Redesigning a publication for the premier civil rights organization

We’ve had the privilege of working with some organizations that truly make a difference in the world, and we’re proud to say that the American Civil Liberties Union is one of them. Since 1920, the ACLU has been the nation’s leading defender of Constitutional rights and freedoms. Its tireless efforts have made this country a better, fairer, freer place.

In 2018, the ACLU was fighting harder than ever in legal battles on all fronts: free speech, religious freedom, persecution of immigrants, voter suppression, prisoners’ rights, reproductive freedom, LGBT equality, the weaponization of the census, racial injustice, and police violence. The ACLU chronicles all of these issues, and the role it plays in addressing them, in its biannual ACLU Magazine. As the organization neared its 100th anniversary, it decided to reimagine the magazine to better convey the energy and passion of its cause to the swelling ranks of its membership.

The GDP team worked with a diverse array of artists and photographers to create arresting covers for the magazine. (Clockwise from top left: John Moore, Christopher Gregory, The Heads of State, and New Studio)

“We were able to collaborate with the ACLU team to present information about all of these issues that are foundational to the existence and continuation of our republic in a carefully considered visual package,” says GDP Design Director Margaret Swart. “It’s important work, and it was humbling and gratifying to be entrusted with that responsibility.” 

The redesign of the magazine required getting to know the client, their priorities, their mission, and their audience so well that we could craft a versatile template that each issue could be built upon. It had to be elegant, yet simple and modular, because topics vary widely and are highly dependent on late-breaking developments—court verdicts, major wins by the venerable civil rights organization, and, unfortunately, fresh injustices.

We developed a bold, compelling design framework that strikes a balance between elegance and urgency, conveying the importance of the ACLU’s mission. Once we had a new framework in place, we tested its flexibility by guiding the design of four issues. We worked with the magazine’s editorial team, managing the art direction for each story and helping track editorial progress, schedules, and budgets. 

The ACLU also requested that our pool of contributing illustrators and photographers be representative of the diverse population that it acts on behalf of, and we tailored our assignments accordingly, particularly for marginalized groups. “We considered how the identity and experience of the person behind the camera shapes the imagery and narrative,” says GDP Director of Photography Rosey Lakos. “This resulted in richer storytelling and more inclusivity.”


“Godfrey Dadich Partners’ well of talent is deep, and their commitment to our shared cause lends itself to rich, meaningful work,” says ACLU Editorial Director Marie-Adele Minot. “With each subsequent issue of the magazine, the team worked thoughtfully with us to refine our process and shine a bright light on the people and stories that define the ACLU.” She also passed along an enthusiastic letter she received from a member about the magazine’s new look and approach (see below). 

In a turbulent national moment, we were honored to do our part to help unite people in support of the ACLU’s vital work. We encourage you to join them and support them in whatever way you can.