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  • Writer's pictureLuke Stoffel

Soapbox Branding and Social Design

See full portfolio as a PDF or on my recruiting website.

Navigating the Ethical Minefield: The Rise, Impact, and Conscientious Dissolution of Soapbox Social

Back in 2016, amidst an era particularly notorious for 'fake news,' our team sought to carve out a niche in the digital landscape for constructive and informed political dialogues. Soapbox emerged as a post-partisan political news network, intending to curate a robust online platform that welcomed voices and ideas from every nook and cranny of America.

The challenge was profound: building trust in an environment rife with skepticism. Our branding strategy leaned heavily into establishing and nurturing this trust. Recognizing the pulse of digital interactions at the time, we turned our attention to emergent social media trends. Notably, we drew inspiration from Facebook’s introduction of gradients to highlight text posts and their deployment of reactions as a means of enabling nuanced responses.

In employing gradients, the implicit signal to users was that a "Friend" was conveying something of significance. By integrating this tactic into our own branding, we mirrored a familiar and user-friendly visual cue that implicitly suggested importance and reliability amidst a sea of dubious information.

Moreover, Facebook reactions became a pivotal inspiration for furthering our brand’s interactive element. We tweaked the emoji element in our branding, providing us with a playful yet consistent avenue to maintain an active and engaged online presence. The flexibility of altering emoji reactions allowed Soapbox to remain dynamic, constantly adapting to the trending conversations and moods on the platform while maintaining a thread of brand consistency.

Soapbox did hit a significant milestone – amassing over 300,000 followers by 2018. However, it also led us to confront a critical ethical question: Was our social experiment bridging divides or inadvertently fueling them? We observed the discourse, and after grappling with the reality that we couldn’t fully steer the nature and direction of conversations on the platform, made the tough decision to dismantle the forum in the interest of social responsibility.

This project doesn't just stand as a testament to strategic, trend-driven branding, but also as a stark reminder of the complex ethical landscapes that social platforms navigate, particularly within the realm of political discourse. Through the rises and falls, Soapbox underscored that while branding can draw people into a space with the promise of trust and engagement, maintaining ethical integrity is paramount, even if it means stepping back for the greater good.


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