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Civil Rights Trail

The Prince George’s County Civil Rights Trail is an effort by the Anacostia Trails and Heritage Areas (ATHA) to honor the valiant advocates who played major roles in the national Civil Rights movement that began in the 1950’s and continues today. They trusted openbox9 to convey their esteemed stories — inspiring action for generations to come.


Maryland is home to the most affluent Black county in the United States, Prince George’s County. A rich legacy of activism, national influence, and towering political figures comes with that title, and it was ATHA’s goal to revive these histories and make them once again public knowledge. It was important to not only tell the stories, but to permanently tie Maryland’s Civil Rights history to the nation’s overwhelming cry for equality then, and now. The movement in Prince George’s County had an inextricable effect on the tone in the Capitol up the street. openbox9 took the opportunity to make that relevance clear by reshaping the typical documentation into a provocative, interactive, and relatable package for modern audiences.

Palette and Patterns

Creating the Logo & Brand

Generating renewed interest in historic events is difficult. In a 24/7 news cycle, there’s little attention for decades-old headlines. ATHA needed a strategy to position these deserving narratives in the here and now, so they created signage as a way to, literally, situate history in the context of modern life.

openbox9 developed an identity that nodded to the iconic symbols and typography of the mid-century era, infusing it with a new triumphant energy to provide distinction within the signs’ various geographic environments. Chief inspiration came from the handwritten picket signs iconic of the movement, which became both the logo and display font for the brand. Also incorporated were several patterns influenced by Black and African cultures, as well as the primary palette utilized in the Prince George’s County seal itself. When combined, an exuberant visual system emerged to carry the county’s history forward for another generation.

Sign installed at Sis’ Tavern in Brentwood, MD
Rack card
Website, homepage still

Website, Signage and Print Design

The Civil Rights Trail is a collection of physical land markers that also live online within it’s companion website. The website provides the crucial wayfinding feature that connects the locations within a larger map. It also provides opportunity to expound on the context and complexity each story hold. openbox9 designed the signage and their correlating webpages to work in tandem by incorporating QR codes, extended histories, and extra photographic content on the website to better capture the narratives previewed on each physical sign. To improve the experience of moving between physical locations, we proposed an interactive map to document each location as well as a convenient GPS element to efficiently find, preview, and plot a route to the next trail location.

Interactive online map and corresponding signage