Inside Job 2016: Ashleigh Axios

The stakes climb a bit higher for an in-house designer when said house is a heavily guarded 55,000-square-foot mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Central to President Obama’s legacy is his embrace of technology. He blazed trails across email, the web, and social media. As creative director for the White House and, Ashleigh Axios helped him drive his message to 300 million Americans. At the Office of Digital Strategy, she sought ways to connect the president and the public via design.


The challenges: balancing polish and spontaneity, directness and rigor, gravity and fun. This meant animating charts and illustrating data to bring two State of the Union addresses to life. It meant entering the mobile era and delivering the White House’s first responsive website. And it meant lending viral form to the White House’s moral stand for marriage equality.


Well before the Supreme Court issued its historic decision on same-sex marriage last June, the White House was preparing to show its support. To the grand plan to bathe the North Portico in pride colors, Axios’s team added digital savvy and creative flair. They rolled out slick social-media icons that perfectly match the rainbow lights. They also uploaded a time-lapse video to Facebook, which has passed 8 million views. The team even made an animated GIF that tracked the history of same-sex marriage laws across a map of the States.

Millions viewed, liked, and shared these salutes to equality and progress. “It was an honor to be a part of history,” she told HOW Magazine, “and we take special pride in how we were able to connect the administration and the American people around this occasion through design, digital content, and online engagement.”

AIGA was key in helping Axios craft work that not only informs citizens, but delights, engages, and empowers them. She learned about her life-altering White House job opening from an AIGA Washington, DC contact. Axios also served as president of the DC chapter and, later, on the AIGA national board of directors. Her work lives on in her AIGA DC initiative, DotGovDesign, which convenes government designers to improve design standards and to challenge and strengthen each other as a community. For her service to her country and her industry, designers owe her a debt.

Register for Inside Job 2016 to catch unmissable insights from Ashleigh Axios and from fellow keynote speakers Emily Cohen, the straight-shooting queen of the creative brief, and Emmet Byrne, the Walker Art Center’s path-breaking design director.

By Roque Strew
Published October 31, 2016
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