Inside The White House: An Exclusive with Ashleigh Axios

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White House creative director Ashleigh Axios is a judge of HOW’s 2015 In-House Design Awards. Want her eyes on your work? Enter before the final deadline, July 10.


There’s no denying that last week was an historic one, both for the United States at large and for the creatives inside the White House. What strikes us as particularly beautiful here at Print is the integral role that design has played in the evolution of the gay and lesbian movement overall as well as in direct response to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week. This is perhaps most clearly—or at least most quickly—observed on social media, where many of us first learn of breaking news these days. If you spent any amount of time on social media last Friday, chances are you were greeted by a multitude of graphics—especially on Twitter under hashtags like #lovewins and of course #SCOTUS—speaking volumes about the marriage equality ruling.

Arguably, the most stirring graphics of all came straight from the White House. It goes without saying that the Office of Digital Strategy makes quite the impact in the work they do every day. In the spirit of powerful design, Print takes a look inside the White House with an exclusive interview with White House creative director Ashleigh Axios, who, by the way, is a judge of HOW’s 2015 In-House Design Awards [final deadline July 10]. Read on for behind-the-scenes details about the powerful campaign the Office of Digital Strategy rolled out last week.

Inside the White House

Around the Supreme Court’s decision, Axios says, the Office of Digital Strategy executed a plan to demonstrate across all digital platforms the White House’s support. The plan also served to engage with Americans as they celebrated the historic day.

“We updated our White House avatars across social media channels—previewing what would soon be made real through a rainbow-lit White House later in the evening,” Axios says. “The avatar was designed to match the plans for the lighting of the White House, ensuring the positioning of the lights and the rendering of the icon were consistent.” She also notes that the icon was tested and iterated on to ensure both proper display across all social platforms and effective scaling to small sizes.

“The idea to light the White House first came up a few months ago, but we began planning to make it happen around the beginning of the month,” she continues. “Tina Tchen and Valerie Jarrett were instrumental in getting support around the White House, and all from the President and First Lady on down were supportive.”


An update to the White House email topper for a message sent from the lead plaintiff

But the Office of Digital Strategy didn’t stop with updated avatars and White House lighting. Additional assets included an update to the White House email topper for a message sent from the lead plaintiff [above]; a time lapse video on Facebook that’s gained more than 7.8M views to date; and an animated GIF depicting the history of same-sex marriage in the U.S., starting with Massachusetts and concluding with Friday’s SCOTUS ruling.

“This graphic was a visual throwback to our 2015 State of the Union ‘Love is Love’ static graphic,” Axios says. “The GIF is in our most retweeted @WhiteHouse tweet of all time, with more than 64k retweets.”


How it Feels to Design for the White House

The graphics that the Office of Digital Strategy created to accompany the announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality truly demonstrate the power of design. The graphics afforded the celebration a unique form and force.

“As an office, it was an honor to be a part of history and we take special pride in how we were able to connect the administration and the American people around this occasion through design, digital content, and online engagement,” Axios says.

When HOW interviewed Axios back in March, she said the following:

“I’m interested in the role design can play in solving social problems, connecting disparate groups and generally contributing to something bigger than itself.”

Days after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling and the Office of Digital Strategy’s accompanying celebratory campaign, we asked Axios how she envisions her team’s recent work accomplishing all that she mentions above.

“If we’re also considering the assets created in advance of the decision, I believe our work does all of those things,” she says. “Before the decision, we used design to add emphasis to gay marriage as a civil rights issue, including during the 2015 State o
f the Union address

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HOW’s In-House Design Awards organization by category leads to the ultimate leveled playing field. In this competition, in-house design teams are up against other in-house design teams that are producing incredible work while facing a unique set of issues their respective industries—and the great work rises to the top.

This year’s esteemed judges include the White House’s Digital Creative Director Ashleigh Axios, The Coca-Cola Company’s Design Manager Alex Center, and HDL’s In-House Management Programming Partner Ed Roberts.

This competition is perfect for not only showcasing talent in an in-house group but also elevating the team’s status within your company.