Possibly the most accurate use of the term deaded, Osama Bin Laden got his early Monday morning May 1, 2011. Nearly 10 years from the devastating attacks on September 11th, I find it worth taking pause to consider the major changes that have occurred in how we receive, share, and react to important news. Design innovations between the attacks and Bin Laden’s death demonstrate visual similarities but also new levels of engagement with imagery, content, and the events themselves.

Bold typefaces coupled with large graphic images dominated print headlines in 2001.

This New York Times headline is evenly balanced with the imagery of that day.

The Washington Post, which like the NYT released a Special Late Edition on the day of the attacks, also grapples with this information with a contrast of bold imagery and headlines.

Similarly, as soon as news broke about Bin Laden’s death, we immediately saw headlines change on major news publications online. When discussing the layout of the New York Times homepage Razorfish openly told us how their design approach included consideration for major news events. This would change the layout image/headline size and placement, and additionally what information would appear above or below the fold.

These screen shots taken late Sunday evening (Eastern Time) show similarities to the print approach, in using large imagery and headlines as a commanding presence on the home page. The traditional homepage with a somewhat murky hierarchy has been abandoned.

The biggest change in how these events are relayed and discussed involves social media. The New York Times blogged that Keith Urbahn, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff first leaked on twitter regarding Bin Laden’s death. An IT consultant in Abbottabad unknowingly “live tweeted” the attack of the compound where Bin Laden was hiding. The usage and design of social media, with an emphasis on discourse and sharing information has transformed how we receive and react to our news. Through these mediums we all can actively choose to have a voice regarding these events, their potential impact, our ideas.

I’m a little unsure yet if so discourse is constructive/useful or distracting people from the real issues and gravity of circumstances. However I suppose if my glass is half full, I’d say open conversations is a move in the right direction toward political awareness. I’m skeptical though of commenters like these:

A little wit and informed criticism never hurt anyone. Spell check didn’t either.


The Hoover Institution Political Poster Database is a rich resource of international political posters dating back to the early 20th century. When reviewing the collection of American Posters (over 10,000 of them!) my curiosity got the best of me and I headed into a much smaller but equally compelling collection of Political Posters from India. What struck me the most was the time period from which these posters originated- 1939-1945. A pivotal moment for India for those that don’t know, because these  years marked the time preceding their emancipation from British rule and the Partition that formed Pakistan as its own separate state.

This poster is particularly striking in that it depicts Lahore, a city now part of Pakistan. Note the English type and how it contrasts with the very South East Asian artwork/imagery.

What I found most interesting in the collection was the typography and the stark contrast to the imagery and style of art. Not only is hindi not found in any of the posters, we see very Western (as in the Great Midwest) typography utilized. Additionally, there is Urdu in those that don’t have English typography. This is also very indicative of the times because Urdu (a mixture of Persian, Turkish, and Arabic) was soon to be adopted as one of the official languages of Pakistan.

Where is the Hindi? Where is the integration of beautiful South East Asian lettering and imagery? Ugh colonization fail.

Far more advanced than the interactive Actionscripty/Tweeny design we’ve barely loved thanks to Flash, the Guardian newspaper released a beautiful infographic depicting the Middle East Protests. Shout out to Erin Routson for this find! Check out her other great finds.

Arab Spring: An interactive timeline of Middle East protests

The Hair Part Theory, developed by John and Catherine Walters, offers a unique perspective on how the hair part can influence behavior and additionally receptivity from others. They claim that the Hair Part Theory when applied to politicians can determine the outcome of an election. I’m willing to be open-minded, however in all honesty I’m already a little skeptical because I’ve come across a spelling error in the first line of the press release, “surpsingly.”
Anyways, the article released for the 2008 Presidential Election states the following related to the candidates:

The 2008 Presidential Election – front runners

By early February, 2008, the initial 19 main candidates had been winnowed down to 6 front runners, all showing characteristics that can be explained by the Hair Part Theory:

Mitt Romney: left parter, seen as standard, all business, stay the course

John McCain: right parter, always seen as a maverick, causing worry among regular Republicans for not being in the mainstream;

Mike Huckabee: right parter, quirky character, outside the mainstream

Hillary Clinton: left parter, seen as unemotional, causing worry among some Democrats for being too much in the mainstream

Barack Obama: no parter, seen as new and different, bridging divides, has a unifying presence

John Edwards: right parter, very passionate, populist, outside the mainstream

In honor of my recent trip to Istanbul, I found it appropriate to do a little currency brief on the Türk lirası currently in circulation by the Turkish government. My first question upon leaving the exchange office- Why is Atatürk the only political figure on the currency? What’s going on here? These beautiful notes were intriguing and upon return, I still want to know more.

First, a little history Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,
To Turkey, Atatürk (military officer, prime minister, president) rescued them after the fall of the Ottoman Empire from invading Ally forces and after political turmoil helped to establish the Turkish Republic in 1923. What this meant for the area was a sweeping modernization that secularized the nation from a formerly Islamic rule. This included acts such as banning the veiling for women. A new Turkish alphabet was also introduced based on Latin lettering that diminished the importance of Arabic outside of religious texts. He sought to establish a high level of modern education for men and women in Turkey and additionally gender equality.

His legacy is memorialized by the naming of many public institutions, and of course, on all Türk lirası.The Türk lirası and notes feature different portraits of Atatürk, and have since their inception in the early 1920s. The only other political figure to appear on Turkish currency was İsmet İnönü, the second President of Turkey. These bank notes were only distributed between 1937 to 1942. In case you didn’t notice- the lirası are stunning pieces of design work! The bold palette and monochromatic schemes on each note work beautifully separate or together in a collection. Counterfeit production happens relatively often in in Turkey- I was handed a couple dud coins myself, which I unfortunately realized when trying to purchase tickets for their tram. The notes feature a line of security holograms, emblems, and watermarks up the right hand side of both sides of the note. The star from the Turkish flag is present throughout the entire composition, which connects the design to the lira coin shown below also:

So, among other things that Republicans and Democrats come down on separate sides about, we now can add disposable utensils. This article appeared in the New York Times March 16th, much to the amusement/dismay/horror of many readers, as we continue to watch a Green vs. Green battle wage in Washington.


In light of the near government shut-down that we’ve narrowly escaped, I find it interesting to look at both sides of a situation that I believe is indicative of some of the larger issues we face as a nation.

In noting President Obama’s campaign launch, I immediately headed to www.gop.com to see what the Republican Party’s response would be. Out of anything I would have guessed I would find.. it would not have been this:

Content aside, this is offensively and poorly designed. What a letdown.

The design uses many tactics that cause readability to suffer. We have flashing red type on a red background, knockout type that is straining for the eye and so small, gradation on multiple backgrounds that muddles type, and a very confusing color palette. Navigation is choppy at best, with a tab bar isolated from any content. The text heavy layout in Cambria which is a Microsoft Office ClearType font and reads like a print article (more specifically a draft of a paper you would never turn in) with an atrocious left arrow nav directing viewers back to a Dr. Pepper-esque home page. Ironically, Nicholas Backlund’s Red, White and Bland essay I discussed before addresses the GOP’s desire to stay away from soft drink commercials.

What is additionally disappointing is the lack of ingenuity or use of their party ideals to fundraise for a potential candidate. I leave the site knowing little about the party and even a general direction for the GOP in this next election.

Luckily, this hasn’t been endorsed by any candidate or candidate’s committee so they haven’t completely ruined their entire party’s design credibility. Yet.