From the Designer:
Creating a brand can often be an exercise in answering questions. What does the client see? What do we, the designer believe will best represent what they are offering? How does what we envision work with what the client envisions? Who is the audience and what will they expect? What will draw the viewer in? What will push them away?
When executing a rebrand, the list goes on. What is our client’s current perception? What about their current logo contributed to that perception? What about that perception do they want to change? How do we move in the right direction?
In the case of the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council, an organization providing many resources both in and outside Washington County, from career assistance to educational resources to a food pantry, our objective seemed clear. They needed to expand in many ways, but first, their name needed to be shortened. We needed to make it clear their services were available to more than residents of Washington County. We needed to broaden the scope of their services beyond the titular ‘Economic.’ We needed to welcome those who felt they needed their services and not just cater to those who were directed there.
When we began work on this project, the client acknowledged that there was confusion being caused by their current brand. It seemed they were an agency of the Washington County government and the consistent use of ‘EOC’ was causing even more confusion than its source, ‘Economic Opportunity Council.’ We wanted to land on a name that was both more direct and more inviting for people in need of their services and potential donors/corporate partners alike. In addition to the naming, they wanted to leave behind their old mark, a busy, low-resolution file depicting the county with its seal and the acronym nested inside, and shift towards a more professional appearance.
After a ‘name-storming’ session or two ‘L.E.A.P.’ was decided upon, an acronym standing for “Learning. Employment. Assistance. Partnership.” and doubling as an accessible action verb. This name allowed us to position them as a serious and professional organization while also setting up a visual system, that unlike its predecessor, could encompass all that they do.
We started by focusing on a letter treatment with an abstract mark or none at all. While facing spacing issues caused by the periods in the acronym, the solution of using them as the signal art presented itself. Eventually, we landed on a solution where the letters were encircled in colored, lightly overlapping circles. This would allow L.E.A.P. to offer a bright and approachable look, while further establishing the division and overlap of their services. The rings related color to a subsection of services, something that would go on to be used across many print materials and organizational pieces. The transparent overlaps illustrate the Venn diagram of those services and spiritually represents the connection between the communities and people they serve.
A valuable insight came during our final round of presentation. Up until that point, the colors were saturated, but far from bright, and the spheres were perfectly symmetrical. The feedback was along the lines of, “These are too serious. We need it not to feel too heavy. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable coming to us.” This note was the perfect example of the question we hadn’t asked that pushed us one step further.
They were right. This wasn’t a brand about the severe nature of the problems that the organization was trying to resolve. This was about people. We brightened up the colors to a warm and welcoming family and added a loose, organic touch to the circles to echo that idea.
This mark is a clear and conversational identity for their organization and a catch-all for the multitude of services they offer and people they serve.
From the Account Manager:
Rob talks about the design process in his post, I hope to shed light on the other side of the equation, which are the goals and objectives of the various stakeholders and indeed forecasting how we can design and strategize in a way that makes people feel seen and heard. My experience prepared me for people to be nervous and resistant to change. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this group had done the work ahead of the project. Everyone was receptive, trusting, and excited.
As the first start-to-finish transformative project at what was to me a new job, L.E.A.P. helped me see that my non-design role is an integral part of the big picture. We established mid-way through that these groups were not going to work effectively through email.
We took great pains to ensure that people got face-time with us. We visited Head Start, attended various committee meetings, and generally made ourselves available. Even when people told us the idea of a name change was intimidating, they offered up promises to go for it. It was actually something we remarked on as L.E.A.P. rose to the surface from the potential names.
This organization and its people are all about making things happen. The Head Start educators innovate with materials and mindsets, the L.E.A.P. administrators navigate grant funding and bootstrapping aspects of the job, and the various committees volunteer their time with great excitement. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there were times when I thought they’d say, “It’s too much. We can’t.”
They met each presentation with thoughtful consideration, honest feedback, and valuable input. One of my favorite memories might be when they took turns “answering the phone” with potential names. And yes, some names got the ax because they couldn’t imagine saying them to a caller or to a colleague in an elevator.
Over the coming months, we’ll be helping L.E.A.P. launch, I have no doubt that they will do it with the same passion that they’ve had, but with a new spring in their step and twinkle in their eyes.