Rewire (formerly RH Reality Check) is the leading online publication for evidence-based news, analysis, commentary, and investigative reporting on reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice. Teal Media partnered with Rewire to lead the transformation of their brand and visual identity.
“Teal Media worked with us for a year, from concept to coding, to help us find a name and build a site of which we could be proud. The Teal team, led by Jessica Teal, is among the best, guiding us through this process with humor, grace, and a superlative degree of professionalism.”
RH Reality Check was originally founded as a project of the United Nations Foundation and became an independent publication in 2012. At the time, the website had a staff of 3 writers and 5,000 unique readers per month. By 2016, readership grew to nearly 800,000 unique readers per month and the staff had increased to 30. The focus of the publication had also evolved from reproductive health to include a wider set of issues at the intersection of human rights and justice. As a result, RH Reality Check gained tremendous reach and respect across the greater health and justice communities. However, the RH Reality Check name, visual identity, and website did not reflect this transformation. That’s when RH Reality Check turned to Teal Media.
Before beginning to craft a new brand for RH Reality Check , we needed to obtain a deep understanding about the publication. We needed to gain knowledge of the organization’s history, people, vision, aspirations, and challenges. To do this we met with RH Reality Check staff and stakeholders, assessed strengths and weaknesses through a traditional SWOT analysis, conducted a market analysis, reviewed key metrics and analytics, and studied existing brand materials. This gave us a clear insight into the important internal perspective that influences the overall brand and identity.
To gain insight into the important external perception of RH Reality Check, we conducted a number of activities including 1:1 interviews, readers surveys, and focus groups. By including actual readers in this process, we not only gained valuable information about how they perceived RH Reality Check and how they used the website, but we also garnered early anticipation and support for the rebrand from allies. Talking with readers helped us to create informed user personas. Personas are archetypes we use to identify and understand user backgrounds, goals, and behaviors. This allows us to design the best possible experience for them.
Upon completing our initial research, we summarized our key findings and recommendations in a report. The report also identified key tensions between internal stakeholders and external audiences that would need to be resolved with the rebrand. We met as a group to discuss the report and devise a path forward towards a brand and identity solution that was thoughtful, grounded in research, and supported by stakeholders and readers.
“When we put ourselves in the shoes of our audiences we avoid preconceived ideas and outmoded ways of thinking. We’re also able to truly grasp the context and complexities of common interactions with the publication. Most importantly though, by immersing ourselves with our audiences, we keep the people we’re designing for at the center of our work.”
With firm understanding and agreement about who RH Reality Check wanted to be and what they wanted to accomplish, we began the process to find a new name. We thoroughly brainstormed and researched hundreds of options—we studied mythology and feminism, explored symbols and metaphors, and even invented new words. The clear winner was Rewire. As Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson noted, the time has come to, “rewire the very way we think about the news—especially when it comes to reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice.”
The new Rewire brand needed to “tell the story” of Rewire to a larger audience via strong typography, color, and imagery. We wanted the visual identity to accurately reflect the publication’s commitment to excellent journalism, bold storytelling, and disruption of the media narrative and status quo. A high contrast palette of black, grey, and bright orange combined with bold headlines and purposeful use of whitespace helped us establish a new visual foundation for Rewire that is as bold and unapologetic as its reporting.
“The Rewire process was data-driven from start to finish. We backed UX and UI decisions with analytics and site metrics, and developed extensive user personas that underlined all of our strategic choices.”
Teal Media sat down with Rewire staff and allies to discuss the current website experience, successes, and pain points. In addition to assessing the requirements for the new website, we also brainstormed ideas for new features and functionality for both readers and writers based on our initial research. And, we worked cooperatively to devise a plan that accounted for ongoing growth and development of the website to ensure that we were building a flexible, yet organized solution.
Information from our 1:1 interviews, reader survey, and focus groups combined with a deep dive into website and other online metrics offered us insight into the how and why people are using the website. Our research showed us that in order for the new site to be successful, we needed to address key issues like finding content through search and ensuring a clear distinction between news reporting and commentary or opinion pieces.
We explored a wide variety of websites to gain a detailed understanding of what competitors, media organizations, partners, and trend-setters in the space were doing and to get an up-to-date sense of best practices and noteworthy features and functionality. We wanted to see how popular online news sites organized their content, highlighted popular authors, and helped readers find their way to trending or related stories. After all, with the redesign, we wanted to establish Rewire as not only a modern, forward-thinking publication, but a leader in the space.
Working from all of the research, requirements, and ideas, we created the 'blueprints' for the website by producing the sitemap and wireframes. The sitemap is an organizational diagram of the site and wireframes are black-and-white line drawings that give you a sense of the page layout. Once the blueprints were established, we brought the pages and user interface components to life by applying the look and feel created during the earlier visual identity process. As we designed the site, we simultaneously developed a user interface (UI) library and style guide for Rewire to reference for future website development and expansion.
After months of research and concept development, the visual elements of the newly designed site are combined with custom developed backend features built to best serve Rewire’s specific needs. Here are a few highlights:
ElasticSearch is a real-time distributed search and analytics engine. Incorporating this tool into Rewire allows readers to more easily find relevant content when they search and related content when they are reading specific articles. When combined with visitor logs, it helps Rewire editors understand the real-time public reaction to articles.
We deployed progressive content loading to ensure the the site would load and display content quickly. This allows just enough content to load to render pages so visitors can begin reading. As the reader scrolls down the page, more text, images, and multimedia content is loaded as it comes into view.
We designed a custom workflow and permission structure to serve a thriving publication. This allows for dozens of writers and editors to easily create, edit, and publish work to keep the news flowing.
“This was one of the most complex projects we’ve worked on–both the front-end website as well as the administrative back-end have been completely customized to handle tens of thousands of pages, dozen of editors, and millions of visitors.”
'When we were designing the website our biggest challenge was to find ways to pare down the design to simplify the visual appearance. This puts the focus on great content Rewire produces every day.”
Once the website was designed and developed, we turned our attention to the other places where Rewire would connect with readers, including social networks, mass email, multimedia platforms, and print.
New business cards, letterhead and stationary give the Rewire staff the ability to extend their brand in offline channels.
Email templates for daily and weekly newsletters provide a snapshot of Rewire’s offerings in your inbox. Simple templates for fundraising and advocacy work allow Rewire to keep the focus where it matters – on their content.
Rewire can drive readers to their site with beautiful social media templates. Staff can easily produce customized graphics for popular social platforms by using the templates we created.
With the Rewire brand foundation, this logo design for a newly launched podcast series uses creatively coiled headphones in the shape of a uterus to convey the reproductive rights theme.
Launched on the first day of Spring, Rewire’s rebirth reflects the publication’s larger size, increased influence, and enriched offerings. All the while, the new Rewire remains true to the original mission to provide evidence-based news, analysis, commentary, and investigative reporting on reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice. The site’s launch was met with praise and acclaim from readers, writers and movement partners.
Congrats to Jodi Lynn Jacobson and the whole Rewire/RHRC team on taking it to the next level! https://t.co/vUDx4y07VG— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh) March 21, 2016
Rewire is already one of the best, but the new site is also really easy to read on mobile. https://t.co/vh5D6Hb8OW— Sam Vuchenich (@samvuchenich) March 21, 2016