August Jackson has had the pleasure of working with Duke as a creative partner since 2011. This year, Duke approached AJ with a unique ask — designing a virtual experience that celebrated their 2020 graduates and their impact on the Duke community and the world.

With COVID-19 preventing physical graduations from taking place, Duke didn’t want this esteemed group
of graduates to feel forgotten or unimportant. AJ and Duke collaborated to create an online platform called, Marking the Moment”. The site was designed to include both live and recorded features. It functioned as a celebratory space for graduates and their families to meet, and will live on as a time capsule for this unique moment in Duke’s history.


The 2020 graduates of Duke University, their families and the campus community


Marking the Moment was a platform created to recognize the 2020 graduates of Duke. Rather than simply broadcasting a ceremony, Duke called on us to help them think beyond the format of a traditional commencement and imagine what would be meaningful and special for this community to experience virtually.

At the start of the project we were presented with several challenges:

  • The need for a creative solution that would appeal to students of all backgrounds and degrees
  • An emotional campus community that understandably felt uncertain about how to break with tradition
  • A tight timeline to create consensus among leaders
  • A plan for how to develop, collect, and sort a large amount of content quickly
  • A virtual design that would be user friendly and compatible with Duke’s current online platform


A key factor to the success of this project was making sure that the entire Duke community had the opportunity to participate. We held virtual meetings with the leadership, deans, students, and communicators from each school and unit to develop
a creative plan for each group. Every detail that went into the design of this experience needed to be purposeful and special, allowing students of all backgrounds and majors to “see themselves” in the celebration.

The site launched on May 10th and featured congratulatory videos from President Price, Ken Jeong (the intended commencement speaker), famous alumni from across the country, and hundreds of other campus favorites. In addition there were live moments of interaction throughout the day— one of the most popular being a Q&A with beloved basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Students and parents could download Duke 2020 decorations and zoom backgrounds as well as add to the live twitter
and instagram feeds. There was also a Class of 2020 playlist that guests could contribute to or download. The experience even included a virtual climb of Duke’s famous chapel.


Overall, the experience was a success and Duke received praise from graduates, parents, campus leaders and alumni. With 26,000 page viewers and an estimated 10,000 people logged in on May 10, Duke graduates were celebrated and applauded in ways that no other class had ever experienced before.

Now more than ever these graduates deserve the gifts of joy, beauty and community that Marking the Moment has delivered. I hope we never have to do this again, but I’m so proud of how we did this together. We are deeply grateful not only for your incredible talent, but for your goodwill and kindness throughout this process.”

Kristen Brown
Associate VP, Communications