Founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, The Center for Journalism & Democracy is a new institute housed at the iconic Howard University, and is training the next generation of journalists who will report on the most pressing issues of the day. Ghost Note was tapped to lead the branding and visual identity design behind the ambitious new initiative. The institute's bold identity is rooted in the history of Black activism and reporting while introducing a modern approach to investigative journalism.
We set out to create an identity that felt bold and contemporary while honoring the legacy of Black journalism across America.
This project provided a unique opportunity to celebrate the deep traditions of Black journalism, while also creating a strategy and institutional brand to inspire young journalists across the country to take up the mantle of investigating the most pressing issues of our day.
The Center for Journalism and Democracy’s visual identity embraces vital conversation and discourse, and honors the legacy of the Black press while positioning itself firmly as the next leader of change. We approached the brand's identity by surveying the historical landscape of the Black Press and the field of journalism - including their contributions to the culture both historically, and in present day context.
Rooted in visual research around historic publications such as The Freedom's Journal, the Green Book, Opportunity Magazine, and more. We took inspiration from the bold typographic headlines, structured layouts of newspapers and printed media, while seeking ways to break the traditional status quo of what an academic brand should look like.
The Institute's logo is typeset in Spike by Vocal Type Foundry, an iconic typeface created to honor the life of Spike Lee and his contribution's to Black culture through film and television. Spike's work represented a new era of journalism - investigating Black culture and life through his own lens. Combining Spike with a serif typeface named Denton provided contrast to the boldness of the headlines. Balancing the use of newspaper style grids and layouts, bold combinations of color and type, the Institute's collateral spoke confidently to the next generation of students.
Within less than a year, the Center for Journalism & Democracy has become the nation's leading institution for journalism students and working professionals. Following the Center's launch in Fall 2022, they launched both the inaugural Democracy Summit and in June 2023 announced a visiting professorship program. The visiting professorship is meant to attract working journalists at the top of their fields in investigative journalism and data journalism. Selected journalists will be in residence at the Center for Journalism & Democracy for one semester or longer. The professorship will begin in Spring 2024.
Since launch, the institute's identity has proven to be flexible and scalable across several initiatives including in-person events, recruiting seminars and workshops, environmental and digital graphics, and other collateral. The brand's ability to flex between volumes of being louder and quieter allows it to show up differently in various spaces and when addressing different audiences.