Google & EJI presents: Lynching in America
Truth through data
In 2016, Google.org donated a $1 million grant to EJI and Bryan Stevenson to support the development of their Lynching Memorial and Slavery to Mass Incarceration Museum. Later that year, Google renewed that commitment with $1 million in additional funds and resources to help to digitize their research on Lynching in America. This resulted in a project and campaign that included content production, the design and build of an interactive experience, lesson plan development, and press/social activations that included a launch event in NYC.
I was brought onto the project in October 2016, to lead the user experience which encompassed an interactive experience, digitizing EJI’s 88-page report, as well as providing UX consultation for the new ‘From Enslavement to Incarceration’ museum in Montgomery, Alabama opening next year.
UX Lead: Christine Dani Cruz
Creative Lead: Nick Carbonaro
Lead Strategist: Rebecca Sills
Visual Design Leads: Benjamin Lebovitz, Andrew Braswell
Visual Designers: Francis Almeda, Kendall Henderson
Writer: Kyle Conerty
Project Manager: April Ayala
Development Partner: Stink Digital
Copyright © 2017 Google. All rights reserved
Navigation inspired by storytelling
There were many challenges to this experience including incorporating multiple forms of content to tell a holistic historical story like podcasts, a film, an interactive map, and a complete digital report. The site also needed to flow in a storytelling structure so we decided to move the user through a linear architecture that moved the user from the present to the past.
Because we wanted the site to have a narrative but also give the users a “choose your own journey” ability, I made sure the site had multiple instances of explorations and useful utility patterns like:
- Structuring the menu to replicate site structure and allow users choice
- Using action verbs to unambiguously tell the user what they will be doing
- Placing affordances to signal if there is more content and how many
We recorded living descendant testimonials of lynched victims to highlight personal accounts. I wanted to make sure users were able to immerse themselves when listening to the stories non-intrusively but also allow users to preview next episodes, read transcripts, and listen on other platforms like Spotify or Google Play. Each component of the media player was user tested to make sure there was no function ambiguity.
All the data for this project centered around 4000+ reported lynchings from 1910-1970. In order to interpret this data in a way that humanized the reported attacks and its effects, we made two interactive maps.
The first map takes a closer look at the twelve Southern states with the highest reported lynchings and through Google Maps API, allowed users to delve into each county within that state. It was also important to make sure the data did not take away that each marker was a real loss of a life. To accomplish this we added six real stories of lynchings on the map dictated by Bryan Stevenson himself.
The second map demonstrates the after effects of mass lynchings by visualizing the mass migration of over 6 million African American refugees to what we now call urban cities escaping prosecution.
Bringing the report online
EJI created an extensive report, the most comprehensive research on lynchings to date. I was tasked with digitizing the report and making it as engaging and interactive as possible so students would have a way to reference this amazing body of work online.
I used best-in-class patterns and insights including persistent chapter navigation, knowledge cards, accessible legibility, and interactive infographics to accomplish this.
Validating through User Testing
We wanted the site to be as innovative and experimental as possible incorporating custom interactions and UI patterns. It was important to me that we validated these decisions through a series of user tests. My goal for user testing was to get valuable user insights in terms of overall flow, interactive usability, and strength of content from our target demographic of 18-44 year olds.
Through a series of both guided testing and user discovery, the usability test helped us gather information based on different design directions, levels of interaction knowledge, and overall flow of content.
Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum
From July until October of 2017, we sponsored an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum called the ‘Legacy of Lynching in America’. This groundbreaking exhibit combined digitized data and oral histories from the online map platform, alongside fine art pieces from the Brooklyn Museum’s collections from influential artists including Kara Walker, Sanford Biggers, Mark Bradford, Elizabeth Catlett, Melvin Edwards, Theaster Gates, Rashid Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Jacob Lawrence, and Glenn Ligon.
“We do believe that art has the power to communicate truths about an experience, a history, a problem that can’t always be effectively done with text. There’s every reason to expect that the Equal Justice Initiative’s extensive research will be new to many and spark an important conversation about this country’s history and its impact on today’s society. It is urgent we face this history, and that’s why we are partnering to make this show a reality.” - Anne Pasternak, Brooklyn Museum Director
Museum viewers were deeply impacted and left us thank you cards at the end of the visit.
Initiative and site has been featured by TechCrunch, USA Today, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Essence, NAACP, and the Innocence Project with 181 million impressions on social and an estimated reach of 21 million users.
Awards: Cannes Lion Award - Bronze in Digital Craft, Epica Awards - Websites - Bronze, Webby for Good award
Site Press: Google Blog, TechCrunch, USA Today, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Essence, The Root, VIBE, Quartz, Color Lines, Bustle, Yahoo, The Intercept
Exhibit Press: Brooklyn Museum, The New York Times, Art News, Smithsonian, Village Voice, Newsweek, The Guardian, Afropunk
“Google has been able to take what we know about lynching, and what we have heard from the families, and what we have seen in the spaces and the communities where these acts of terror took place, and make that knowledge accessible to a lot more people,” said Bryan Stevenson, founder of EJI, in a press release. “To create a platform for hearing and understanding and seeing this world that we’ve lived through.”
On August 23rd, 2017, Founder of EJI Bryan Stevenson and Grammy-nominated singer Audrey Day, appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah to discuss the Lynching in America project and promote the site and museum.