Tones & Shades
Driving equality in creative industries through sharing life sharing stories.
As a black man I witness racial discrimination on a frequent basis. This could be any thing from racial slurs being use on the street or in media outlets all the way through to being misrepresented corporate jobs. One of the main reasons I believe racism still exists is that theres a lack of education and accountability. I believe that if I can could use my design skills to give my fellow black counterparts a voice to share their life stories this can inform, educate and inspire change.
I wanted also to champion their successes so people can see how strong, bold and amazing we are. We have been oppressed for centuries and now we have the opportunity to be heard. I’m a firm believer that charity starts from home so I chose to focus my efforts specifically with black creatives. I teamed up with my former work colleague Miles, who shared the same vision and we got to work towards creating a digital magazine for black creatives.
Discovering Tones & Shades
We sat down and fleshed out our missions, values and target audiences in greater detail. The name “Tones & Shades” formed within sessions. “Tones” being the synonym for voice. We are one people, one community, one voice, and “shades” used to highlight contrast in that we also come from different walks in life.
Establishing a visual direction
With mission and values in place I started to gather some early thoughts around our visual identity. Words like ‘expressive’, relatable and community driven along with references to Afro-Caribbean culture led the direction identity that was captured in the stylescape I created.
RGB: 245, 229, 212
CMYK: 0, 6, 13, 4
RGB: 240, 144, 83
CMYK: 0, 38, 62, 6
RGB: 134, 91, 74
CMYK: 0, 17, 24, 47
RGB: 101, 146, 239
CMYK: 54, 36, 0, 6
RGB: 0, 0, 0
CMYK: 0, 0, 0, 100
Getting creatives to join our journey
Building this platform required us to shortlist a number of creatives we want to interview and contact them. We targeted to release at least 8 stories for the initial launch. Convincing a stranger to do you a favour is never an easy task. We knew had to sell this idea in the best way possible to get people onboard. This required us to create a presentation deck that showcase our overall vision and why we had choice them. I went for an invitational style over your traditional pitch to make our approach more personable, which received a positive response.
Building the digital magazine
The aim of the website is create simple and clean experience that put the stories front-end centre. With this in mind, we were conscious about overwhelming the user with loads of stories scattered all over the screen as you often see with digital magazines. I tried to create layout that linear to guide the user to find the story they want to read. I used opportunities throughout the design to champion black culture and communicate the brands message.
We made a collective decision to opt out of integrating the site with CMS and instead built the site using a static site generator to reduce the scope of the project. Jekyll, the static site generator we used allowed us to store content and re-purpose it in dynamic way similar as you would if it was built with a CMS. The drawback to us not using a CMS meant that we would have to go into the source code to made content edits, which isn’t user friendly. But this is fine for what wanted to achieve in the first launch.
We successfully launched the Tones & Shades brand and website in October 2020 with three articles. We are now currently working towards our social media push to drive traffic to the digital magazine. As part of our strategy to drive engagement we will be releasing the remaining five stories in an incremental fashion.