John Brown 160th: Who’s On The Series Header?

When ECW hosts an official series, the staff takes time to design the header. (Don’t ask how many we’ve scrapped and redesigned over the years…) Sure, it’s relatively simple, but we always want to create a visual that says something in a glance about the series.

Kevin Pawlak, Jon-Erik Gilot, and Sarah Kay Bierle did some behind the scenes prep-work and planning for this series, and they designed and voted on the header. Here’s the historical significance of their design choice:

Moving left to right, the images feature Dangerfield Newby, John Brown, and Robert E. Lee. Dangerfield Newby, a freed African American, joined Brown in an attempt to secure freedom for his enslaved family but died as a result of the raid. John Brown, of course; he was placed in the middle of the portraits, symbolizing his views that would strongly affect both African Americans and whites in America. Robert E. Lee, a colonel in the U.S. Army at the time, coordinated the attack on the engine house which led to Brown’s capture. Placed together on the header, these three men represent the cause of the raid – inequality and slavery – from which Newby wanted to free his family, the instigator of the event, Brown, and a responder to the raid, Lee.

Font is one of the features that gets changed most often when we’re drafting a header design. For this one, we chose an easy-to-read, stark font that stands out boldly. Brown’s step was bold, opened a decisive moment in U.S. History, and was memorable. No flowery scripts, please. The letters stand like Brown, clear, defiant, bold.

Finally, the background of the header is a muted, textured crimson. After Brown’s Raid, the road was rough, but it led to Civil War. The red is reminiscent of the blood shed at Harpers Ferry on those October days in 1859 and also of John Brown’s promise which he wrote shortly before his hanging:  I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land: will never be purged away; but with Blood…  With hindsight, these final written words pointed to the Civil War which started less than two years later.

Newby, Brown, Lee, bold script, and crimson red all visually tell and represent parts of the history that unfolded at Harpers Ferry and in the days after John Brown’s Raid.

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