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Headline news: Sahan Journal has a new logo!
Visitors to Sahan Journal may notice some changes this week. There’s the new logo. A new nameplate. Updated colors. Fresh fonts. And an overhaul of the home page, sahanjournal.com, with a new layout and navigation system.
Sahan Journal will also be featuring these new design elements across social media, membership, advertising, and more.
The news behind the headline: Sahan Journal is adopting these new visual tools to match the expanding needs of its nonprofit newsroom. These days, Sahan Journal is reporting a lot more news, in a lot more media formats, than when it started.
Mukhtar M. Ibrahim founded Sahan Journal in 2019 as the only Minnesota nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing reliable, high-quality journalism for immigrants and communities of color. At the beginning, Sahan operated as a solo enterprise: Mukhtar wrote the news, shot the photos, updated the website, and more.
Now, as executive director, Mukhtar leads a growing 19-person newsroom. Today, Sahan’s dedicated journalists produce distinctive coverage of democracy, immigration, housing, work, education equity, climate justice, health care, and more. Along with the Sahan Journal homepage, the newsroom produces newsletters (in four languages!), Instagram decks, reporting collaborations, and industry presentations.
The organization’s journalism has earned strong support from the communities it covers. It has also earned support from individual donors, foundations and corporations, and advertisers. This investment has given Sahan Journal the opportunity to scale up over the years.
That growth convinced Mukhtar the time was right to change up Sahan’s look.
“I think we are past the startup phase, we have been around for a couple of years now and the original branding served us well, when we were small,” Mukhtar said. “Now we are entering a new stage of growth, and becoming a more established organization.”
Last fall, Mukhtar and Sahan Journal’s leadership team reached out to Object, a Minneapolis-based studio that specializes in brand identities, design systems, and digital experiences.
Garrick Willhite, founder and partner at Object, described the collaboration with Sahan Journal as exciting. “We work on a wide spectrum of different categories. And when you’re working in journalism, and providing these kinds of stories that Sahan is doing, it’s like a different space,” Willhite said.
New platforms, new design needs
Until June 2020, Sahan Journal’s newsroom constituted a single reporter. Today, almost a dozen journalists cover a range of topics that matter to people of color. The site also publishes news from partners like The Imprint, Minnesota Public Radio News, Star Tribune, and Associated Press.
The new website, created in collaboration with the hosting platform Newspack, will feature clearer organization by topic.
“Hopefully, the community and the readers will see this as an exciting look for a news organization they trust,” Mukhtar said. “And we hope to convey that in everything that they see on the website, and our other products and platforms.”
Other changes reflect the reading preferences of Sahan Journal’s audience. Sixty percent of Sahan’s homepage visitors are under age 45; nearly a quarter are under 25. Three quarters of Sahan’s readers visit the page on a cell phone/mobile device.
Object’s website and branding redesign reflect those user behaviors and preferences. For a start, Willhite suggested a new logo that condenses the original “SJ” into a single “S.”
“It makes it more legible and recognizable on smaller screens, digitally, looking at your phone,” Willhite said.
Other design choices, such as the new nameplate–that is, the “Sahan Journal” readers will see on the masthead–echo Sahan’s lineage as a newsroom dedicated to covering race and equity.
“The boldness…of that typeface is a connection to the Civil Rights movement,” Willhite said.
Sahan’s new design is the culmination of a six-month collaborative process that included reporters, advertising, membership, and more. Readers will encounter the new look across all of Sahan’s platforms–and in new places, too. This week, for example, Sahan Journal created an account on BlueSky Social, the new network created by Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder and former CEO. And Sahan also hired its first full-time video journalist, Dymanh Chhoun.
A changing design; a continuity in mission
Not everything is changing. Readers will see variations on Sahan’s original red-and-black color palette—though a new collection of secondary and tertiary colors will appear in newsletters and photo illustrations.
Many of these design elements pick up cues from the strong and distinctive Sahan design originally created by Christina Vang (of La Bang! studio). In creating this new design, Sahan’s staff ended up talking about what shouldn’t change. These are the principles that guide the newsroom and the entire organization: racial equity, community accountability, respect, and trust.