Design > Brand Environment & Experience Design

BOARDS OF CHANGE

FCB CHICAGO, Chicago / CITY OF CHICAGO / 2021

Awards:

Gold Cannes Lions
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Overview

Credits

Overview

Background

When righteous anger over the murder of George Floyd brought millions out in the streets, the 2020 U.S. election offered a ray of hope in the fight for change. But decades of disenfranchisement and voter suppression left many Black Americans feeling like their vote didn’t count. Unable to stand by, Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot wanted Black voters to matter.

In partnership with “When We All Vote,” the voter rights organization founded by former first Lady Michelle Obama, the City of Chicago aimed to bring the engagement seen during the George Floyd protests from the streets to the polls. The main objectives were to change the culture around voting and to increase the number of registrations and voters within Chicago’s Black community, and in extension within the entire nation.

Describe the creative idea

During the civil unrest, many buildings and stores barricaded their windows with plywood boards. It wasn’t long before those plain plywood boards became canvases for underrepresented communities to voice their frustrations, hopes and cries for change. The most striking plywood boards—seen by many as symbols of destruction—were transformed into tools to take concrete action: voting booths. The collection of various booths was then turned into an impactful exhibition that traveled to dozens of Chicago’s Black and Brown neighborhoods, to inspire residents to create systemic change through the power of their vote. The booths also initiated the crucial first step in the voting process: registration, through a simple smartphone scan.

Describe the execution

The most striking boards from different Chicago neighborhoods were collected with the cooperation of the store owners and the artists. Every illustration was created in each artist’s unique style, inspired by their personal experience with racism and the protests.

The artwork and hopeful messages painted on the boards during the civil unrest were left unaltered. The most relevant pieces were carefully jigsawed out and put together in a way that allowed everyone to read and see the powerful messages and understand the meaning behind them. A “Register to Vote” message was stenciled onto the booths and a handcrafted wooden plaque with a QR code was attached to the writing surface. Out of plywood we also constructed an exhibition sign, explaining the story behind the booths.

The finished installation then traveled to dozens of Chicago’s Black & Brown neighborhoods, many of which were home to the artists.

List the results

The message of Boards of Change resonated throughout the entire nation, thanks to massive press coverage by Fox, MSN, ABC, Forbes, The New York Times, as well as making the front page of the Chicago Tribune. When being featured by NBC’s Nightly News with Lester Holt, Boards of Change was called “inspiring, meaningful and creative.”

The campaign exceeded its communication objective of reaching all eligible Black Chicagoans and empowered millions of Black Americans to know that their vote counts. Chicago achieved a record number of registrations and voters. There was a big increase in registrations and an overall turnout of 73%.

Boards of Change also positioned the brand of The City of Chicago as a diverse, inclusive, resilient and creative place for both residents and visitors.

Today, Boards of Change lives on at the DuSable Museum for African American History, as part of a historic moment for the Black community.

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