The N-word Project

The N-word Project is a custom video experience that explores the n-word’s place in American vernacular. The story originated on the sports and style desks, but the role of graphics and digital design didn’t stop at visual design and web development of the project. We collaborated with reporters and videographers to craft the experience and to guide the team to elect the best form to tell the story. That began with listening to the reporting team about their goals and vision for the project, and researching alternative presentation techniques.

Lead designer Roy Wilhelm, designer/developer (now editor) Emily Chow and I designed the project. We spent time wire-framing concepts individually and constantly checked in with each other for feedback and brainstorming. We also regularly presented our ideas to the larger group and used their feedback to refine our ideas. Presenting ideas to large groups and rallying people around an idea has been a growth area of mine at the Post and is something I continue to hone and improve on.

In 2015, this project won a Gold Medal in the Society for News Designs annual digital design competition.

Design challenges

The goal of this project was to facilitate discussion around a very serious and emotional topic. To do that and to respect the people who were interviewed, presenting the right tone was imperative. The color palette, flow and promotional images were iterated on numerous times. We also ran user testing to make sure the language throughout was appropriate and guided you through the experience effectively.

In creating a linear flow, it’s important to make the reader feel guided, but not trapped. We added several “skip” buttons and menu navigation to allow the reader to navigate freely, while still guiding them on an intentional path. Moreover, because the story took a very non-traditional form, it was important to demonstrate progress and to provide enough way finding.

Favorite Takeaway

This was my first big, cross-departmental project at the Washington Post and I had the opportunity to collaborate with talented reporters, videographers, designers and editors. We bonded so much over this project, that we got the band back together to tackle another topic: feminism. I also learned a ton from lead designer, Roy Wilhelm, and designer/developer (now editor) Emily Chow. Years later, this is still one of my favorite projects from both a design and storytelling standpoint.

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Front-end developer

Project link