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Meet three alumni that helped shape the Obama brand

The image is a combination of the headshots of Jessica Teal, Laura Olin, and Jeron Smith. In the top left corner is Jessica Teal: she has pale skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, and is wearing a red short-sleeved shirt. She is smiling at the camera. In the top right corner is Laura Olin: she has pale skin, blue eyes, and blond hair that hits her shoulders. She is wearing a blue and white shirt and smiling at the camera. Behind Laura are green trees. In the bottom of the image is a horizontal headshot of Jeron Smith. Jeron has brown skin, closely cut black hair, and a mustache. He is wearing a dark blazer with a white t-shirt underneath. In the background of Jeron's headshot is an industrial set with orange lighting and tall metal beams.

This month the Obama Foundation is excited to launch our new website and visual identity at obama.org. This work builds on the efforts of hundreds of creatives who contributed to iterations of “Obama” designs for more than 17 years. 

To mark the occasion, we spoke with three alumni who played a critical role in shaping the voice, look, and feel of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and the Obama White House. Learn more about their stories and follow along as we explore the past, present, and future of the iconic Obama design.

Obama for America 2008: Jessica Teal

The image is a candid shot of Jessica Teal during the Obama for America 2008 campaign. The image is inside a campaign office: the office has a white ceiling with square lights. In the office are small cubicles with transparent plastic separating the spaces. On the back wall of the office are floor to ceiling windows with sunlight shining out. Next to the windows is a gray wall with a yellow poster on it. In the center of the photo are two people sitting at desks. The person out of focus is a man with short dark hair and a white collared shirt. He is facing a computer opposite the camera. In front of him are two Obama 2008 posters. The person in focus is Jessica Teal: she is sitting at a light brown wooden desk looking at an Apple laptop. She has pale skin, blonde hair, and is wearing a light blue short-sleeved shirt. She is holding onto a computer mouse and looking intently at the screen of her Apple laptop. Next to her laptop on the desk is a half drunk bottle of Dasani water.

Jessica Teal working on the Obama for America 2008 campaign

Position on the Campaign: Design Manager

Currently: Principal, Teal Media LLC 

On the 2008 Campaign

Jessica Teal was invited to serve as the Design Manager on the 2008 Presidential Campaign where she oversaw the production of all digital and print design materials. In this work, Jessica was able to build her creative skills with like-minded individuals committed to engaging with a diverse group of communities through visual and digital storytelling.

The 2008 campaign was simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I’m sure a lot of folks will say this, but the life-long friendships, professional connections, and creative partnerships I made from the campaign have carried me throughout my career.”

Jessica Teal

As she continued through the campaign, the administration, and onto other opportunities, these relationships furthered her creative pursuits on projects that used art and artistic expression to support the common good. Today, Jessica is the principal at Teal Media, a full service creative agency that helps organizations pushing progress forward. “We work with nonprofits, social impact advocacy groups, and mission-driven organizations on everything from brand to website design and development to digital marketing. Basically, I'm still doing the job I was in 2008, just with more organizations that care about democratic and social change.”

Picture of the New Media Team working on the 2008 campaign

Picture of the New Media Team working on the 2008 campaign

A picture of Jessica’s desk from the 2008 campaign

A picture of Jessica’s desk from the 2008 campaign

The Meaning Behind the Work

When reflecting back on her time on the campaign trail and in government, Jessica focused on the importance of welcoming everyday people into the fold by allowing them to create and share their own content. The idea of “people power” still resonates with Jessica:

“One thing we did on the 2008 campaign that was unlike presidential campaigns of the past was in loosening the reins of control a bit…Supporters could then create their own unique expressions of what the campaign and an Obama presidency meant to them. This made the campaign feel more like a movement – a movement of the people and by the people. And that is exactly what the Obama vision is about.”

Jessica’s Advice for Creatives

“Be willing to put in the hard work and long hours. Push yourself, jump on opportunities, and make it happen even when you don’t have all the answers.”

Obama for America 2012: Laura Olin

A headshot of Laura Olin taken outside in the daytime. Laura has pale skin and blond hair that hits her shoulders. She has blue eyes and is wearing a striped shirt; the stripes in the shirt are blue and white. She is smiling in the picture. Behind Laura are green trees.

