Marne Pike & Mike Brophy

Chief Operating Officer and Senior Digital Strategist, and Mike Brophy Creative Director at Veracity Media

Marne Pike & Mike Brophy

Chief Operating Officer and Senior Digital Strategist, and Mike Brophy Creative Director at Veracity Media Episode 41

Episode Notes

Episode Transcript

Gary:
Hello, and welcome to episode Forty-One of Design Edu Today, the podcast series discussing what is necessary to be a successful designer in a contemporary screen-based interactive world. I am your host, Gary Rozanc, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In this Episode, we will be discussing the design process behind designing a political campaign for an individual and the process of designing for an organization. We go in depth on digital strategy, interactive design and website development and how those different disciplines fit into the entire project.

Today’s guests are Marne Pike and Mike Brophy.

Marne Pike is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Digital Strategist at Veracity Media. Marne hails from New York’s North Country. After working with international development agencies abroad and on domestic political campaigns Marne joined Veracity to lead the digital strategy for campaigns and non-profits that she’s passionate about. Beyond helping hold down the fort at Veracity, Marne’s focus is on getting more women elected to public office by advising and leading the digital campaign efforts of women candidates, PACs, and organizations fighting to get more women elected.

Mike Brophy is the Creative Director at Veracity Media. Mike came to Veracity after a short stint working as a freelance designer and videographer. In 2012 he worked on the Obama For America digital team in Ohio, which jump-started his interest in the political and non-profit worlds. He recently received degrees in audio and video production from Indiana University, and in 2014 expanded his design, video, photography and political organizing skills on a senate race in Iowa. Mike loves the melding of all things technical and creative, and the challenge of applying these in aesthetically pleasing, and logical ways. Originally from outside of Philadelphia, he is excited to now call D.C. his home.

Welcome Marne and Mike!

