Following 50 years of success, the National Endowment for the Arts knew that they needed to keep their momentum going by sharing their wins with current legislators and government officials while appealing to their future base: today’s millennials and Generation Z. They needed a visual strategy that would speak to the competing tastes of these two audiences equally, without alienating any demographic, and instead inspire continued support.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. The NEA’s continued investment in the arts are in the very things that make this country great: creativity, inspiration, and hard work. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities.
The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. The NEA’s strategic goals rely on a thorough engagement with individuals and groups both within and outside the arts and cultural sectors.
The NEA’s Office of Public Affairs developed a communications plan built on four objectives:
- Maintain and enhance a positive, credible, and meaningful image of the NEA
- Establish the NEA as the bully pulpit on arts and cultural dialogue in the U.S.
- Expand brand awareness and engagement via digital properties
- Strengthen the NEA’s communication capacity
They needed a visual strategy that would help them meet their communication goals and tell their story in a way that engaged audiences both in DC and around the country.
We worked closely with the NEA, flying to Washington, DC, to meet their team and pinpoint particular needs and audience considerations. Our proposal included a comprehensive visual campaign to extend over five years which included visual language development, static infographics, motion graphics, interactive web experiences, and a deep workbench of assets for use in presentations and live events, all executed in a proprietary style developed by our team that met the NEA’s data visualization goals and spoke to dynamic American designs of the past.
We met with the NEA to discover as much as we could about their audiences and desired aesthetics. We pinpointed several audiences:
Americans in General
Grantees and Grant Seekers
Developing a Visual Language
The Killer Visual Strategies team proposed an overarching design aesthetic with enough flexibility to cater to each of these audiences. The style guide also needed to take into account the need for character illustrations and the need for clean, approachable data visualization.
The style needed to be engaging, but not cartoonish or whimsical because it would be used on everything from infographics distributed on social media to images in reports shown to legislators. With this in mind, we pitched several style options that we felt would not only meet their goals, but speak to the dynamic American designs of the past. After presenting each option, we combined the feedback to develop a detailed style guide along with hundreds of custom vector assets to create the NEA’s new visual language.
Our style was simple, yet allowed for varied iconography. Parallel lines connected different design elements, and data viz and illustrations overlapped and interacted with each other instead of remaining separate and discrete. The colors and fonts were modern and bold, and tailored to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The NEA has deployed our work across all channels, from social media to the 50th anniversary website to printed banners they used to decorate the stage for their Chairmen’s Discussion Panel. Here are some of our favorite projects: