Michael Bierut has a crazy idea. “I’ve actually never said this out loud,” he tells me one morning, while sitting in the main conference room at Pentagram’s New York City office, where he’s a partner. “It’s a private thought that I’ve had, and it’s actually sort of weird.”
Cant wait to see this… more twistedness from Guillerom del Toro.
Nice site exploring the idea that directors are the architects of cinema, with unique house designs for famous directors from Fellini to Hitchcock. Tim Burton’s house is angled and geometric, and rises up on trees to reveal a gothic fence and more underneath. David Lynch’s house uses lighting to create a surrealistic atmosphere. Stanley Kubrick’s house is a cross between a house and a robot, reminiscent of his sci-fi work.
Note: be patient… takes a bit to load.
PES’s new film for Honda. Dozens of animators and illustrators, thousands of original drawings, and four months of work. Everything in the film is done by hand and shot in camera.
Yahoo… three of our third year Unitec students from 2014 have made it to the Best Awards final. Well done to Camille, Sapphire & Angelo… so proud and happy for you.
Big thanks to Kim Meek and Penny Thomson of Team PPK.
I didn’t write this, but I wish I had. Good reasoning from Joel Barker @ medium.com
I would love to recommend someone to you to make a site for $500, but your budget is not going to produce anything satisfying to you. I am sorry. I really believe that the small actor should be able to make use of the web and I am always trying to think of ways to make progress on small budgets.
I think you should evaluate that budget. I don’t know a lot about your enterprise, so if I make a few assumptions here forgive me. It is a good thought experiment.
As a programmer, I am sure that your own bill rate is over $50 an hour, which would make $500 a ten hour project. There is not much programming that can get done in ten billable hours. The same is true of the creation of a web site.
There are many variations on the website creation process. All the good ones include you, the customer, as a collaborator. We need to figure out your intention, your audience, your message.
- That will take at least an hour together.
- Then we will have to try something out. That is a few hours.
- Then, we need to get your feedback.
- Then, we need to either revise or tear up the idea and make something else.
Understand that what we are working on is not just the home page and a color scheme
It is how words and pictures will sit on every page.
It is what needs to be on the top level navigation and what can be found elsewhere.
These days, it is absolutely essential to have sites work on mobile devices, and that requires a lot of time verifying that the layout changes properly for different devices.
That all requires talking and discovery. It takes the time of an expert.
If your budget is actually $500, my recommendation is to open up a Wix or Squarespace site. You can make something yourself that is pretty good looking and obeys the mobile directive.
It will take you personally a lot of time to get it right, but you can get off the ground.
Another option is a “rent-a-site” SEO service that charges monthly to get you hits. They are going to use a pre-existing template and rapidly create a site that will get a lot of click throughs from Google. That can be very useful. You would start at I believe (spitballing here) $350 per month, ongoing. I can introduce you to some people who do that sort of thing as well.
As a thought experiment, I want to propose that you actually spend $3,000 up front for the good of your business.
If you were walking through a mall, and right next to Jamba Juice you found a store whose sign was “Smoothies” scrawled in red Sharpie on a piece of carboard torn from a Milwaukie’s Best case, would you spring for their beverage?
It is absurd to ask of course, because the mall would not allow that. It would call into question the value of every store around it. To be a store in the mall, you have to show the commitment to have a good looking, professional establishment. No one wants to be associated with that guy.
Your website is the new storefront. I am sure that you judge websites pretty quickly as to whether they are successful, worthwhile, shady, authoritative, or half hearted based on your experience with their website. Sometimes we overcome that, but it slows down my willingness to take the next step.
I had that experience recently. I was looking for a particular product, a flat shoe insert that would protect my feet against rocks while running in soft shoes. We live in an amazing time where if you imagine a product, someone is making it. Sure enough: Steep Canyon Running.
That was exactly the product I wanted. However, their website had not been updated in some time. I wanted it bad enough that I emailed them to make sure they still existed before I clicked the buy button. With each sale being $20, that is a pretty inefficient transaction for them.
If they had a competitor, I would have simply purchased from the more believable website. It is good business to be the more believable website, and that does not cost all the much money these days.
If you are willing to do the coding and probably the writing, you should be able to get a website that you can believe in designed for $3,000. Maybe even less. That website will be something you will be proud of. It will show your customers that you are serious and can be trusted.
We are still having the cost conversation. Web designers and builders much prefer to have the value conversation. Successful business think about the value, not “what can I get for X dollars.” How much opportunity can I buy?
Buying a good looking, fast performing, easy to navigate and comprehend website shows your customers that you are into it.
Showing that commitment to yourself will up your own performance and enthusiasm at developing and promoting your products. How many sales do you need to make to recoup that extra $2,500? It seems that if you put that on the business projections of any reasonable business model — even a part time business — that $2,500 debit would disappear pretty quickly.
The result would be that people would be able to see that you were serious. In web design, we presume that looking serious equates to sales for our clients.
If you want, I can find you a designer or two that would fit that bill.
Thank you for bringing this question up. We get asked all the time. I hope I was not harsh.
From our perspective, it can be a little exasperating to feel like someone is trying to talk down the price of web development. It feels that our labor and expertise is not valued, so sometimes we respond to this question with a defensiveness which could offend. I recognize that asking takes some guts and might feel a little vulnerable. As I said, I want there to be a way for you to get the word out about your business.
We take a lot of pride in what we do, and what we do brings value. It presents the value of our clients in a place where absolutely everyone in the world who can operate a computer can see it. That is pretty important work.
Good luck! Do keep in touch. When you find a solution that works for you, I would love to hear about it. The digital world is always changing.
A very tidy piece of visual sexiness showing just how amazing and creative a ‘bit of code’ can be.
“THERE ONCE WAS a time when the racing world was ruled by savage beasts. They were captured just before the snowy season, when noble brave men had one winter to tame this creature. After months of championship battle, a handful of the best animals were kept for another winter of training, while the others were set free again.”
“I’ve died and gone to Brand Guideline Design heaven…”
Taking brand guidelines to a higher level
Uber’s animated, interactive Brand Guidelines site is a great example of how to make a standard brand guide way more fun and interesting than the norm. The guide is fairly simple, but uniquely conveys the brand’s values and attributes, along with the standard artwork. It even includes a change log so you can quickly see updates and modifications.
Check out stormtroopers365.com and the excellent adventures of a couple of Star Wars Stormtroopers and other Star Wars charterers…
project AH A MAY – Introduction to Products Designed for the Events
“Motorcycles conceived by musical instrument designers,” and “Musical instruments conceived by motorcycle designers.”
Wow! I so want to see the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition that is currently touring the world at the moment.
The exhibition presents the complete oeuvre of the director Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999). It includes large-screen projection of significant scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s films. Documentary audio and video material also illustrates the backgrounds of the film productions. Quotes from the director guide viewers through the rooms. The linking of films, original objects, production documents and explanatory texts enable the visitor to gain access to the multifaceted nature of the work.
In 2003, Stanley Kubrick’s personal estate was, for the first time, made accessible and evaluated. Kubrick’s work archives contained an abundance of materials pertaining to all of his films: research and production documents, screenplays, correspondence, production stills, props, costumes, cameras and lenses.
Related video – Adam Strange from Mythbusters and him amazing project of love as he rebuilds the scale model of the maze from the ‘Shinning’.
Originally posted Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan on Gizmodo.com
No one seemed to notice him: A dark figure who often came to stand at the edge of London’s Hammersmith Bridge on nights in 1916. No one seemed to notice, either, that during his visits he was dropping something into the River Thames. Something heavy.
Over the course of more than a hundred illicit nightly trips, this man was committing a crime—against his partner, a man who owned half of what was being heaved into the Thames, and against himself, the force that had spurred its creation. This venerable figure, founder of the legendary Doves Press and the mastermind of its typeface, was a man named T.J. Cobden Sanderson. And he was taking the metal type that he had painstakingly overseen and dumping thousands of pounds of it into the river.
As a driving force in the Arts & Crafts movement in England, Cobden Sanderson championed traditional craftsmanship against the rising tides of industrialization. He was brilliant and creative, and in some ways, a luddite—because he was concerned that the typeface he had designed would be sold to a mechanized printing press after his death by his business partner, with whom he was feuding.
So, night after night, he was making it his business to “bequeath” it to the river, in his words, screwing his partner out of his half of their work and destroying a legendarily beautiful typeface forever. Or so it seemed.
Almost exactly a century later, this November, a cadre of ex-military divers who work for the Port of London Authority were gearing up to descend into the Thames to look for the small metal bits—perhaps hundreds of thousands of them—that Cobden Sanderson had thrown overboard so many years ago.
They were doing this at the behest and personal expense of Robert Green, a designer who has spent years researching and recreating the lost typeface, which is available on Typespec. As Green told me over the phone recently, the Port of London Authority had been hesitant about letting him pay its diving team to search for the lost type. “They were actually concerned that I was some crazy bloke looking for a needle in a haystack and throwing a couple grand away,” he laughs.
It’s not hard to imagine how crazy he must have seemed. A civilian offering to pay the city’s salvage divers to troll the depths of the muddy Thames, possibly for weeks, looking for tiny chunks of metal that were thrown there by a deranged designer more than a century ago? Yeah, that’s pretty crazy.
In the end, it only took them 20 minutes to find some.
Green has spent years researching Cobden Sanderson’s story, using what amounts to forensic psychology to understand the actions of a man who lived 100 years ago, studying how and where he would have dumped his illicit cargo. Green had narrowed it down to a small dip in the river, and it was there that the city’s divers uncovered most of their haul. “They were really into it,” Green remembers. “They wanted to find something, which they did.”
What they ended up uncovering over their two day dive was several hundred pieces of type, as documented by The Sunday Times’ Justin Quirk, who attended the dive. It was far from the full haul, either: Green points out the Hammersmith Bridge has been the target of two IRA bombings, one of which blew water 60 feet into the air after a suitcase packed with explosives was heaved into the river around the spot the type was dumped.
As a result, it’s possible some of the metal punches were blown to other locations—it’s also possible that they were embedded in concrete poured around the bridge as part of repairs.
Now would probably be a good time to explain exactly what “it” is. Today, typefaces—or fonts, as we usually call them these digital days—are essentially just little bits of binary on our computers. But the age of digital type is young, at only a few decades.
Cobden Sanderson and his partner, Emery Walker, founded the Doves Press in 1900. Walker was a businessman, with plenty of other concerns in the world, but Cobden Sanderson was a creative perfectionist—a man obsessed with authenticity and craft. Together, they commissioned a typeface for their press, to be based on a 15th century Venetian type. That meant paying a “punchcutter” to create steel “punches” for each letter in the type—from which a matrix would be made by pressing a piece of copper into the metal punch. Then, the type itself could be cast from the matrix.
Their type was created in 1899, and the duo would use it to print indescribably beautiful books, bound by hand and designed with the perfect balance of craftsmanship and modern utility. Cobden Sanderson was a bit of a snob in the sense that he only wanted to commit his designs to the finest literature, the “most beautiful words.” They printed Paradise Lost. They printed theEnglish Bible. Today, copies of these books are extremely rare, and they command thousands of dollars at auction.
But soon, the Doves Press was in trouble. According to TypeSpec’s own account of the partnership, Walker wanted to shut it down and divide the metal evidence—thousands of pounds of it—of the type between himself and Cobden Sanderson, and for them to go their separate ways. As Quirk explains in The Sunday Times, they landed on an agreement that Cobden Sanderson would keep the type until his death, at which point Walker would own it. But Cobden Sanderson was horrified by the idea of letting what he thought of as his own work go to Walker—and so slowly, over the course of the next few years, he decided upon a plan of action that would deprive Walker of his end of the bargain.
“It took him a few years to actually decide to throw away the type—he ruminated for years about whether or not he should do it,” Green says. He wrote about the process in his lengthy journals (“he would have been a bit of an over-sharer” today, Green adds), leaving behind detailed accounts of his inner turmoil. Eventually, he decided he’s rather destroy the type than see it made into a mechanical version of its former glory. “He reveled in it,” Green says. Cobden Sanderson said it himself: “If Emery Walker wants to find it, he’ll have to dive for it.”
Green has spent years researching the Doves Press type—he even redrew it, after thousands of hours of painstaking research work, and published his revival in 2013 as a digital typeface called the Doves Type that anyone can buy.
But about a year ago, he says, he started wondering if there wasn’t something to be salvaged from the river. “People kept saying nobody’s ever found it,” he says. “But nowhere could I find an account of anybody searching for it.”
Which brings us to a very good question: Why would anyone search for it? What made it so special, so worth saving?
The Doves Press was a unique entity, but in some ways it mirrored what’s happening in today’s design world. At the cusp of the modern age, Doves was founded to preserve a craft that went back centuries. It was also destined to fail, to end up as a historical eccentricity that died out just as the mechanized printing press sprang onto the scene. It valued one thing above all others: Doing things by hand, and doing them with utter devotion.
For Green, who has worked in the design world since he was young, the Arts & Crafts’ glorification of handicraft resonates even today. “The Industrial Revolution scared the crap out of them, and quite rightly,” he says of those turn-of-the-century designers, pointing out how digitization has further devalued the skills of graphic designers today. “A whole swathe of the middle class is being knocked out,” he adds. “You look at what’s happened to graphic design now, it’s been completely devalued and demonetized. It’s very hard to earn a living as a graphic designer.”
Now, traditional methods—like letterpress printing—are wildly popular once more among contemporary designers. “People are turning back to craft to earn a living,” says Green, a bit like Cobden Sanderson and his contemporaries did. Not only because it gives their work authenticity, he says, but also: “because it’s fun.”
It’s strange to imagine that a designer who was born more than a century after Cobden Sanderson has been the one to rebuild his ruined life’s work.
In an odd way, he’s also healing the rift between Cobden Sanderson and his partner, Emery Walker. Rather than sell the metal punches he lifted from the Thames, Green is keeping half and giving half to the Emery Walker Trust, which maintains his former home as a museum to his work. 100 years ago, Cobden Sanderson had said that Walker would “have to dive for it” if he wanted his half of the business. Oddly enough, he’s getting half after all—with Green acting as his generous, devoted proxy diver.
Today, anyone can download and buy Green’s revival of Cobden Sanderson’s type online. “He probably would’ve been horrified,” Green laughs. But then again, he doesn’t see his Doves Type as an exact recreation of the original. It’s more like an echo or a simulacrum—it has a life of its own.
It’s a story that ties together the most important and controversial ideas in the last century of design. Cobden Sanderson was reacting—criminally!—to the threat of his profession being made irrelevant by the machine age. Today, designers are still struggling to find meaning and reconcile their work with a kind of machine logic born by technologies that Cobden Sanderson couldn’t have even imagined.
100 years later, the concerns of a man obsessed with craft still resonate with us. But then again, without computers—a product of the machines that Arts & Crafts strove against—Doves Type wouldn’t exist. Today, it’s a living, breathing thing, an amalgam of the technologies and machines that were just being born when it was dropped into the river.
WHAT’S LIFE REALLY LIKE DESIGNING FOR APPLE? AN ALUM SHARES WHAT HE LEARNED DURING HIS SEVEN YEARS IN CUPERTINO.
Enter Mark Kawano. Before founding Storehouse, Kawano was a senior designer at Apple for seven years, where he worked on Aperture and iPhoto. Later, Kawano became Apple’s User Experience Evangelist, guiding third-party app iOS developers to create software that felt right on Apple’s platforms. Kawano was with the company during a critical moment, as Apple released the iPhone and created the wide world of apps.
In an interview with Co.Design, Kawano spoke frankly about his time at Apple—and especially wanted to address all the myths the industry has about the company and about its people.
Apple Has The Best Designers
“I think the biggest misconception is this belief that the reason Apple products turn out to be designed better, and have a better user experience, or are sexier, or whatever . . . is that they have the best design team in the world, or the best process in the world,” Kawano says. But in his role as user experience evangelist, meeting with design teams from Fortune 500 companies on a daily basis, he absorbed a deeper truth.
“It’s actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.”
It has often been said that good design needs to start at the top—that the CEO needs to care about design as much as the designers themselves. People often observe that Steve Jobs brought this structure to Apple. But the reason that structure works isn’t because of a top-down mandate. It’s an all around mandate. Everyone cares.
“It’s not this thing where you get some special wings or superpowers when you enter Cupertino. It’s that you now have an organization where you can spend your time designing products, instead of having to fight for your seat at the table, or get frustrated when the better design is passed over by an engineering manager who just wants to optimize for bug fixing. All of those things are what other designers at other companies have to spend a majority of their time doing. At Apple, it’s kind of expected that experience is really important.”
Kawano underscores that everyone at Apple—from the engineers to the marketers—is, to some extent, thinking like a designer. In turn, HR hires employees accordingly. Much like Google hires employees that think like Googlers, Apple hires employees that truly take design into consideration in all of their decisions.
“You see companies that have poached Apple designers, and they come up with sexy interfaces or something interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle for their business or their product. That’s because all the designer did was work on an interface piece, but to have a really well-designed product in the way Steve would say, this ‘holistic’ thing, is everything. It’s not just the interface piece. It’s designing the right business model into it. Designing the right marketing and the copy, and the way to distribute it. All of those pieces are critical.”
Apple’s Design Team Is Infinite
Facebook has hundreds of designers. Google may have 1,000 or more. But when Kawano was at Apple, its core software products were designed by a relatively small group of roughly 100 people.
“I knew every one of them by face and name,” Kawano says.
For the most part, Apple didn’t employ specialist designers. Every designer could hold their own in both creating icons and new interfaces, for instance. And thanks to the fact that Apple hires design-centric engineers, the relatively skeleton design team could rely on engineers to begin the build process on a new app interface, rather than having to initiate their own mock-up first.
Of course, this approach may be changing today.
“For Apple, having a small, really focused organization made a lot of sense when Steve was there, because so many ideas came from Steve. So having a smaller group work on some of these ideas made sense,” Kawano says. “As Apple shifted to much more of a company where there’s multiple people at the top, I think it makes sense that they’re growing the design team in interesting ways.”
Notably, Jony Ive, who now heads usability across hardware and software, is reported to have brought in some of the marketing team to help redesign iOS 7. It’s a coup, when you think about it, for marketers to be deep in the trenches with designers and engineers. (That level of collaboration is frankly unprecedented in the industry.)
Apple Crafts Every Detail With Intention
Apple products are often defined by small details, especially those around interaction. Case in point: When you type a wrong password, the password box shakes in response. These kinds of details are packed with meaningful delight. They’re moments that seem tough to explain logically but which make sense on a gut level.
“So many companies try to mimic this idea . . . that we need to come up with this snappy way to do X, Y, and Z. They’re designing it, and they can’t move onto the next thing until they get a killer animationor killer model of the way data is laid out,” Kawano explains. The reality? “It’s almost impossible to come up with really innovative things when you have a deadline and schedule.”
Kawano told us that Apple designers (and engineers!) will often come up with clever interactive ideas—like 3-D cube interfaces or bouncy physics-based icons—during a bit of their down time, and then they might sit on them for years before they make sense in a particular context.
“People are constantly experimenting with these little items, and because the teams all kind of know what other people have done, once a feature comes up—say we need a good way to give feedback for a password, and we don’t want to throw up this ugly dialog—then it’s about grabbing these interaction or animation concepts that have just been kind of built for fun experiments and seeing if there’s anything there, and then applying the right ones.”
But if you’re imagining some giant vault of animation ideas hiding inside Apple and waiting to be discovered, you’d be wrong. The reality, Kawano explains, was far more bohemian.
“There wasn’t a formalized library, because most of the time there wasn’t that much that was formalized of anything that could be stolen,” Kawano says. “It was more having a small team and knowing what people had worked on, and the culture of being comfortable sharing.”
Steve Jobs’s Passion Frightened Everyone
There was a commonly shared piece of advice inside Apple—maybe you’ve heard it before—that a designer should always take the stairs, because if you met Steve Jobs in the elevator, he’d ask what you were up to. And one of two things would happen:
1. He’d hate it, and you might be fired.
2. He’d love it, the detail would gain his attention, and you’d lose every foreseeable night, weekend, and vacation to the project.
Kawano laughs when he tells it to me, but the conclusion he draws is more nuanced than the obvious Catch 22 punchline.
“The reality is, the people who thrived at Apple were the people who welcomed that desire and passion to learn from working with Steve, and just really were dedicated to the customer and the product. They were willing to give up their weekends and vacation time. And a lot of the people who complained that it wasn’t fair . . . they didn’t see the value of giving all that up versus trying to create the best product for the customer and then sacrificing everything personally to get there.”
“That’s where, a lot of times, he would get a bad rap, but he just wanted the best thing, and expected everyone else to want that same thing. He had trouble understanding people who didn’t want that same thing and wondered why they’d be working for him if that was the case. I think Steve had a very low tolerance for people who didn’t care about stuff. He had a very hard time understanding why people would work in these positions and not want to sacrifice everything for them.”
As for Kawano, did he ever get an amazing piece of advice, or an incredible compliment from Jobs?
“Nothing personally,” he admits, and then laughs. “The only thing that was really positive was, in the cafeteria one time, when he told me that the salmon I took looked really great, and he was going to go get that.”
“He was just super accessible. I totally tried to get him to cut in front of me, but he’d never want do anything like that. That was interesting too, he was super demanding . . . but when it came to other things, he wanted to be very democratic, and to be treated like everyone else. And he was constantly struggling with those roles.”
Expletives and Art seem to make the perfect pair. A simple word can invoke an emotional response or set a specific tone, which makes it a powerful tool for designers and artists to convey their message. In this post I feature thirty examples of profanity filled typography designs which will either entertain or offend.
Either way, they’re probably not safe for work or the eyes of children! “Look away kids!”
EVERYBODY IS FULL OF SHIT BY MEL BOCHNER
WAKE THE FUCK UP BY OH YES VERY NICE!
DO NO HARM BY WELLS
UNITED STATES OF WTF?! BY JILLIAN ADEL
YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE BY WRDBNR
IF YOU DON’T DO SHIT BY WRDBNR
FUCK FEAR BY WRDBNR
ALAKAZAM! BY JUSTIN PERVORSE
UGLY WORDS TO ADMIRE BY JACKSON ALVES
YOU SIR, ARE A…
FUCK IT FIX IT BY WRDBNR
NO FUCK HEADS BY BEN BOLOGNA
KEEP IT CLASSY BY ERIK MARINOVICH
POSITIVE PROFANITY BY ERIK MARINOVICH
BRAQUAGE BY ERIK MARINOVICH
FUCK OFF BY MARY KATE MCDEVITT
HOT SHIT BY MARY KATE MCDEVITT
FUCK ART, LET’S DANCE! BY ROBERT HELLMUNDT
THE KING MONSTER 666 BY KORCHO
FUCK SHIT UP BY BENNY
FUCK YOU BY SERGIDELGADO
CLUELESS BY BLUHYDRANT
MESS IT UP BY JESSICA HISCHE
F**K BY RICARDO GONZALEZ
PLEASE THANK YOU BY SEB LESTER
PAPER TYPE BY LAVANYA NAIDOO
THE KEY TO HAPPINESS BY ROBERLAN
TYPOGRAPHY WORK BY CHRISTINE CALO
PLAY THE FUCKING SYNTH BY MANUEL CETINA
DON’T GIVE A FUCK BY DANIEL CANELA
MAKE SHIT HAPPEN BY JAY ROEDER
Fish and chips, flitting fantails, melting Jelly Tips; these are some of our favourite things that make up a Kiwi summer.
NZ illustrator Belinda Ellis captures these well-loved Kiwi symbols and more in her latest book Iconz, which takes a look at New Zealand’s popular culture and history.
Ellis’ 64 illustrations pay homage to our culture, while narration by writer Richard Wolfe fleshes out the history of each image. These range from caricatures of Fred Dagg and Flight of the Conchords, to line drawings of paua and mud pools.
Says Ellis: “It pays tribute to those things that make this country unique, and that we have made our own – our ‘kiwitanga’, our quintessential customs, artefacts, landscape and people.”
Originally posted by Rachael Steven, 17 November 2014,
No longer catering exclusively to the young, male, or Christian, the YMCA unsurprisingly faced problems in communicating what it stood for.ArthurSteenHorneAdamson has developed a new brand identity which aims to better reflect the breadth of the charity’s work in England – we spoke to ASHA’s Marksteen Adamson about the project…
Founded 170 years ago, YMCA is one of the UK’s oldest and best-known charities. Lately, however, it’s been going through a bit of an identity crisis.
While still based on Christian values, the charity no longer caters exclusively to men, Christians or young people. It now has thousands of centres in 119 countries and helps over 50 million people but as its reach has increased, so too has a lack of awareness about what it does.
In 2010, the US YMCA aimed to address this by renaming itself The Y, launching a new logo and strapline which identified three key areas of work: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
The name was in part introduced to keep up with the times – apparently, most people using the service in the US referred to it as The Y – but also to address “public confusion” over its role and activities.
“We are simplifying how we describe the programs we offer so that it is immediately apparent that everything we do is designed to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve health and well-being and support our neighbours and the larger community,” the charity’s chief marketing officer told the BBC.