Headshot of Laura Olin

Position on the Campaign Social Media Director

Currently: Chief Digital Officer, Brooklyn Museum

On the 2012 Campaign

Digital maven Laura Olin joined the Obama for America campaign in March 2011. As one of the first members of the team, Laura helped establish the voice of the campaign’s email, SMS, and social media presences. Through her work, Laura discovered that President Obama’s unique voice played a critical role in galvanizing voters and supporters around a united message and theme: “So much of shaping [the digital] narrative and voice came from asking what felt authentic to the candidate. Our job was to capture that mixture of humor, common sense, and hope and create a powerful strategy to share it with our digital audiences.”

A “Why I Support Obama” poster made by Laura from the 2012 campaign

A “Why I Support Obama” poster made by Laura from the 2012 campaign

A social graphic from the 2012 campaign trail

A social graphic from the 2012 campaign trail

The Meaning Behind The Work

As the current – and first – Chief Digital Officer at the Brooklyn Museum, Laura has taken some of the valuable lessons learned from the campaign into her current efforts. In her position, she is dedicated to expanding the relationship between the larger Brooklyn community and the Brooklyn Museum. Through digital storytelling, Laura works to give members of her community the chance to see themselves reflected in the historic cultural institution.

I'll never stop believing that one voice can change a room, and that the stories we tell—about our communities, our country, our future—matter.”

Laura Olin
Laura’s Advice for Creatives

“I lucked into my role because I made it a point to work with people who were organizing on the Internet in ways that I thought were smart and good. Finding like-minded people doing work you believe in can be the start of great things.”

The Obama Administration: Jeron Smith

The image is a candid shot of Jeron Smith shaking the hand of President Barack Obama. The location of the shot is the White House Oval Office. On the wall of the office is a beige striped wallpaper and a white bookshelf holding gold and blue books. On the bookshelf are additional presidential artifacts. To the right of the bookshelf is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln to the left of the bookshelf is the door to the Oval Office. Underneath the bookshelf is a brown wooden chair. In the center of the image is Jeron Smith and President Barack Obama shaking hands. On the left is President Obama: he has light brown skin, closely cut black and grey hair, and is wearing a dark gray suit with a white shirt underneath. He has his right arm outstretched to towards Jeron. On the right side is Jeron Sminth: he has brown skin, closely cut dark hair, and is wearing a dark blue suit with a light blue shirt and red tie underneath. He has his right arm outstretched to President Obama and is smiling. At the very bottom of the picture is a small child holding onto the back of Jeron's right leg. The child is hiding behind Jeron and is not visible to the camera.

Jeron Smith shaking hands with President Obama in the Oval Office

Position in the Administration: Deputy Director of Digital Strategy, White House 

Currently: Co-Founder, HEIR

In The White House

Like so many of his peers, Jeron was driven to join the Obama administration because of his commitment to empowering others and fostering positive change. Jeron served as the Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives in the White House Office of Digital Strategy and was responsible for developing and implementing digital strategies that effectively communicated complex policy initiatives to the public. 

During his time as Deputy Digital Director, Jeron found new ways to reach constituents and reaffirmed his passion for digital storytelling. Remembering his time in the White House, Jeron recounted the decision to collaborate with Rap Genius to annotate the 2016 State of the Union Address: “Rap Genius is a platform primarily used to search lyrics and the meaning behind them. In using this platform, we were able to leverage the unique tools of the platform to make the address more accessible and engaging, particularly for younger demographics. Through annotating the State of the Union address, we were able to break down complex policy details and provide context in a way that was both informative and relatable.”

Jeron with former and current members of the MBK Team

Jeron with former and current members of the MBK Team

The Meaning Behind The Work

Today, Jeron is the co-founder of HEIR Inc. Unanimous and Incubation Lab, where he works to integrate creativity, media, and technology to build connections with broad audiences. Jeron’s commitment to innovation was cemented during his time at the White House where he saw firsthand how content and strategic digital media could shape public perception and inspire action:

“The best thing about working with the administration was the opportunity to apply my expertise to initiatives that had profound purpose and meaning. Every day, I felt that my work was contributing to something larger than myself, which was incredibly fulfilling…This realization reignited my passion for leveraging creative solutions to connect with audiences on a deeper level and led me back into the creative field where I could apply these insights to develop compelling narratives and engaging content across various media platforms.”

My journey included a unique blend of creative work, public service, and strategic communication. I would say, find your own unique path by combining your interests and strengths, and stay committed to making a positive impact wherever you go.”

Jeron Smith

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