Mike:
Thanks for having us.
Marne:
Thanks for having us.
Gary:
I’m glad you were able to make time for this. So, before get into more specific questions about design, could you talk a little bit about Veracity Media, specifically the type of clients you work with? You seem to have a very specific niche, and it’s one that I have never really seen before.
Marne:
Yeah, absolutely. So, Veracity, we’re a pretty young team and I would say for the most part, all pretty progressive individuals, so we tend to work with clients that we are interested in working with, so we specialize in political campaigns and non-profit advocacy for the most part. We’re based in DC so that’s kind of the world that we live in here, especially nowadays, so the types of clients that we work with are digitally progressive political campaigns, issue-based campaigns and then we have a history on working on a lot of women’s empowerment initiatives, from the very beginning of the work that we’ve been doing in around 2014, working with a lot of women candidates and then that kind of turned into working with more women’s organizations that are working to get more women elected, so definitely more progressive issues although fortunately the women’s empowerment initiatives is not necessarily a partisan one, which is great, but yeah, so, mostly political campaigns and non-profit advocacy. We’ve worked with a few higher level campaign senate campaigns, congressional campaigns, but then we also work with a lot of more local campaigns because we see that that’s really where the digital can make the difference and they have that competitive advantage where under larger races, that’s just kind of a given that the digital is going to be a part of the process and a part of the campaign but on the more local level, we can kind of have a bigger impact since maybe the other side doesn’t have as fancy of a website or branding doesn’t have online ads so we also try to make a difference there and help people tell their stories online.
Gary:
Great! And I just want to point out for the…this is a follow-up question for the audience: So, you’re making a living doing this. The argument is like, well there’s just not enough for that philanthropic kind of feel-good work out there to make a living, so you obviously are?
Marne:
Yes. I would beg to differ! So, a lot of…we’re a little bit unique, because we are a hybrid firm. We do the digital strategy consulting but then we also do the design and development of not just the development of websites but we create tools for campaigns to use and Mike is our Creative Director and does awesome branding work so we do everything from branding to building their online presence and then leading that, so a lot of firms that do similar work don’t do the website side of things and they also kind of stick to either the political campaigns or they work with the issue-based campaigns and that requires a lot of cyclical hiring and we avoid that so we’ve found that by working, merging those two areas and not just working with large campaigns but working with the more local ones that there is a lot of folks to work with and especially given the election year, a lot of non-profits have kind of had more of a lobbying advocacy arm pop up and I’m sure you can imagine that since November eighth, that had grown significantly and a lot of those issue-based campaigns and non-profits that are working on more progressive issues, funding has been streaming in because people are now realizing, maybe these things are threatened so it’s sort of a silver lining to something that to us was…
Mike:
Concerning issue…
Marne:
Yeah, very concerning.
Mike:
But, to build on that, and all those areas I feel like are ripe for good design and the sort of…easier to understand just approach that solid typography can allow you to have and someone paying attention to information architecture and hierarchy, all those things, there’s a lot of room for improvement in a lot of those areas, so that’s something I find exciting.
Gary:
And this is a follow-up question that I didn’t ask you and I didn’t think about beforehand that Marne, when she was describing: November eighth, everything changed and now we’re seeing a proliferation of orgs and all these other things that are starting to come up and some of them are fake! So, now that we’ve got this proliferation of positive orgs and some of them are fake, what do you do? Do you have any advice or any kind of things you think, how can we distinguish between a real org and a fake org, because some of them, some of these things that are popping up are pretty visually sophisticated that I wouldn’t think to fact-check right away.
Marne:
Yeah, well to be perfectly honest, I haven’t heard of fake organizations quite yet.
Gary:
Swing Left!
Marne:
Oh, OK.
Gary:
Check it out!
Marne:
Well, I have heard of Swing Left but I guess…Veracity, when we are looking for clients; most of our clients, people refer folks to us and in that case, we have friends or people in our network or previous clients who have been working with these organizations for a while or it’s someone in our network is starting a non-profit so we know that it’s legitimate, so fortunately, we have not run into an issue with a fake organization yet, but we definitely do our research and we have many conversations with folks before we start working with them because like we mentioned before, we like to make sure that we’re working on issues and for candidates that we really support because that makes everyone’s work a lot better and more meaningful.
Gary:
All right. So, this is another off-topic question before we get started on the design aspect of things is, I notice that you use the NationBuilder CMS for a lot of your client’s sites. So, designing for a CMS, at least to me from when I’ve been doing it, has been problematic in that designs tend to look the same and I don’t mean because if there’s only a few different templates that you make, rather because each CMS has its own unique make-up, that can be limiting to developers trying to implement the designs. So, how do you overcome this?
