Transmedia Publishing That Sparks Dialogue on Racial Justice
The Communications Network, a leading global network of nonprofit communications professionals, has been a long-time partner and friend of Constructive. Every two years, the Network releases a journal called Change Agent that features articles, ideas, and reflections from some of the most influential voices in the social change sector. While we designed the first transmedia issue of Change Agent a year earlier, for Change Agent: The Racism Issue, we pushed the idea even further. Together with ComNet and Change Agent’s authors, we developed a landmark publication of leading voices like Trabian Shorters, Michele Norris, and Darren Walker that pays tribute to their important ideas and call-to-action.
How do we design a representative brand for complex and diverse issues of racial justice?
For years, the design strategy for Change Agent was to have different designs for every issue. For The Racism Issue, we collaboratively set goals and developed an editorial design strategy to live up to the importance and seriousness of racial justice issues. After exploring ideas, we decided that, to honor and represent the diversity of ideas and experiences that Change Agent: The Racism Issue would elevate, that each article would be designed with its own signature look. The key was to make sure it all felt cohesive by creating a unifying brand identity for the publication.
Surveys and workshops are great ways to learn about a nonprofit’s history and brand—but for brands that provide vital services directly to people and communities you have to get closer.
Creating a transmedia design system for a nonprofit publication.
Our first step in developing the visual brand for Change Agent was to audit previous editions and assess what was working and what wasn’t. After developing a few mood boards, we focused on a direction everyone agreed honored the content. We then developed an editorial grid system for digital and print that would unite design—and a flexible production process that allowed authors, designers, and developers that accelerated collaboration—a critical step to meeting a tight deadline.
Change Agent is a collaboration of diverse voices and design thinkers who come together to challenge audience’s understanding and subconscious assumptions on race and racism.
A progressive and patriotic cover design that challenges assumptions.
The print version of Change Agent complements the digital edition, picking up on its design cues and emphasizing the classic publication editorial design techniques that make for immersive long-form reads. Of course, the one thing a print publication has that a digital one lacks is a cover. And to set the tone, we explored multiple options for a print cover design that makes a more focused, bold statement that digital can. Diversity is front and center—with a range of emotions and experiences on display that invite readers in to engage with Change Agent’s provocative ideas. include a more diverse group of Americans. The result is progressive and patriotic, challenging us to reflect on what it means to be a person of color in America.
Creating transmedia cohesion across print and digital experiences.
Because the print version invited readers to go online for a more multimedia experience, and the digital one offered downloads of the printed version, we needed to create a cohesive transmedia brand experience. Our design system combines icons, fonts, and imagery that provide visual interest and support user experience goals the throughline between platforms, creating calls-to-action in the print publication encourage online visits by promoting digital-only content.