Founded in 2007, BlackPast is the largest source for African-American history on the internet. A victim of its own success BlackPast has experienced incredible growth over the years. The homegrown brand, design, technology, and organization were buckling under the weight of BlackPast’s success. Jackson Fish Market and the team at BlackPast triaged the challenges and concurred that it was time for BlackPast’s organization, identity, and very presence to evolve to the next level of professionalism that would be commensurate with the kind of engagement the content was getting.
BlackPast exists to weave the truths of the black American experience into every American’s identity, in order to make our union more perfect and our society more just.
BlackPast hadn’t created a treasure trove of high quality historical content just for African-Americans. BlackPast wasn’t looking to be a musty online museum. BlackPast was trying to show that the Black-American experience is every American’s experience. How do you create an identity for an organization that African-Americans will recognize as their own with strong links to their heritage, as well as connecting deeply with every American and a forward-thinking vision where Black history is American history?
The new visual identity and brand mark for BlackPast have clean lines that trace through history, and African textile patterns that have been modernized. Colors reflect both a traditional palette as well as forward thinking hues that bring modernity and freshness and distinguish BlackPast from every other African-American online resource.
The website itself was no small challenge. Thousands of pieces of content, created since 2007, had to be at home in a brand new design. Part museum, part magazine, part historical textbook, the new website had to present the content in a way that engaged users on the current devices they use. Not just their laptop or desktop anymore, but of course, their mobile devices. Over a third of BlackPast’s audience comes from their phone.
The design Jackson Fish Market and BlackPast chose removed the legacy of heavyweight categorization and structure for a lightweight approach where the website refashions itself for every single page. Content is presented in a highly editorial style, and related content is promoted with stylized photography that reflects the BlackPast color palette and is social media friendly. So much of BlackPast’s engagement happens on social media that optimizing for that experience was essential.
Business cards, presentation templates, and a whole host of digital and print marketing collateral followed as well.
BlackPast’s organization was really optimized as an analog non-profit of yesteryear and not a modern technology non-profit of tomorrow. Developing a strategic plan to evolve BlackPast’s technological assets and instituting new streamlined processes focusing on independence and scalability were both critical. But perhaps most important was the scouting, recruiting, and hiring of Chieko Phillips as the new Executive Director of BlackPast. Her energy, expertise, and exceptional intelligence were just the right ingredients to help BlackPast on this new chapter.
Jackson Fish Market focused on BlackPast in a holistic fashion, melding together the technological, the aesthetic, and the human elements of the organization helping kickstart the organization’s digital transformation into a next-generation non-profit resource. And even more important, BlackPast is now poised to make even more of a difference in healing and unifying our country and our society.