Mike:
So, yes, we tend to use…we have used NationBuilder for a chunk of our projects, although we’ve been transitioning more to a Wordpress workflow just because of the flexibility that allows, but NationBuilder is great for some things and not so great at other things. It’s one of the few CMSs where it’s like a one-stop shop for fundraising and communication and forms and bonds, here sign-ups and that kinda thing but from a technical side, it has a lot of shortcomings; basically there’s not a lot of control over the development side of things in the back end in what you can give to users to…and by users I mean clients to update. So there’s a few technical limitations that basically there’s only a few areas where it can be a user enterable headline field or body-text field so we have to sort of work around that and it’s really just becoming intimately familiar with NationBuilder and all of its little quirks and learning how to hack around things that might not have been intended but are still possible. One little feature that I know we’ve implemented is for one of our emails, so, NationBuilder has, they’ve decided that three buttons, three action buttons are really important and that’s somehow across the entire site and we don’t use those for most things but we somehow leveraged a way to make the button appear so it was loading the most recent blog-posts; it was essentially just functioning as a variable and we used the button in a very hacky way to load the most recent blogpost into an email and that’s not possible with vanilla NationBuilder, it was kind of a hacky way to do it so it’s things like that, learning to work around the restrictions of the system and, as you said, try not to keep it feeling the same for every client and that kind of thing.
Gary:
Yeah, and I was wondering, I was very specifically thinking about things like NationBuilder, Squarespace…I can’t think of another proprietary online…Shopify, I mean, they have their own code base that you really can’t go in and hack like you could with Wordpress, or write a plug-in for, so I was wondering how that…
Mike:
Sure, so those are two different…it’s kind of like templates versus a little bit of custom and we’ve done both for NationBuilder, so there are…we have pre-packaged templates that we’ve branded and it’s basically, this is your look and feel, you get to plug in your logo and your fonts and your colors but basically, the overall structure is there and that’s obviously at a cheaper price-point than a fully custom site where it’s like, OK, we’ll work with you on really fleshing out the visual elements of your brand like, how should the buttons look in accordance to your brand guides or what should the imagery be and what’s the most…that’s when we allow ourselves to start thinking about hierarchy and layout and so there’s two different…and NationBuilder does allow most of those things: the fully custom side is trickier to do technically but it’s still possible but out-of-the-box NationBuilder, the way they present it to, it is a lot like Squarespace where it’s like pick your theme, name your organization, drop in your logo and that’s what you get. So there is a lot of that but also NationBuilder does allow for custom templating and not anywhere near the customization level as Wordpress but probably more so than Squarespace.
Gary:
OK. So now onto the real questions. Can you talk about how you approach the project for an organization like Representation20/20 versus creating work for individuals like Sandra Fluke and Greg Orman? And I probably should just let the audience know, Representation20/20 is an organization empowering women, giving them tools to run for office and Sandra and Greg were actual two people who did run for office. And I’m asking this because on the surface, design is design and you would think that the approach would be the same but as I was sitting there thinking about it, I was wondering if creating a site for an organization versus an individual would require some kind of…would it require different approaches?
Mike:
Yeah, sure. Really, the core difference there, and obviously there are some similarities, but the core difference there is, or at least the way I approached it is, one essentially is promoting a person and the other is really promoting an idea, so for the campaign side of it, it’s really promoting an individual, the candidate themselves, and that probably impacts things like imagery choices more than typography choices as far as the nitty-gritty differences there. So, for a campaign, something that’s crucial is you need to have their head shot somewhere above the fold, it needs to be something that everyone sees first because a candidate without a face is not a candidate at all and most people, sub-consciously or not, we connect to other things emotively through eye contact and even in still photography, that eye contact is critical, so having the head shot fairly high up is exceedingly important for any kind of candidate website. An organization might not have…some might have a face to the organization, like a celebrity that gave their endorsement or other things, but most, or at least the ones we’ve worked with, generally try to promote some idea: ending sexual violence on campus or raising awareness for the under-representation of women in elected office which is Representation20/20, so it’s more of a…and not to say…there’s a very important human element to that idea, so there should be still imagery of pictures: sorry, imagery of people; you wouldn’t want it to be completely sterile and non-human, but it’s less so.

