Obama Foundation
Democracy Forum

Event Design
The Obama Foundation Democracy Forum brings together global leaders to find community and solutions as the fabric of our institutions is tested.


Ghost Note had the honor of leading design, art direction, and story production for the Obama Foundation’s first ever Democracy Forum. The event, which marked the Foundation’s public announcement of the topic of democracy as its core issue going forward, was held at  New York City Javits Center. The forum brought together a global and multigenerational group of leaders and Obama Foundation partners to discuss current day threats to democracy and forward thinking solutions to strengthen the systems we rely on. Attended by over 700 advocates, executives, and elected officials from around the world, Ghost Note lead the branding of the physical and digital touch points of the event. Our work ranged from the announcement and digital presence of the Forum, environmental graphics at the Javits Center and production of the live stream broadcast across YouTube and Obama.org. We also produced and scripted the welcome video to the event, which was narrated by First Lady Michelle Obama.


As the Obama Foundation prepared to position its organization and resources to prioritize solutions in the service of global democracy as its core focus, the organization was in need of a brand and story to match the scale of its strategy. Our charge was to create and execute a creative and narrative strategy to ensure the Foundation’s inaugural Democracy Forum set a compelling tone for the important work ahead.

Brand Identity

Our goal for the brand identity was to inspire the Foundation’s many audiences to take action and guiding current and emerging leaders on how our collective individual actions contribute to a thriving, inclusive democratic spirit.

The design of the brand’s logomarks created an opportunity to define a suite of logos that would scale across digital, and print, and set the Foundation for the Democracy Forum over the years to come. We chose to craft a primary logomark that featured the full name of the event, alongside a submark that could be used in smaller spaces, locked up with the iconic Obama Foundation icon. Both lockups were then animated for use across the digital conference screens throughout the Javits Center.

Gradient System

Inspired by ideas of transformation and shifting, we wanted to craft a motion design system that inspired movement and change throughout the Democracy Forum. We reflected deeply on themes of hope shifting into action and the ways we could visually represent impact in our designs. Playing on the Obama Foundation’s circular design motif, we developed a family of six fluid gradients that shifted from blurred states into focus states across the screen. At times, the circular edges of the gradients come into sharp focus before fading into a blur – representing the constantly changing nature of hope and action. These gradients were used as the basis of the visual identity and their flexibility allowed us to scale them across printed matter, social media, environmental graphics and signage, and digital graphics for production of the live show.

With the Javits Center main stage being the event’s focal point, we worked closely with Agency EA to design a stage that could effectively feature group panels, single speaker lightning talks, and keynote speakers. We opted for using three digital screens across the left and right wings of the stage, in addition to the middle panel. The digital screens were flanked by printed versions featuring the Obama Foundation’s icon for evergreen brand presence on the stage.

These motion design elements played a key role in introducing speakers, pre-recorded content, and more. We developed title cards for each block of programming that used transition effects to showcase the gradient’s shifting nature and bring new content onto the screen.


Welcome to the Democracy Forum

Before the entire day’s programming kicked off, we had the opportunity to set the tone for the day’s events through video. In a long format welcome video that featured First Lady Michelle Obama as our narrator, we aimed to strike a powerful opening tone that both introduced the larger mission behind the Democracy Forum and the Foundation’s democracy work to come.

Our team worked to create meaningful motion graphics and pull archival footage that would bring life to the narrative visually. The script and video evoked real emotion from the audience by honestly addressing the current, troubling state of global democracy, while also capturing the infectious optimistic spirit synonymous with the Obama Foundation and family. We also worked with a composer to create a unique and impactful score for this video. The original music allowed us to create moments for breath and then more energetic notes for punctuation. Rhythm and pace were essential to distinguishing the three chapters that framed the Forum’s welcome story.

As we continued to build out the environmental graphics and the remaining assets for the event livestreams, we expanded our gradient visual brand system across assets for social media, registration booths and counters, navigational signage, window clings, and more. Having the flexibility of all six gradients allowed us to keep the materials looking fresh and exciting across the entire collateral system.

In addition to the welcome video featuring the First Lady, we produced two additional videos which shared the stories of individuals who are spearheading opportunities to advance democracy within their own communities.

In Chicago, we interviewed politicians, professors, and project leads who support the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. Programs such as these promise to bring economic stability and independence to millions of families, and has the potential to shift the trajectory of entire communities, as evidenced by dozens of direct cash studies that have taken place.

We then made our way to Boston, where we interviewed Shari Davis and Francesco Tena, who are long time participants of the Participatory Budgeting Program which empowers people to decide together how to spend public money. Through this program they are encouraging people of all ages to deepen democracy, strengthen communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.

Photo Credits: The Obama Foundation. Event Production Partner: Agency EA

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