FWD.us Every Second with FWD.us

Driving criminal justice reform through family stories and data

FWD.us, Cornell University, and social research organization NORC had joined forces to led a first-ever research project to identify the number of people in the U.S. with family members in or impacted by the prison industrial complex. The findings — that 1 in 2 American families could fall into this category at a given time — were massive, and FWD.us needed a storytelling campaign and set of assets that could capture these insights beyond the data points.

Purpose designed a report fusing a systemic issue space narrative, personal testimonies, intimate imagery, and compelling data visualization to engage policymakers and constituents across the country alike on the issue of mass incarceration. Our team translated the hardcopy legislators’ report into a grassroots-facing website with original copy and illustrations to educate Americans about the incarceration crisis and its impact on families. The supporting campaign included a suite of social media, display, and print advertisements illustrating key findings; produced a video capturing the heart of the campaign; and a campaign strategy and marketing plan to promote the report and continue building the enabling environment for criminal justice reform around the country.

02. Insight & Strategy


FWD.us partnered with Cornell University to undertake a first-of-its-kind research project to identify how many people in the U.S. have families impacted by mass incarceration.

To launch this research, FWD.us needed a comprehensive messaging strategy, report design, experience, and digital campaign to make audiences aware of the impact that over-incarceration has on American families. By harnessing this narrative, FWD.us was confident it could build an enabling environment for lasting criminal justice reform.


The holiday season of 2018, combined with the launch of this newsworthy, original report data, provided an excellent opportunity for FWD.us to establish a family angle in America’s criminal justice conversations. In keeping with the organization’s head-and-heart approach, the revelation couldn’t stop with data — the Purpose team determined the Families Research digital report and campaign experiences should take statistics out of the abstract and bring them close to home in a human way.

The tone of the campaign had to be poignant and striking — seemingly familiar and straightforward but with unexpected gravity, introducing the surprising statistics within the familiar frame of everyday American homes.

Theory of Change

03. Campaign

Purpose developed a poignant new visual direction, an immersive digital report experience aimed at national audiences, and a striking print report aimed at grasstops legislative and media audiences.

Through a digital campaign, the team promoted and tested core messaging concepts campaign to ensure optimal performance and meaningful insights on social media.

Campaign Concept 

As a narrative platform for the campaign, “Every Second” brought humanity and emotion into the robust report findings.

04. Digital & Print Reports

Both the digital and print report design strategy relied on creative, family-centric infographics. 

The print report included data visualization of striking insights related to the impact of mass incarceration on families in the U.S. A special, attention-grabbing tri-fold illustration was used as a dramatic reveal at a press conference.

Purpose created custom animations for several frames to increase the impact of the digital report. The experience was made seamless, interactive and approachable on mobile as well. 

05. Social Media Content

As part of the digital campaign, Purpose also shared custom social animated report content for Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and social graphics that used new social media post formats in creative ways.

06. Video

Purpose & FWD.us teamed up with Oxbow to create a stop-motion animation campaign video to tell the story of missed moments.

The best way to capture missed moments was to recreate them…second by second. Oxbow crafted every scene with stop motion animation, leaving no detail out of the picture.

Contrasted against a stark black background, every scene attempts to embody the feeling of time erased – moments that are lost forever. Carefully designed sound and incredibly detailed art direction were critical in bringing this piece to life.

07. Impact

With time and thoughtful community management, the FWD.us team watched the quality of web engagement evolve from resistant social media comments and modest engagement to proffered testimony and peer-to-peer sharing from impacted individuals.

The campaign grabbed attention throughout the criminal justice advocacy community, opening new doors for both FWD.us and Purpose to deepen coalition ties and collaborations in this important work.

Every Second was also recognized by the Webby Awards for best video in Public Service & Activism.

Choose Both: A Digital Guide
for Equity & Evidence