Center for Strategic and International Studies
Designing for a more flexible, editorial future.

This site is currently in development. You can see the current here.

Creative Direction, UX, UI

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to advancing practical ideas to address the world’s greatest challenges. 

Knowing that digital content plays an increasingly vital role in influencing policy, CSIS came to us to reimagine how their primary website could support and advance their position as the premier national security think tank.

So much content, so few ways to get to it

For an organization that doesn’t identify as a new outlet, CSIS produces a staggering amount of content. From podcasts dissecting the role of women in national security to interactive maps charting China’s maritime power projection network, the organization can publish upwards of 20 pieces of content every day on their website across 20 different content types. 

Thanks to an unwieldly information architecture that favored internal program politics over intuitive reader experience, articles and reports were often buried and almost always difficult to find. Creating meaningful, intuitive pathways to content was one of the first challenges we set out to solve.

A simple diagram was helpful in talking to CSIS program staff about how and why people come to

Early wireframes showing content relations and key user interactions.

Samples from Design Direction presentation, where we looked at where we could flex the legacy brand to feel crisper and more engaging. 

A new look without a new brand

CSIS wanted a fresh look and feel, but they didn’t have a new brand to work with. We didn’t want to completely overhaul their brand, so we worked with the client to choose a new type family for their digital properties and a slightly adjusted color palette.

CSIS had the lofty goal of being on-par with reputable news outlets like, and To look and feel editorial requires a type family designed for such purposes.

Publico from Commercial Type, which came to life as “one of many stops on the long road to The Guardian’s 2005 redesign”, was our answer.

Component Library & Content Type Highlights

The spotlight component creates space for cross-program collaboration by allowing CSIS’s webteam to curate a cross-taxonomy mix of reports, microsites, podcasts and more. 

COVID brought CSIS’s in-person event program to a temporary halt, but forced an unexpected success in remote learning for the organization. A reimagined template for events makes promoting CSIS’s timely talks and seminars easier. 

Co-branded conferences and multi-day events that once required microsites now have a home on the main site. Phase 2 of this site will bring a deeper discovery into event registration.

Reports and articles share a robust set of editorial building blocks and multiple styles of headers, reducing the need for custom coding special reports and allow
ing CSIS to expedite the publication of their most time-sensitive content.

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Student Debt Smarter
A web-based app designed to help students understand student debt and make informed choices about higher education.


Brand, UX, UI

About the Initiative

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation (PGPF) and Sheila Bair, former Chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) teamed up to launch a student debt initiative with the following goals:

1. Raise awareness for the national debt through the context of student debt;

2. Help young people make informed decisions about their student loans

3. Shed light on the issue of student debt and its impact on both the economy and future generations.

The visual brand

Student debt isn’t a fun subject—but it doesn’t have to be an scary one. The initiative needed branding that felt appraochable and trustworthy, so we sought out to create an “app-friendly” logo that could live comfortably among Gen-Z’s homescreen favicons.

Coming together and looking forward: A flexible design system for growth

PGPF told us upfront that it was critical for the calculator and microsite to work as a seamless experience. Our component library includes a streamlined system of accessible buttons, inputs, cards and tool tips that allow our client to build complex forms and simplified resource pages with the same foundational elements. The system had to be scalable—the Phase 1 site launched in June 2022, with additional design features and component additions to follow shortly after. 

Amnesty International USA
Reimagining what a stalwart brand could become online.

Art Direction
I had the honor of providing some initial design direction for an upcoming iteration of

The Amnesty team was looking for a new take on their legacy brand assets, including the highly recognizable black/yellow color palette and type family, Amnesty Trade Gothic. 

Designing a solid foundation for a dynamic organization embracing change.


UX Design • Art Direction • UI Design

In 2019, Dēmos needed a website redesign that cut through the noise created by thousands of documents and years of extraneous content.

By dramatically simplifying key user pathways and designing a flexible component-based system, we’ve created a digital home suited for an organization that continues to reinvent itself through uncertain times.

We wanted to make plenty of space to feature the gorgeous illustrations done by Dēmos in-house design team. 

The Halyard font family, conceived by legendary Black type designer Joshua Darden, felt like a natural fit for this project. 

Dēmos staff, board, and site visitors consistently report an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the new site. We have heard things like, “not only does it look great, but I now actually understand what Dēmos does.”

The site was featured as a Fonts in Use Staff Pick

Grab Bag
Illustrations, GIFs, and small independent projects.

© 2022 Sarah Leigh