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Illustration by Joshua Ariza

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A Squirrel is Born

The McElroy Family launches on Chorus

The McElroys are not available.

I wanted to talk to them about their new website and brand, but I couldn’t reach them. The fact is, they’re incredibly hard to pin down as they’re often on tour. I did manage to get in touch with the newest member of The McElroy Family whom we refer to as “the squirrel.” The squirrel is a mascot, if you will, but they don’t have a name as the branding we developed at Vox Media was very lean, and, like I said before, I couldn’t reach Justin, Griffin or Travis McElroy to ask them if they had named the squirrel. The squirrel was kind enough to share some thoughts about the family and the new website.

PD: Who are The McElroys and how did you get to know them?

Squirrel: Well, this all started with three hilarious brothers from West Virginia - Justin, Griffin and Travis - who like to tell stories, have made a bunch of successful podcasts and videos and invited their family to join in alongside them. I am the most recent addition to the family, appearing on their newly launched Chorus website which acts as a home for their entire catalog of podcasts, videos and other interesting projects. I was drawn into the artwork for the family that acts as a masthead on the website. There’s also a deer and another squirrel, but I’m the only one that has the microphone.

PD: What do you plan to do with the microphone?

Squirrel: Mostly eat it, but I’m working on a three podcast deal with the family and some guest appearances on Monster Factory: Squirrel Edition, a reboot of the Polygon video series that uses gaming technology to make beautiful squirrels. The McElroy Family also has first-look on any projects I bring to them.

PD: What else are you working on?

Squirrel: I’m gathering nuts for the winter.

PD: Can you talk a bit more about the illustration that you appear in?

Squirrel: Sure. It was designed by freelance designer, Josh Ariza, under the creative direction of Carrie Ruby from the Vox Media brand design team. After several conversations with The McElroys, the team felt that the site needed to have the feeling of a destination - a place that reflected the homespun vibe of The McElroys and felt welcoming - literally giving substance to the idea of a “home” page. Because the Chorus design system allows for a masthead image, it made sense to anchor the site with the artwork, thus establishing a strong brand presence. Owning up to their West Virginian roots, The McElroys described their family’s ethos as a kind of Appalachian state of mind which was the antithesis of corporate slick. Josh took cues from that sensibility, as well as other podcast illustrations from The McElroys catalog, to design an image of an outdoor podcast studio in the middle of the woods. The McElroys immediately recognized me, the Squirrel, as the star of the scene, passed me the mic, and from there, my career took off.

Logo design by Joshua Ariza

PD: What about The McElroy family logo?

Squirrel: The Vox Media folks came to us with the idea of a heritage brand. The hand drawn logo, also developed by Josh, uses a cursive typeface that has been customized to look a bit timeless and nostalgic. In fact the audio legacy of The McElroys goes back decades; Justin, Travis and Griffin’s father, Clint, who also appears on The McElroys show Adventure Zone, was a popular morning show radio show host, as was his father before him.

PD: How did The McElroys get involved with Vox Media?

Squirrel: Chris Grant, Polygon’s Editor-in-Chief and resident McElroy historian explained to me that The McElroys go way back with Vox Media. Chris first worked with Justin and Griffin at AOL’s gaming website Joystiq, where the two McElroy’s were core contributors. That led them all on a journey to Vox Media where they launched Polygon together in 2012. Along the way, Justin and Griffin (with middle brother Travis) inaugurated their podcasting side hustle with My Brother My Brother and Me. The rest is history.

PD: What was appealing to The McElroy Family about joining Chorus?

Squirrel: It’s what we know. The brothers were already used to editing on the Chorus publishing platform through their work on Polygon, so it’s second nature to them. Having a one-stop-shop for all the McElroy projects was due. Chorus seemed the best imaginable platform for them to create, tell their stories and serve their loyal audiences.

PD: Are there any upgrades or features to Chorus you’d like to see?

Squirrel: I would like there to be more storage space for acorns. I’m still preparing for the winter.

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You can learn more about The McElroy Family and Chorus partnership in Vox Media’s newsroom here.