It’s more focused on creating this idea of a welcoming environment and a friendly community of like-minded individuals where you can have the open conversation and get the information that you want. And there’s obviously a lot of similarities between all these things from one perspective, good typography is good typography, but from another, what’s the authenticity of the typography as it relates to the candidate or their organization does play an actual factor and there are some…this is getting in a little bit of a tangent but some certain candidates, there’s actually…and I noticed this in the 2016 election cycle, there’s actually been a bit of a push-back from the general populace on good design because it feels a little, from a certain perspective, if it’s overly designed, which you could make the argument that the Hillary campaign, that was very meticulously designed, that was many designers sitting around talking about what’s the best way to present on this and personally, I responded to do it very well; I loved all the typography and imagery that the Hillary campaign was putting out but it feels inauthentic from a certain perspective because it’s been over-worked, it’s been, quote-unquote, Washington elites have been looking at this and analyzing the efficacy of serifs to sans serifs or whatever, so kind of there’s been almost a rise of anti-design which you could…I read a pretty good article that says, the Make America Great Again hat is basically the epitome of anti-design; it’s just Times on a red hat; no one really thought about the design process there but it’s become this icon; it was one of the true icons of the 2016 cycle and it’s certainly grown larger than itself. So there’s something to be said about…anti-design kind of sounds a little harsh but something about the not-so-polished may be a little bit less cutting edge, a little less modern, going back to something like the skeuomorphism of the early two thousands that plays a little bit better with certain demographics.

