2012 RNC Set Created By Jack Morton Team Raised The Bar For Political Stage Design


August 31st, 2012


Jack Morton Worldwide, the global brand experience agency, was the designer of the set for the 2012 Republican National Convention—responsible for creating a scenic design that has already been hailed as setting new standards for staging at political conventions.

Led by award-winning designer Jim Fenhagen and Eddie Knasiak, the Jack Morton design team worked with the RNC for over a year to develop the set, which stood out not only for the quality of its design and warm wood materials but also for the ambition of the 13 massive LED screens that anchored the set and debuted new video technology.

“We approached this just as we would with a brand,” said Fenhagen, SVP of Design in Jack Morton’s New York office. “We listened to the client’s needs and we built the experience design around that.”

Fenhagen points to three areas of focus for the experience design team at Jack Morton:

  • Connection – “It was important that the set didn’t put speakers up on a pedestal. The design ethos was ‘America’s living room’, and we used warm hues and textured wood surfaces. As we adjusted the set for Governor Romney’s acceptance, we were especially conscious of using design cues to reinforce accessibility.”
  • Differentiation – “We wanted to signal a completely new direction by doing things with the set that have not been done before at conventions. It’s the most abstract convention set I’ve ever seen—more like a Broadway show in ambition and bravado than the more typically conservative approach of political set design.”
  • Relevance – “The set had to feel American without being too literal. For inspiration, we turned to Frank Lloyd Wright, architect of the American Prairie Style. That came out in how we contrasted the warm woods with the ambitious technology involved in the 13 LED screens we placed over the stage. Such an ambitious use of LED screens has never been attempted—and it gave the RNC flexibility to share one monumental image or a collage of related images.”

Fenhagen has won 17 Emmy awards for broadcast set design. He has created sets for Piers Morgan, Jon Stewart and Martha Stewart, among many others. His co-designer for the RNC set, Eddie Knasiak, is a veteran broadcast designer.