On March 13, 2020, plainclothes officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department burst into the home of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor and fired their weapons, killing Taylor. The tragic incident and others gave rise to protests around the country and globe against racism and police violence—and deeply wounded the city of Louisville, Kentucky, with citizens and community leaders alike demanding justice.
As local and national media focused on reporting the facts of the case, Louisville Magazine wanted to take a deeper dive into the emotions and the human side of the shooting and its aftermath—and designer Sarah Flood-Baumann was brought on board to help tell the story visually.
At PRINT, we were moved by the powerful results of the work. As Flood-Baumann wrote in her PRINT Awards entry, “All design decisions were made with purpose and, hopefully, my work helped document this moment in Louisville’s history with care and dignity.”
The inclusion of yellow in the color palette calls to mind the police tape that blanketed the city. Pull quotes were fully justified to invoke the constant newspaper commentary. Photographs by Andrew Cenci and Mickie Winters resonated deeply, and often stood on their own.
“Without sounding too grandiose, this issue was and probably will be one of the most important projects I’ve ever had the humble honor of working on,” Flood-Baumann says. “I wanted to do right by Ms. Taylor, her family, and to take the most precious care in helping illuminate the frustrations, hopes and lives of all Black Louisvillians.”
Here, we speak with Flood-Baumann about the work that our editorial team selected as the Editor’s Choice winner of the 2020 PRINT Awards.
You’ve worked with Louisville Magazine in the past. When did you first start to build a relationship with them?
In late 2019, I had just made a temporary move back to my hometown of Louisville and I was hoping to get plugged into the local design scene in a freelance capacity. Via a cold email, I reached out to Louisville Magazine’s amazing and fearless editor, Josh Moss, and it happened to be great timing as the previous art director just vacated her design desk and he was assembling a freelance design team.
How did this commission come about?
As this book was coming together, we were sitting right in the middle of the pandemic and the Breonna Taylor protesting had really escalated. Louisville Magazine presents storytelling that goes beyond the standard news angles of the other local media outlets. We needed to approach and explore this pivotal moment and conversation in our city’s history in a deeper way.
Given the gravity of the subject matter, it had to be done 100% right. Were you daunted taking it on, and helping to tell these stories?
To say this task was daunting was an understatement. As a white woman working on a magazine with an all-white team, I remember being really worried about getting it wrong. I didn’t want my privileged viewpoint to obscure, distort or edit the voices we wanted to amplify.
What was the turnaround on the project?
During the creation phase, the “No Justice, No Peace” section was constantly changing based on the breaking news [of] this moment. I came into the design conversations in early June 2020 and the final book was uploaded to the printers at the end of July 2020.
How much art direction were you given, and how much were you free to interpret and design on your own?
Thankfully, my editor is very much on the “try and experiment” train, so I wasn’t held back with much direction. The artwork had already been assigned and turned in when I came on board for this issue, so it was just a matter of using what I had to create the design.
You employed typography so powerfully. At what point in the process did you know that was key to the project?
After reading gut-punch pull quotes like, “Black people have been fighting two pandemics,” I knew I had to strip away any unnecessary design assets that would have diverted attention from the Black leaders’ voices. The meat of the story was to truly listen to their words and experiences, and so layering on design assets for the sake of my own designer ego would have been wildly inappropriate and counterproductive to the message at hand.
Tell us about your selection of Vocal Type Co.’s Martin typeface.
I chose the Martin typeface because its origins are rooted in the same messages of the “No Justice, No Peace” movement and protest. Designed by Tré Seals of Vocal Type Co., this typeface was inspired by the “I AM A MAN” protest posters seen in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the Memphis sanitation workers’ protest, and just one day after his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel. Martin is bold and beautiful, and then adding its connection to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the decision to employ the typeface was a no-brainer.
You’ve described the design as “unapologetic.” Tell us more.
When I describe the design as unapologetic, I mean that the design doesn’t shy away from the reader. It’s not nervous to make a statement or to highlight uncomfortable words. The design decisions from the typography, to the composition and to the unobtrusive color palette, [forcing] the reader to consume the words spoken from these Black leaders. This design doesn’t try to gloss over the ugliness of Louisville and paint it pretty. It shows no regrets for being honest about the treatment and experiences of Black Louisvillians.
One of the highlighted pull quotes from Brianna Harlan says, “Anything that tries to make our Blackness smaller is the enemy. And we have zero tolerance for that.” I didn’t want to demur or quiet their voices and so for that I hoped to design a piece that was unapologetic in its own truth.
Tell us about the significance of your color palette of black, white and yellow.
For the color palette, I had two goals. The first goal was to make a nod back to the black-and-white “I AM A MAN” posters, and the second goal was to keep the color profile simple so that words went unimpeded by the design. In utilizing pops of yellow on the portraits of all seven of the Black leaders, my intent was to hint that these folks are bright
spots of hope and are the seeds to change the future.
Tell us more about how the images break and flow to subsequent spreads, and the thinking behind it.
In our early brainstorming meetings about this issue, Josh kept coming back to how time felt so warped with the pandemic happening alongside the heated protests. Without literally showing a clock, I spilled images beyond the bleed and onto the next page so that we can see a timeline of sorts. It shows the continuation of time while hinting that the world in Louisville felt (and continues to feel) disjointed and broken.
What was your criteria for success for the project?
Personally, the success for this story was that it brought pause, reflection and ultimately actionable change to the citizens of Louisville. To document, preserve and present the most underrepresented voices of our community for our current and future generations to read was also a mark of success.
Are you happy with the results?
From a design standpoint, I couldn’t be happier with the results. I was honored to work for the Louisville Magazine name and to have collaborated with a group of such talented creatives. My work didn’t happen in a vacuum and I’m thankful for everyone involved in getting this issue off the ground and in the hands of my fellow Louisvillians.