Un(re)solved has been honored with these awards:
- IDFA: Award for Digital Storytelling
- SIMA: Journalistic Achievement & Creative Advocacy
- SXSW: Innovation Award for Visual Media Experience
- ABA: Silver Gavel Award for Multimedia
Un(re)solved is an ambitious multi platform project made up of an immersive web documentary, a podcast and an augmented reality installation—led by creative director Tamara Shogaolu. Our project examines racist murders of the civil rights era and the FBI’s efforts to reinvestigate these crimes today.
I was Lead Designer for Digital at FRONTLINE during this project. I focused on UI/UX design and visual storytelling for the interactive documentary; overall design and branding for the project; and I worked on interface and visual design of the augmented reality app. I worked closely with creative director Tamara Shogaolu and a team of illustrators and animators from Ado Ato Pictures.
A Database of Cases and Victims
An important piece of the project was to show all 152 victims that the FBI and Department of Justice included as part of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. I started sketching out different ways a user could experience this display of victims to help shape the direction of the project in its very early stages.
I created rough mockups and prototypes exploring how a user could move through a memorial of victims and access details about their lives and cases.
Our creative director was inspired by the symbolism of trees and our final experience involves the user moving through a quilted forest (read more about the symbolism of the project). So we decided to create a meaningful connection to the rest of the experience by presenting each person on a leaf.
I designed 19 colorful leaves that we used as the base for all of the victim images. One leaf for each state where a person on the list was killed.
In the final memorial experience, the user moves through an immersive 3D tunnel of leaves made up of all the victims on the Till Act list.
The experience can be sorted by location or by themes like “open cases” or “deaths involving law enforcement.”
Each of the 152 people on the Till Act list has a case summary page with details about their life and about the investigations of their death. Some cases feature an audio interview with the victim’s next of kin.
Immersive Story Experience
The memorial of 152 people from the Till Act list is part of a larger interactive documentary experience that includes immersive chapters detailing the lives and cases of four individuals from the list.
We start the experience with a video introduction—showing the victims on a colorful quilted background that connects to the colorful leaf treatment that will be used later.
The victims’ names, written in a script typeface, form a dense texture that makes up the main title treatment. The title animation immerses the user into their names as the experience transitions into the next area where the chapters are presented.
We introduce the four in-depth stories within an immersive forest experience. We created this abstract, quilted forest where each victim’s chapter is represented by a tree and a different section of the forest. We ask the user to speak the name of the person killed in order to move forward and experience their story.
The immersive story continues within each chapter as the user moves through a horizontal space containing narrative text, animation, audio stories featuring the victim’s next of kin, and primary source documents like newspapers and letters.
A path of light acts as a guide through the space. There is a theme of light and shadow throughout the experience where the user’s movement and progression become a source of light and reveal the victims’ stories—this was inspired by the Ida B. Wells quote, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
Augmented Reality App and Installation
The Un(re)solved project also features a traveling augmented reality installation. The exhibit displays quilted panels with the names of victims from the Till Act list. The augmented reality app allows visitors to access more information about each victim and listen to audio stories while seeing light particles and leaves visualized in augmented reality. I worked with the team from Ado Ato pictures to refine the app’s visual design and user interface in the final phases of development.
The Un(re)solved brand is rich with color and visual assets. Once our project was launched I created promotional imagery allowing us to extend the brand onto our social channels.
We also created a unique instagram account with seamless imagery as another way to experience the project and learn about the victims from the Till Act list.
In the fall of 2019 I had the opportunity to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. It is a harrowing display of the victims of lynchings in this country—many thousands of names etched on steel slabs, hanging from the roof. I learned a lot from this trip and it helped shape the way we approached telling the stories of the Till Act victims and their families.