Gary:
That’s a really interesting statement that you made. Not a statement, but the idea that you floated out there because too as a designer, I had a crush on the Hillary Team for everything that they did for the websites, for all the little micro-sites they did, I thought they were…I loved them; like I said, they were simply stunning for me as a designer, but I never thought about how did the general public feel about that and how did they approach it and I bring up, I think something like the best political posters through history are not the well, super-polished ones; they’re the super-crappy thrown together, we need to get a message out, and I keep going back to the main one from the Vietnam era question really simply, is this a photo? And I can’t remember the military campaign that they were doing but essentially it was just a picture of the slaughter of a village with a big queue and babies A: yes, babies. It was just…it wasn’t pretty but it was the most powerful poster I’ve ever seen come out of that era of stuff and unfortunately that stupid hat fits into that same kind of iconic, simple, quick, throw it out there and it sticks with you.
Mike:
Yeah, I mean certainly when the message has staying power, I don’t know, I’d like to say from the flip side, no design will really help a bad message succeed.
Gary:
True.
Mike:
But from the other side of things, really bad…if the message is so good, design will be hard to bring it down; it will succeed in spite of bad design, I suppose is a better way to say that. But obviously, I still thing good design can elevate it even further, but it doesn’t mean it will completely kill the idea.
Gary:
So, what kind of user…this actually is a good lead-in about then, so, what kind of user research do you do when you create your sites? Is it something that the client brings to you? For example, if Greg Orman who was running for US Senate in Kansas, did he bring the research to you saying, hey, this is what I think my demographic is, or…
Mike:
So, it’s a combination of things. We have a questionnaire that we present our clients in our whole on-boarding process and so it’s a combination of them bringing in basically what they think the audience is, what they think the audience they want to reach, basically in your sort of traditional marketing demographics, like eighteen to twenty-five or eighteen to forty and that kind of thing and their various interests and that’s important for both from a design perspective and from a marketing and advertising target perspective, because that’s all good for finding the key words to target Facebook ads and other ads and that kind of thing, so it’s a combination of the client coming in with their own audience and then us doing our own research through any kind of various methods. If we have contacts that we know: it’s a pretty small political world here so everyone knows somebody that’s worked somewhere and just doing research on various websites and that kind of thing, just to get a better sense of the kinds of needs for the local community or however big it is.
Marne:
And there’s a few differences between doing the preliminary research for organizations versus candidates and the size of an organization also makes a really big difference. Oftentimes, if we come in and it’s a political campaign and they’ve already done one round of polling, they’ve already had a poll out on the fields, we can get a much better idea of who their audience is and what are the top three issues that they care about and work from there and that’s…I’m sure that influences the design; I don’t want to say it definitely does because Mike’s a Creative Director and I am not a design person, but that definitely influences the content and what we present online and for organizations, sometimes the smaller ones don’t have the money to put polls out on the field or to have focus groups, so a lot of that is more us learning about the supporters that they currently have and sometimes that’s through ads and targeting that way and then learning a it more about their support base and then other times they will have a very varied audience and give us as much information as they have about their own audience and then we kind of continue to do our own research there.
Gary:
Marne, I want to ask…I wanted to ask it earlier but I put it off, but can you define…you said there’s a design process and there’s a digital strategy process. Can you just talk a little bit more about what digital strategy is or put it into context for us?
Marne:
Yeah. So, like I mentioned earlier, Veracity’s a hybrid agency and sometimes we…maybe we’ll have a client, all that we’re doing is digital strategy consulting for them and what that means is auditing…it starts usually with an audit of everything that they are doing online from all of their social media accounts to online fund-raising to their email campaigns to their website and figuring out what is working, what most of their supporters are engaging with, what thing is falling off the radar and putting together a larger picture strategy for how they should be engaging their supporters, which audiences they should start to target if they aren’t already and plans to do that which includes content for social media; it includes a really big design piece as well, sometimes a re-brand is something that we suggest and it includes sometimes a new website, social media help, online ads; anything that is front-facing online for an organization to try to gain more supporters and engage their current supporters because usually that’s kind of the thing that is the common thread between all of our clients is that they have a group of supporters that they want to engage online to either reach some social good or to get elected. So, the digital strategy or the digital strategist is the person who looks at all of this big picture stuff, often works with Mike and the design team, to create this digital strategy so that they can be heard when there are so many people talking about the same issue or treeing to get elected to the same office, so we can try to give them that digital edge.

