Introducing “The Existential Issue”
MAY 24, 2021

We are thrilled to share our latest project: the first ever all-digital, multimedia issue of Columbia Journalism Review. In five rich chapters, “The Existential Issue” explores the fundamental question: what is journalism?

The issue takes the form of a custom-designed microsite, free and publicly accessible to all. It was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to create something radically new for one of our longest-standing clients. We started off by strategizing with the editors: if we could do anything, what would a completely new take on an issue of Columbia Journalism Review look and feel like?



The site’s design was developed in concert with its contents, and both share a spirit of bold reimagination. What if journalism was more like pirate radio? What if journalism looked like a text message? As the issue’s contributors explored these questions, we worked on establishing a design system that could reflect the project’s energy, but also hold together a multi-layered, expansive digital experience and make it easy to explore.


Julie Murphy (top left)

As always, we feel so fortunate to get to work closely with the talented CJR team. On this project, we also got to collaborate with all kinds of creators to make the site come to life, through creative computation, doodles, gifs, audio, video, a comic, and more.

Some highlights for us included working closely with Keith Henry Brown on a comics history of the press pass, and collaborating with Gwen Pasquarello on a custom-built interactive about the pirates riding the sound waves above Brooklyn.

Richard Chance, Tim McDonagh, Sam Mason, and Julie Murphy created still and animated illustrations that continue to delight us, each time we revisit the site. Aboubacar Kante photographed a local journalism project in Atlanta. 

There’s so much insightful and important content in this issue, and we’re immensely proud to have worked on it. Take a look and let us know what you think. 


Aboubacar Kante, Gwen Pasquarello


Sam Mason

Tim McDonagh, Richard Chance

Tim McDonagh, Keith Henry Brown

Project Team

Creative Director: Alissa Levin
Development Director: Ben Levine
Art Directors: Alissa Levin and Laura Thorne
Designers: Ben Levine and Esther Klingbiel
Producer: Laura Thorne
Design and production support: Darrel Frost


About CJR

Published by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism since 1961, CJR’s mission is to be the intellectual leader in the rapidly changing world of journalism. It is the most respected voice on press criticism, and it shapes the ideas that make media leaders and journalists smarter about their work. 

See more of our ongoing collaboration with CJR here