An organization’s visual identity is its brand anchor. Broader brand elements such as the organization’s purpose, voice, and culture all come together in this graphic workhorse.
We use the term visual identity to represent the fully visualized expression of an organization’s brand. What does that mean? A visual identity is the total of an organization’s public-facing and internal statements. It includes a logo, yes. But also, logo variations and arrangements, colour palettes, typographic expressions, photographs and illustrations and all of the various applications it might entail. It could include a website, brochure, invoice, newsletter, white paper, proposal, presentation or pronouncement!
Accessibility is essential. Will someone living with colour blindness or another visual limitation be able to decipher your logo, wordmark, or colour palette? To do its job, the identity’s design must also be distinct and memorable, which means it needs to be easy for the mind’s eye to recreate. We recommend that organizations embarking upon designing a new website also consider updating their visual identity. In today’s digital-first environment, these two brand assets need to work together to be effective.
Designing a logo and other brand elements is a collaborative endeavour.
We spend considerable time in discovery sessions with our clients (and their stakeholders) to ensure we understand an organization and its mission and mandate An effective visual identity should last for years (many of the visual identities we have designed over the past ten years are still in existence). Below are a few visual identities that we have recently created for our clients. We’re proud to have played a small role in furthering the missions of these outstanding organizations.
Sector: Maestral International is a team of leading global experts supporting the development, strengthening and coordination of child protection and social welfare systems that meet the needs of children in adversity.
Brand challenge: Maestral sought a modern identity overhaul that would reflect its decades of work supporting international organizations.
Solution: We created a wordmark and visual element that implied a compass-like upward direction and also hints at a tiny human form. The spot of colour against the neutral palette supplies memorable punctuation.
Sector: The Grantham Foundation’s mission is to protect and conserve the natural environment. It carries out its aims through communication and collaboration, and philanthropy and investment.
Brand challenge: Grantham needed an identity that tied three entities together while at the same time updating its brand for new challenges ahead.
Solution: We created an identity system for the organization’s foundation, trust, and impact investment fund. Although distinct from each other, all three pair together as a family. The detached leaf from the plant represents the work that must be done in addressing the climate crisis. The solitary leaf also works as an independent element on the website to point out important information.
Sector: Adjuvant is a new type of impact investment firm that finances the most promising life science technologies for high-burden public health challenges.
Brand challenge: As a new entity in the investment fund sector, Adjuvant wanted an identity that projected credibility while reflecting youthful energy and a forward-looking leadership team.
Solution: Adjuvant’s visual brand uses a double-slash motif representing the fund’s double bottom line. We chose a contemporary take on a corporate colour palette, juxtaposing soft pinks and blues against stoic dark greys. The approach is calm, fresh, and supports communicating serious subjects without overwhelming.
Sector: Founded by Abner Mikva in Chicago more than two decades ago, the organization promotes democracy by asking young people what they want for the future and providing resources and frameworks for sharing their views.
Brand challenge: At the time of engagement, Mikva was on a growth trajectory, with partnerships throughout the country and new satellite offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. It wanted to update its brand to better connect with its core audiences.
Solution: During our discovery process, we learned that Mikva used a typeface called Cooper Black in its campaign materials over the years. Fittingly, typographer Oswald Bruce Cooper designed the typeface while working in Chicago in 1922. Inspired by this serendipity, we employed Cooper Black Italic again for the Mikva Challenge wordmark. The result is a stylish retro look that conveys authenticity.
Maritime Forest Accord
Sector: The Maritime Forest Accord aims to restore the health of the Wabanaki forest across the Canadian Maritime provinces by working with forest landowners.
Brand challenge: As a new initiative by Community Forests International, the Maritime Forest Accord was looking for a brand identity that would foster solidarity among stakeholders and bring people together through a shared responsibility for stewarding forests for collective benefit.
Solution: The visual identity we created communicates volumes in an elegantly simple design. The logomark represents the diversity of the Wabanaki forest and the intersection of partnerships. The layers and colours reflect what you see when viewing the forest floor. The seven inner shapes represent future stewardship (seven generations), and the composition of the shapes reflects the many small family-owned plots composing the Wabanaki forest.
Sector: Inspiration aims to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the fleet industry by investing in, developing, and managing the real assets that enable fleet operators to make the transition.
Brand challenge: Being in the vanguard of providing EV deployment services to fleet operators, Inspiration wanted to launch with a gripping visual identity that conveyed its innovative approach alongside the credibility of its team’s expertise to deliver its promise as a turnkey solution.
Solution: The Inspiration logomark we created communicates several ideas within its sleek design. The slightly upward slanting horizontal lines are suggestive of tire tread marks and forward motion (acceleration). The bold typeface we used creates a sense of familiarity and a modern sort of stability, inspiring trust. Our blue colour choice also communicates an air of solid trustworthiness and optimism.
Prairie Climate Centre
Sector: Aiming to make climate change meaningful and relevant to Canadians, the Prairie Climate Centre brings an evidence-based perspective to communicating the science, impacts, and risks of climate change through maps, video documentaries, research reports, and plain language training, writing, and outreach.
Brand challenge: The centre wanted an identity that spoke to the many aspects of climate change while projecting an optimism about addressing the issue.
Solution: Through shape, colour, and typography, Prairie Climate Centre’s logomark conveys a straightforward, action-oriented message. The first line and attached circle represent water, and the green line the forest. The detached circle is wind, and the gold anchor line spanning all of the elements depicts agriculture. The image’s composition and colours project a feeling of momentum (the winds of change) as we address the climate crisis together.