pbs website

web design • content strategy

Can a website engage people in complex policy issues as well as a PBS documentary can? Yes, if it’s wrapped in stories.


The Raising of America is a five-part PBS documentary about raising children in America -- and the social policies that make it so difficult. The documentary showed this through stories about individual families and their lives. Could their website have a similar impact?


Take the stacks of policy documents, academic research, and data charts that underlaid the documentary and create stories on the web that would stick. Design a website and content where the stories behind the data would be engaging and, most importantly, memorable.

Three sections, three magazines

I structured the website into three sections: Watch, Discover, and Take Action.
  • “Watch” contained the documentary episodes and a library of downloadable clips.
  • “Take Action” contained the activism part of the work, including activism guides and workbooks.
  • The “Discover” section was where I did my best work, conveying the stories in two ways:  a set of “magazines” on three key themes, and a set of interactive data visualizations to make the data come alive.

Engaging with the data

I created (designed and built with D3.js) a set of interactive data visualizations that spotlighted some of the more troubling issues faced by America’s families.

Want to learn about family leave across the world? Play the “Family Leave Shuffle.” Want to see how fast a baby’s brain grows? Check out “Snap, Snap, Synapse.” Want to see how the US stacks up? Enter the “Child Olympics.”

The principle behind the interactives was simple: wrap the data in a familiar story or archetype. The story can be as simple as “pick a card, any card” or “ compete for medals against the world” or “where did all that money go behind the scenes?” Because humans remember stories better than data, these simple stories were enough to make the data stick.