How an L.A. designer set the stage for unity at the Democratic convention

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How an L.A. designer set the stage for unity at the Democratic convention
© Carolyn Cole

There were moments during the opening hours of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, as the boos rained down, when it seemed as if the party’s progressive and moderate wings were being held together with paper clips and baling wire.

The mood was less volatile during the roll-call vote that officially gave Hillary Clinton the nomination Tuesday, even as some Bernie Sanders supporters marched outside Wells Fargo Center. But uncertainty remained. How much of the noise, the background rumble of unease, would come back?

The stage on which this shaky détente was reached, designed by Bruce Rodgers of the firm Tribe Inc., seemed almost to anticipate the acrimony. The set is unfussy, even workmanlike, not far in spirit from one of Sanders’ off-the-rack charcoal suits. A broad-shouldered podium, a dozen steps up from the convention floor, is set atop a squat, circular base and within a ring of white stars on a wide blue carpet.

Each of these details is minor and forgettable in isolation, but neither party takes any of them for granted. This is about winning a national election, and together, the design decisions create a visual message that is obsessively considered, tweaked and worried over.

Unlike the set at last week’s Republican National Convention, which was sleeker and more imposing, the Democrats’ stage is meant to be approachable. Not quite blue-collar, but stripped of airs. Trying to look economical without looking cheap. Certainly distinct from the futuristic glow we saw in Cleveland. […]