Obama‘s Legacy

At the Washington Post, story ideas can come from anyone — reporters, editors, designers, photographers, you name it. In 2016, it was common for an editor or reporter to come to me with a seed of an idea — in this case a digital museum for Obama’s eight years in office — and to lean on me to transform that idea into something real. I felt strongly that we would need a unique visual approach to stand out amidst a plethora of Obama legacy stories published by our competitors. I also wanted to create something browsable, yet definitive and with a lot of depth. Some of my initial inspiration came from mural-esque illustrations like this and this. I was also inspired by the New York Times’ photo series on waiting in line and this website, which publishes an endless number of interesting CSS animations.

Design challenges

This project came with a handful of design challenges. First, it would publish in five installments, over the course of a year, so I designed a presentation that could feel complete with only one installment, but could also grow as we published 2, 3, 4 and 5. Second, it would include 60+ pieces of content, needed to appeal to a broad audience and needed to stand out amidst a plethora of Obama legacy stories by our competitors. I used conceptual illustrations to make the project browsable for the casual reader, while not taking away the depth that an engaged reader is looking for. The illustrations also gave us a unique visual to work with in promoting the project. Every other organization used archival photos of Obama, giving us a leg up in setting our content apart.

Favorite Takeaway

Before this project, I had never contracted or art directed an illustrator. After getting approval for my ideas, I worked with Suzette Moyer — a design editor and experienced art director — to select an artist for each installment and art direct them to create 7-8 illustrations. I learned so much from Suzette about different illustration styles and how to match them to the tone of your project. I also learned how illustrators have different strengths — illustrating likeness, texture, emotion, symbolism, etc. Since this project, I have taken the lead on working with illustrators and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

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Role
Designer
Front-end developer
Assistant art director
Project manager

Project link
wapo.st/obama