In celebration of the Innocence Project's 30th anniversary last year, we launched a digital timeline to educate donors, supporters, and advocates on the organization's history. The project's purpose was to give our audience a complete and comprehensive look at how the Innocence Project, in staying true to its mission, values, and science-based approach, advances criminal and racial justice. In addition to serving as an archival record and educational resource, the timeline was created to help elevate our organization's impact on the criminal legal system, and introduce our new and exciting work over the coming years.
As conversations and the work around wrongful convictions continue to evolve, we also wanted to capture this particular trajectory through a compelling visual representation that would be easy to understand and navigate. Furthermore, we wanted to use this timeline as an opportunity to acknowledge the collaborative partnerships that have been critical to not only our success, but also that of the wider innocence movement. In recognizing this power of community, we hope to spur our supporters — and the larger public — to take action and join us in the fight for a more just criminal legal system for all.
This project was the culmination of a six-month effort between the Innocence Project, RALLY (an advocacy agency), and TEN7 (a technology studio). As with many of our projects, balancing a creative design with a story that is both inclusive and respectful of our clients' experiences proved challenging but rewarding.
To bring our timeline to life, we selected organizational milestones that would best reflect the three foundational pillars of our work — Restoring Freedom, Transforming Systems, and Advancing the Movement — and speak to the evolution of our organization over the last three decades. These included significant exonerations, groundbreaking policy wins, important changes in case law (as they relate to forensic science), and the growth of our partnerships. Though each milestone is intended to stand out individually, the milestones collectively help tell a larger story about our ever-continuous fight against a broken criminal legal system.
In sharing this narrative, we wanted to make sure that the timeline was visually compelling and centered on our clients' experiences. The timeline opens with an animated collage of mostly clients whom we helped to free or exonerate over the years. The collage's inclusion of archival photos is intentional — it serves as a nod to our long history of fighting against wrongful convictions. Additional photos of our clients, whose exonerations are highlighted throughout the timeline, can be seen as the user scrolls down the timeline. Each image was selected with care, as part of a hypervigilant effort to restore humanity to those whose freedom was unjustly stolen from them. Likewise, the language describing each exoneration was carefully crafted to emphasize a story of resilience rather than one of defeat.
We also wanted to push the boundaries of our brand identity and come up with a product that was visually refreshing. Although the timeline incorporates many of our usual colors (the blue, copper, beige, etc.), it does so in a way where each color serves a particular purpose. The black background, for example, is set behind several videos to simulate the atmosphere of a movie theater. Beige cards, on the other hand, are used to signify a victory around a person or community. We also adapted our signature dotted pattern in the illustrated graphics (such as the magnifying glass, statehouse, and raised fist). And — fully recognizing that the success of our work would not be possible without our collaboration with other innocence organizations, local counsel, exonerees, and other key partners — we included an easy-to-recognize "Collaborative Victory" symbol where appropriate.
To provide a user-friendly experience, we kept animations at a minimum and only applied a highlight or transition effect in places where we felt would be more engaging. And finally, in keeping in line with DEIAR standards, we made sure that our timeline was ADA compliant by using a large font and high color contrast.
This timeline is the result of a beautifully executed collaboration with partners (RALLY and TEN7) that fully understood our vision from the get-go. We purposely chose to work with vendors who are just as passionate about criminal and social justice as we are, and could creatively communicate our work through visual storytelling.
When we first came together, we all agreed that we wanted to create an interactive, innovative, and educational resource that would immediately grab attention. We also wanted to emphasize imagery (specifically photos of our clients) and ensure that the user experience — from beginning to end — would be seamless. In addition, because this timeline is intended to be celebratory in nature, we wanted to make sure that every single visual aspect could help demonstrate that commemorative theme.
The timeline we created is a perfect reflection of all that thoughtfulness and effort. While its main purpose is to chronicle our milestones, it helps to dispel the once long-held belief that our criminal legal system is infallible. More importantly, the timeline gives a voice to wrongfully convicted people, whose experiences drive our work everyday. As such, we could not be prouder of what we've achieved with this project.
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