How that works with a design project or a website development project is, the digital strategist kind of has two roles: one is a project manager, so, the one who works with the client, is the point of contact for the client to get all of the information from the client; we keep them updated, make sure that our design team and developers have everything that they need for when they start their part of the project, if it’s a website build. But then they are also involved in…a lot of that is translating between our developers and designers and the client and especially if it’s a political campaign and a candidate is involved that often requires a lot of turning design or development-speak into layman’s terms, so it’s really kind of playing a mediator and convincing if…one of the hardest things I think, especially with political candidates since everything is about their image really, online and their main messages so they feel very protective over that, which makes a lot of sense but sometimes that creates issue when we suggest that they achieve one goal by doing one thing on a website but they’re convinced that they need something else which is just a totally terrible decision for the user experience and so in that case, it’s the digital strategists how…and with Mike’s help, usually push them back and try to explain why maybe what…how we can reach that goal through a different design or different messaging, so that’s why I kind of called them a mediator for website projects because it’s not always the easiest to convince people that they don’t necessarily know what is the best design or what is the best to get a new supporter to give their e3mail or to sign up to volunteer, so we work to figure out those user flows…

Mike:
To put it another way, oftentimes people will ask for one thing but really it’s another that will actually serve the goal that they’re trying to achieve, so it’s figuring out that balance.
Gary:
One quick follow-up on being a design strategist. What kind of training…are there colleges…I’m aware of it and it’s not like I’m unaware, but is there any kind of specific training for this that exists, or are you just finding people that have just naturally figured out how to do this?
Marne:
For digital strategists?
Gary:
Yeah.
Marne:
Yeah, so there are definitely, now there are courses; there’s a lot of certificate programs on social media marketing, digital marketing and that’s usually how the more formal courses are marketed. But those often focus…unless you are going to somewhere like George Mason or something where really everyone is there because they want to work in DC, it’s normally more corporate digital marketing, B2B marketing, so usually what we look for is someone who has experience working on a digital team on campaigns, or for non-profits because that’s when you really…it’s less about selling something and more about marketing an idea, so there are some formal training programs but that’s not a pre-requisite of joining our team or really any campaign or non-profit who’s hiring for a digital strategist or a digital communications director or something, that’s often what it’s also called, so there are some formal programs but a lot of it is more understanding the campaign culture, non-profit culture, understanding how your supporters think and a lot of that is just kind of being immersed in this world for a bit rather than taking a course on how people think.
Gary:
Yeah…
Mike:
And actually…sorry…
Gary:
No, go ahead.
Mike:
I wanted to jump in and go back to something Marne said about the digital strategist role, just because I feel like this isn’t said enough in some of the design circles. Personally I think it’s something that’s massively important to the entire process: someone who’s with me, who is the main client point of contact so I don’t have to worry about keeping somebody happy just as a person as well as creating great design deliverables and that’s one of the differences with freelancing is, you kind of have to function as both roles but I really love just the freedom that having a project manager allows you and…someone to bounce ideas off of and keep you heading in the right direction so it’s…I don’t hear it enough because often a lot of designers have egos and are like, no, I know exactly how to do everything the right way, but in my opinion, I think it’s a very critical and helpful role.
Gary:
Can either of you…the way you describe digital strategists, I see how it’s different than user experience design, but at the same time there’s also a lot of similarities. Or at least, I see and perceive them.
Mike:
Yeah, so that’s probably actually one of the other hats that I personally wear is the user experience designer which is not so much pixel pushing and colors as it is information architecture and user flow and kind of hierarchy kind of things and so those positions are where I work…sorry, that’s the area where I work mostly closely with the digital strategist, because they typically have, as the person who’s been talking to the client this whole time, they have a bit better sense of their goals and what exactly they’re looking for, even if it’s not concrete…if it’s an idea that’s hard to put it into words, so it’s that kind of…to put a real life example, it’s usually we’ll have these long wire-framing sessions of me and the point person or the strategist and we’ll sit down and figure out exactly the order of the home page sections and how many top nav items there should be and what should…what the call to action should be on the hero versus in the nav versus halfway down the page and the client wants this one specific feature and how do we implement that on an interior page or do we do it dynamically through JavaScript or that kind of thing and so that’s where the bulk of those UX kind of questions kind of come in and so it is very much a process, a collaboration with the strategist and the designers together.
Gary:
All right, at Veracity Media, you also created a website for the Know Your …
Marne:
Know Your IX (Nine)
Gary:
Know Your IX? OK, and so it’s basically an organization that empowers students to inform them about schools and how they’re legally required to respond and remedy hostile education environments which could range from a different…a broad scope of things, so, can you talk about the Know Your IX project, just from the initial client meeting; from initial client meeting to final project, final product launch and cover things like what type of user research was done prior to designing and cover how do design strategists and designers and developers all work together on something like that?
Mike:
Yeah, so, first off, Marne I’ll let you jump in right here, but just to clarify: so, for Know Your IX we did a re-brand, so a new logo and new identity package there and then a website refresh that was based on one of our Wordpress themes but it has all of those have a decent amount of customer work into it as well, so a logo and website.
Marne:
Yeah, and so for Know Your IX, I mentioned this earlier, one of…I try to have as many women’s empowerment initiatives as clients because that’s something that I am very passionate about and a lot of our team and so Know Your IX, they basically help educate students about their legal rights to safe education free from gender-based harms; I just need to put this little plug in that it is more than girls can have a sports team and a lot of people don’t know that! So, Know Your IX was on our radar for a while just because we’re a pretty young team, Know Your IX is involved in a lot of campuses across the country and had seen that their website was not the greatest and one of their main goals is to get folks to come to their boot-camps on different campuses and get them to reach out to legislators and also to educate them, so there are so many different goals of this organization and good goals, so we noticed that on their website it’s very unclear what they actually want people to do, so we reached out to them about a new website and met with them and this is actually a good example of how our developers and digital strategists and designers work together.

Our first meeting with them, I brought along our developer to talk to them more about the user-flow and just get a better idea of what exactly they were looking for in their website because at first, we weren’t sure…this is also a big part of our role, this figuring out what type of website and what level of website fits best for different clients, so that’s why in those conversations, those early conversations, we often include a designer or a developer so that we make sure that the type of website that we’re creating for them is really going to meet their goals so that initial meeting was figuring that out, learning more about their audience; they have a very…pretty clear audience since they target folks in the later years of high school and in college so, targeting there is pretty simple, especially if they were to do ads, it would be pretty simple because you could target college campuses but…so that discussion was originally just about a website and then I’m pretty sure that I looped Mike in and we realized that they need a new logo to kind of…they needed an update if their audience was young, Millennial college students, it needed to be a little bit more modern of branding, it’s something that since they do a lot of on the ground activities, something that they can put on all of their training pamphlets and posters, so that’s where the design element kind of came in there and Mike’s input, at the very beginning of the project led to us also doing the re-brand. So that’s kind of how the very beginning conversation started. I’ll let you, Mike, kind of hop into the design part.

