing board and asked, “what helps create a common understanding in a community?” I think the vehicle for that is language. Language allows information to flow within a community of people, it’s how they relate. That’s where origins of the Zebra Alphabet come from.
How do you use Fiverr to make your vision a reality?
It began with the realization that I needed an illustrator for my book. After searching Fiverr, I was instantly connected to a global community of artists. There was no lag time to worry about, and thanks to their idle icon, I didn’t have to guess whether or not my messages were seen or read. Customer reviews also made finding the right freelancer super easy.
How did you collaborate with your illustrator across time and language barriers?
I’m incredibly grateful to have connected with a wonderful illustrator, dianeo2, based in Romania. Her emails always cautioned me that her “English was not good”, but looking back, it never impacted the workflow. We collaborated only over email. Never met her in person (although, I’d love to!). Nor did we have any video, or Skype calls. I would send her a concept board/ideas for each illustration, she would sketch out a draft, and once it was approved, she’d send me the final picture.
What motivates you as a doer? Why do you do what you do?
Knowing that I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t solve all the problems is what keeps me grounded. When you synergize a community, you can achieve the unachievable. That is really the hope for the book. The idea is for the children’s book is that our future is the hands of today’s children. And by planting seed at a young age, children are better equipped to serve as global citizens and make positive contributions to the world.
Do you have any tips or strategies for buyers using Fiverr for the first time?
I’d look at the reviews, and also the date those reviews were published. That’s one of the quickest ways to tell whether the seller is “currently active.” Everyone knows that time is precious, and being able to quickly distinguish the active sellers vs the inactive sellers can help streamline productivity.
What’s next for the Zebra Alphabet? How can we support this cause?
Support comes in all different shapes and sizes! If you’d like to support our cause, you can get in touch with me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our biggest initiative right now to find a sustainable way to print hardcover copies of the books to be distributed at schools around the nation, with a focus on underprivileged school districts.
Want to learn more about the Zebra Alphabet? Ask Aditi your questions in the comments below!