In the UK, the charity has been experiencing a similar problem. In an article announcing the rebrand, Alan Fraser, CEO of YMCA Birmingham and chair of the charity’s brand implementation group, said that while it ranked highly in terms of brand recognition, it was in the bottom 10 percent of UK charities in terms of awareness.
With YMCA centres now offering crèche and leisure facilities, training and education programmes and accommodation for all ages, its name no longer reflected the breadth of its work. As each of the 114 centres in the UK are run independently, there was also a lack of consistency in branding, communications and facilities.
To address this, the charity commissioned ArthurSteenHorneAdamson to reposition the YMCA and design an identity system to be used by all YMCA centres. The rebrand groups the charity’s work into five core areas: support and advice, accommodation, family work, health and wellbeing and training and education.
The original acronym has been retained but is accompanied by a less youth-focussed mission statement, which says the YMCA “enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit.”
The new visual identity includes a more modern geometric logo, a bold colour palette with a designated shade for each area of work and a triangular system applied to merchandise, literature and the charity’s website.
When working on the project, Marksteen Adamson, founding partner at ASHA, says the first task was to define “a core set of values” that underpinned the YMCA’s work.
“The YMCA does some fantastic work, but there was a lack of clarity around what it stood for,” he explains. “Although youth is very high on its agenda, it caters to all ages, and the idea of it being for just young people and Christians was no longer relevant. It was also struggling to categorise the hundreds of activities offered by different centres…and there was a lot of inconsistency in logos, signage and campaigns,” he says.
“The new mission statement references the YMCA’s Christian values but makes it clear that it’s not a church organisation – it’s there for the whole community and doesn’t discriminate.”
The new logo is drawn on a triangular grid, a nod to the triangle in the YMCA’s previous branding and Adamson says it was tested on both YMCA representatives and members of the public in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, London and Cheltenham.
“We created three different marques: one which was quite safe, another which was a little more dynamic, and a third (the logo now in use), which felt a lot more ‘future friendly’ in terms of how it could be applied to different things,” he explains.
“We then presented all of our ideas to people on the street, from teens to parents and kids, asking what people thought of them and eliminating the designs they didn’t like. If people in the street said they would buy a hoodie with it on, we felt that was a good measure of whether it was right,” he adds.
The new logo has a much more youth-orientated feel than the YMCA’s old marque, particularly when used on hoodies and signage, but for corporate presentations, ties and pin badges, it appears in a more sombre grey.
Triangular patterns are also used on stationery and communications, while singular triangles act as “a pointing device” on imagery promoting each of the five key areas of service:
When choosing colours for each core area, Adamson says it was important that they felt fresh, contemporary and appropriate for each service. “We didn’t feel pastel would be right for [the YMCA], or anything too bright, such as primary colours, which would feel too young. For health and wellbeing, for example, green was a natural choice, while a clean blue worked well for accommodation,” says Adamson.
So far, 34 YMCAs in England have signed up to the new brand. It’s also being rolled out across YMCA stores and the charity expects it will be adopted by more centres over the next few months. Adamson says the initial response has been “overwhelmingly positive,” adding: “everyone agrees it feels a lot more trendy and up to date – especially the people who live and work here.”
Commenting on the identity, Fraser says that “for the first time, YMCA will be communicating a clear message about what YMCA is and what it is we do, not just on a local level, but as a national federation.”
“Many people are worried about charities wasting their money on things as ephemeral as branding. But it is clear that how we communicate to people has as big an impact, and perhaps an even bigger one, than the factual content of our message,” he explains.
Adamson says the rebrand is also designed to help the YMCA save money on designing communications: each centre’s website will run on the same WordPress theme and staff will be given downloadable templates for newsletters, leaflets and presentations. “It should be useful when creating joint pitches too, as centres often team up to secure funding,” he adds.
As well as raising awareness of the YMCA’s services in local communities, the new identity should help the charity launch more effective national campaigns. That jagged logo won’t appeal to everyone but the new system is a considerable improvement on the old branding, and makes a much clearer statement about what the YMCA does, who it helps and what it stands for.
“This will help people who might benefit from our services – or who might want to support our services – to understand us better and make an informed choice. But it will also help us increase the strength of our voice when we lobby for change on behalf of young people,” says Fraser.