(39:47)
Mike:
Sure. And one of the things that actually really excited me about this project…I don’t know, there’s probably…a lot of this….sorry. One of the things that Know Your IX actually said to us was: look, we acknowledge that this is an emotional and touchy subject and this is a very trying time for a lot of people but basically the attitude of the organization is, this is a really unfortunate situation but there are real tools out there, there are real solutions, so we’re just having a very positive…and they actually said, kind of edgy and radical face to this organization just being more of a …hey, let’s get this done; there are real solutions out there. So that was a really exciting kind of perspective and attitude to us all; it wasn’t kind of sappy or any kind of…overly emotional attitude, so it was very…and also the other thing was that they were adamant about it not being gendered. Obviously, this sexual violence happens more to women than to men but it was…they didn’t want it to come off as, this is a girls’ organization: no one is barred from learning about their rights and receiving the protections that they’re entitled to. So, from that, that was a great…I felt very welcomed by that perspective and it was something I totally agree with so that was a really cool way and I think that led a lot of the different design decisions, like the really edginess of the sans serif typeface that I chose for the main wordmark, which was radical…I forget the foundry on that, but it’s this combination of Goth and Futura that’s one of my favorite fonts, typefaces lately, and so just the kind of overall edginess that they wanted to keep and grow, really determined a lot of the things. So they already had a sort of black and red color scheme so I wanted to…that was working really well; one of the images that we saw early on was one of the things that they had done was they had people tape red I-Xs, red IXs to their graduation caps and it was this awesome photo of a whole group of people that had it and it was cool enough and kind of…it piqued people’s curiosity so the point was for people to go like, what’s that I-X mean? And then that’s where you start the conversation and so that was something I wanted to highlight and definitely allow to grow so I wanted to really double-down on that, on the color scheme so that’s where the really bold red and black colors came from and everything sort of circled around how they wanted to present themselves, so it was a really fun process to explore those areas.
Gary:
And the Know Your IX organization, they cover…I should have said in the beginning, it seems like sexual assault is the main…not the main…I’ll let you say it because you worked with it, but it seems like there’s more to that, in addition to sexual assault there’s also a bullying, because it does happen in college campuses; people are afraid to come to class and so it covers all that kind of stuff too, correct?
Mike:
Yes. So, the way they self-described themselves is it’s an organization that aims to empower students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools so there are always…it’s not obviously just limited to physical violence; there’s a lot of intimidation, like you said, that it’s all sort of rolled into what’s considered sexual assault so it’s very all related but it’s empowering students and educating them about what their legal rights are and what the avenue is for if those rights have been violated.
Gary:
Yeah, I guess that was a better way to ask my question is that there is a broader scope that their legal rights are…there’s a broader scope to what they’re covered under their legal rights, I guess that was a better way to say that.
Mike:
Yes, and Marne you would agree with that, right?
Marne:
Yeah
Gary:
Anyway, the reason I was bringing that up is just because I think, quite frankly, I’m a college Professor: I knew nothing about this! I mean, I knew about the sexual assault on campus but I didn’t know about the Know Your IX organization and I’m just a little ashamed of myself that I didn’t so I just wanted to talk about it, so hopefully other educators will…like, oh…
Marne:
Yes, absolutely. Spread the word because their target audience and the folks that they’re really talking to are students but a huge part of that is letting students know what the education system and what their university’s responsibilities are and the actions that they are required to take, so there are also…they also provide resources on, if your university is not taking these actions that they are required to, what do you do next? So, it’s a lot of…it’s all actions that people can take after they have been exposed to some sort of gender-based discrimination but also provides resources for educators and folks who are supporting the people who have gone through one of these experiences so it’s a much broader scope than just people who have been a victim of sexual assault on campus: they provide a lot of great resources.
Mike:
Yeah, actually one of the specific things that I like is they have a guide for journalists on how to report on it and also a guide for families and friends of victims and how they should be…how to act really because it’s a difficult time for everybody involved so there’s a lot of good resources that they have.
Gary:
And I’ll put the…is the site live?
Marne:
