A Compendium on Race
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Case Study By

June 2014–July 2014



Project Title

A Compendium on Race

  • Editor in chief, chairman SYPartners: Keith Yamashita
  • Creative director: Katie Potochney
  • Designers: Flora Chan, Keela Potter
  • Editorial contributors: Saira Jesani, Lauren Cohen, Yasmine Yu, Liz Sutton, Todd Holcomb
  • Editorial coordination: Brianne Rauch, Tony Vuong, Mike Piscadio
  • Production manager: Andrew Carbone
  • Production Artists: Claire Kesson, Chris DeCicco

A Compendium on Race is a collection of images, articles, facts, and ideas arranged and designed to disarm, inform, and open up conversations about race in America today. The goal is to create common ground to help each reader connect to the topic of race and contemplate their personal biases.

We chose to design in a newspaper-style, broadsheet format to create a sense of freshness, scale, immediacy, and variety. To engage readers, the familiar size and configuration of a newspaper was offset by its bold cover, unique layouts, and unexpected overall message. The paper is designed to be read alone, as a reflection, and in a group, encouraging dialogue and the sharing of personal experiences.


As designers and strategists at SYP, we create the space—literally and figuratively—to help leaders talk about the things they sometimes find difficult to uncover and address. In America, race is certainly one of these topics. Becoming more aware of the realities of racial prejudices in our country can change how we view ourselves, how we interact with others, how we make decisions, how we lead and grow our companies, how we teach our children, and how we run our nation.

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Seventy facts about race in the U.S.

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“Be color brave, not color blind”

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“A Compendium on Race” cover

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Michelle Obama’s flesh-colored gown

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Room for paradoxes

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What did your parents say about race?

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Racism is predictable/designable

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“So, like, what are you?”

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Teaching children not to be racist

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Does racism affect how you vote?


Because the topic of race affects everyone, the market for this piece is boundless. SYP’s clients have received the Compendium and share it with their executives and employees; friends and family have continued to spread it in broader consumer and social networks.

We hope the Compendium creates a new niche for provocative conversation fueled by designers. Using the power of typography, image, pacing, color, and form to fuse understanding with drama, we help each reader find a personal connection to the content, to acknowledge that we all have prejudices and we all can be better.


Development budget: Pro bono
This project is: An in-house, on-going relationship
Production/execution budget: $10,000–$30,000
Source of funding: Funded internally


Our own life experiences and biases informed our approach to the project, as well as our newness to meaningful discussion on race issues in America. We didn’t begin with the full context or history of this topic, nor did we have deep experience of racial injustice to tap.

We knew that disturbing events had unfolded to bring this once-latent topic to the media foreground—the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in Staten Island. These stories propelled us forward and gave us access to potent new content and ideas to include in the piece.

The fact that we were novices in the subject helped us better gauge the journey of a reader who had never before had an open, earnest conversation about race realities in the U.S. This fresh perspective helped us curate articles, facts, academic papers, quotes, and images that we personally deemed required reading for anyone stepping into the topic without fear or defensiveness.


Some segments of the Compendium required extensive research, especially constructing the opening spreads that contain strings of facts and statistics designed to help readers wade slowly into the paper’s subject matter. These facts came from studies, papers, books, and nonprofits, which are cited at the bottom of the spreads. The same methods were used in translating studies into graphics readers could more easily comprehend, and we provided links, book recommendations, and other avenues for further study.


The newspaper format created healthy design constraints for us to work within: a specific page count, newspaper printing realities, and reading pace. Our initial design directions were completed outside of the final context of the full work, but upon viewing the spreads as a family, each one inevitably changed based on what came before and what was to come after.

In crafting this newspaper, we steered each reader’s emotions, pacing them through topics in short and long formats. Finishing the Compendium as a reader is a challenge, but an enlightening accomplishment, enabling the freedom to approach with candor a topic that may once have been uncomfortable to discuss. The newspaper also drew other people in—whenever the paper was read in public, strangers approached the reader, curious about the cover, and fascinating conversations began.


It was difficult to cover every point of view, from every angle of the race conversation. We didn't want the paper to be solely about black and white. So we did our best to represent every racial group, allowing each reader to find themselves in the Compendium.

Asking authors to include their pieces in the Compendium presented the challenge of helping them understand the project and why we were making a new layout of their piece. In the end, all the participating authors were very satisfied with the project and the conversations it generated.


Copies of the Compendium are still being released to our clients and connections—sometimes hundreds of copies to be distributed in turn to their board members and employees—but there are no formal measures in place to record change incited by the Compendium. Each person who has read the paper has a story about how it impacted their own point of view and how they shared it with others. Every story we hear about how the paper changed how someone approaches the topic of race, realized their own biases, changed how they talk to their kids, or something that emerged for them while reading the piece, we see as meeting our goal.

Juror Comments

“This was one of the first pieces I stumbled onto while judging, and it quickly became the bar that I assessed other work against. It is unapologetically bold, yet simultaneously captures nuances in word choice, tone, and language to reveal the (only slightly veiled) prevalence of racism in our every day. The extreme shifts in scale, minimal use of color and imagery, and oversized newsprint are expertly choreographed to fit its dark yet dynamic narrative.” Sara Frisk

“My only wish is that some of these pages could be placed on the side of buildings at a large scale so further prompt the conversation—now more than ever. It is an important topic riddled by fear of saying the wrong thing, perceived stereotypes, and basic misunderstandings. SYPartners juxtaposed messages that we are familiar with in unexpected ways, while focusing on the ideas and the words, not in over designing the piece.” Bryony Gomez-Palacio

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