It is not yet live. But the new site is definitely…it should be live within the next week actually but one of the big things that we spent a lot of time doing was figuring out how to make all of these resources a lot clearer, making sure that things weren’t redundant across the site and so that folks who were looking for a specific resource could find that easily so that was one of the big kind of hurdles that we jumped at the beginning of the project was, totally redoing their site map, so that’s another thing that I think is probably part of the UX design bit, but was really important for their new site.
Mike:
Right, because one of the things that always seems to happen, they have…it’s a great organization that has a phenomenal list of resources and there’s usually…it’s usually an overwhelming list of resources just because there’s so many that they grew over time so we tried to steer away from just having a one page that has just a list of links because no one can really scan that easily’ it’s just not good from a UX perspective so it’s figuring out how to organize that and through acts like card-sorting and other UX things to make it all logical and make it make sense.
Gary:
OK, so, great. And once the site goes live I will make sure that we put the link to the site in the show notes so everybody can go and visit it. All right, so we’re getting close on time, so before I let the both of you go, is there anything that either of you are working on personally that you would like to share or talk about?
Marne:
I would just say that personally, my passion is getting women elected to office; I know we’ve talked about Know Your IX which is not actually doing that but sort of in the same vein, but working with organizations like Vote Run Lead, She Should Run, Representation20/20 and working with a lot of women candidates is kind of my passion area and something that I strive to do more and more of, not just through Veracity but lending my time outside of that and volunteering on campaigns, I think that now, more than ever, that is becoming more and more important, so personally finding more ways to contribute to those organizations and candidates is something that I like to do and at Veracity it’s a great place to do it because we do get to work with so many awesome organizations and we do a lot of things like hosting events and trainings with some of those other organizations that I mentioned like She Should Run and Vote Run Lead to kind of build that new bench of talent from the ground up, so that’s my passion area and why I enjoy working at Veracity because I get to work with a lot of those organizations.
Gary:
Can you talk a little bit …you said…correct me if I’m wrong. Did you say workshop, do you do training or you talk to organizations like She Should Run or consult with, can you say, can you give an example of what you do?
Marne:
Yeah, so, for example we have had a few kind of workshop training conference events up in New York City with Vote Run Lead which is an organization that recruits women and also trains them when they are running for office so everything from the digital strategy side of things to fundraising to hiring your campaign staff; so we’ve teamed up with them and sponsored a few of those events and contributed on the digital strategy side so when they do the trainings there’s a lot of break-out sessions and usually someone from the Veracity team would lead that and kind of what do you need to know at the beginning when you’re starting your campaign, what do you need to have set up? You need….what sort of social media accounts do you need to reach your audience? What type of website will you need? Just everything from the online messaging to the actual infrastructure of everything that you…of your website. So, we’ve teamed up with Vote Run Lead a few times to do that and also with She Should Run which is another organization that’s DC based that kind of focuses on a younger age group and is trying to change the culture and let young girls know that you can actually run for office; they just did a partnership with Barbie where they had Barbie President and Vice President dolls that was like a package duo and they were both women, so, working with clients like that and helping them promote those initiatives is something that we do and love to do.
Gary:
Fantastic. I love that you’re doing that; it’s a great ways to help. So, anything else, Mike, that you want to add or…
Mike:
I would certainly echo all that, I mean, that’s one of the great parts about Veracity is being able to work on stuff that you care about and it really makes…when it’s something you personally want to succeed, it makes the entire process that much smoother and that much more enjoyable and usually easier too when you’re…it’s just quicker to come up with things and it’s just better for everybody so it’s really exciting to be able to do that kind of thing.
Gary:
OK, so that’s all we have time for today on Episode 41 of Design Edu Today. I want to thank today’s guests, Marne and Mike, for being so generous with their time. I want to thank the audience for listening and I want to thank the DesignEDU Today hosting sponsor, Digital Ocean, and CDN sponsor Fastly, for making the hosting and distribution of these podcasts possible. I also want to thank the AIGA and the AIGA Design Educators’ Community for their generous support of my research that led to this podcast series.

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