Designing a brand identity and book for an exhibit requires a clear understanding of the content, audience, and context in order to communicate the curator's intentions. Staging Los Angeles: Reality, Fantasy, and the Space Between centers around the representation of Los Angeles in popular media and the influence of the film industry on the city, its inhabitants, and artistic practices. Using Thom Andersen’s 2003 film Los Angeles Plays Itself as a point of departure, the exhibition offers a space for reflection on the three themes through which this visual essay examines L.A.: the city as background, the city as character, and the city as subject.
As designers, we enjoy leaving our comfort zones on a regular basis, working with subject matter that requires a fair amount of research and familiarizing. The more we depart from the familiar, the more we realize that true innovation comes from leaving one's comfort zone. That's why, when we work on something that feels personal to us, our first challenge is to push ourselves into a space that is less familiar, in order to gain perspective and heighten our creativity.
Recently, we had the incredible opportunity to work with Welcome.us to design the branding for Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM). As Americans, the subject matter felt comfortable to us. All of us have an American immigration story or are immigrants ourselves. We're familiar with the concept of celebrating our diversity and highlighting what is unique about our own cultures and traditions. Although we wanted these experiences to inform our creation of the visual identity and brand voice for IHM, the concept of celebrating our differences was only a starting point.
Welcome.us had initially stressed the concept of a uniquely American identity that derives its character from the interaction between all of the different cultures we bring to this country. Our goal was to work in this space, creating a brand identity that doesn't just celebrate our differences, but also highlights what we have in common— the unique culture that comes from sharing our experience and traditions with one another.
To put this concept into action, audience participation and storytelling needed to become central components in the IHM campaign. Hearing each other's stories and learning from one another is what creates our shared American heritage. In order to reflect this in the design of Welcome.us for IHM, we made storytelling and the concept of a shared American experience the focus of the homepage. When readers enter Welcome.us, they will find a statement that explains this central idea, a prompt to share their own story, and the stories and photos of others who have shared. In order to really create the feeling of a shared identity, participation is essential. That's why we made the prompt for readers to share their own stories a fixture on the navigation bar, using bold typeface and color to draw attention to it
To capture the celebratory nature of Welcome.us and draw attention to the strength and character created by America's immigrants, we created both a vibrant color palate and an animated logo in which the typography animates into confetti. Our goal here was to create a logo that would reflect the energy and vibrancy of the American immigrant community as well as appeal to all age groups participating in IHM. We also emphasize celebration and inclusiveness through the website's copy, which is meant to be uplifting and encourage readers to share their experiences through social media.
To kick off our own celebration and participation in IHM, we also went through the process of putting together our own American stories. Look out for them on our Facebook page this week and next, and be sure to participate in IHM on social media by sharing your story with #IHM2015.
At verynice, design thinking informs the way we problem solve in all areas of our work; it’s at the core of our practices, whether we’re advising on business strategy or forming a brand identity. We do this not only because it improves the outcome of our work, but also because our clients find takeaways to add to their own practices. When we interact with clients who are unfamiliar with design and its processes, part of our responsibility is to show them why good design matters and how it can make a difference in all areas of business. Spreading the word is how we can make what we do sustainable— although we know that true sustainability comes from sharing our knowledge with the next generation, so they can not only do what we do, but value what we value.
That’s why we were thrilled to partner with Catapult, a program created by Ashoka that provides aspiring young entrepreneurs with the skills and mentorship they need to develop their start up ideas. Through an intensive, four-month startup incubator, Catapult provides participants with an immersive experience during which they must build, pitch, fund, and launch a venture. Their support comes from three sessions that take place across the US and weekly virtual meetings with their team’s professional advisors. verynice was proud to partner with Catapult in order to support the students’ design and strategy needs through instruction and mentorship.
Through a series of six sessions, verynice volunteers took Catapult entrepreneurs through the visual design process. We also worked on strategy with participants, providing instruction on business plans and an overview of other strategy pieces such as user experience design to help take them through the start up phase of their companies.
Here are some samples to demonstrate our work. We supported each team in creating their logos, business cards, and introductory pages to their presentation decks. You can find a one of the presentation decks by Ripple right here.
We couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome of this partnership. The entrepreneurs we worked with were exposed not only to many parts of the design process, but also to some of the different ways that good design can shape a business— especially in its early stages. By turning their ideas into engaging, dynamic brands, they were able to see that design is at the core of a business’s identity and can also help shape its future. We were pleased to hear that Catapult program leader, Joshua Collins, expressed an equally positive view of our partnership:
"Catapult relies heavily on unique partnerships to build and develop the ecosystem necessary to support our students and their ideas. The support of verynice over the past six months, and the commitment of verynice volunteers, has been nothing short of outstanding— and critical to our ability to truly develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
After the program, we talked with two program participants who gave us perspective on what it’s like to be a high-school aged entrepreneur in 2015: Disha Shidham and Adrian Wisaksana. Read on to see what motivates them, what challenges them, and why Catapult was an experience integral to their development as entrepreneurs.
Hi Adrian, Hi Disha!
When did you first realize that you wanted to become an entrepreneur? Were you motivated by a specific idea?
A: In the fantastic summer of 2014, I visited the United States for the first time to take part in a summer program called Leadership in the Business World (LBW). I was a part of LBW West alongside with seventy talented high school individuals. We were based in the great city of San Francisco and there, we explored the world of business together. We learned from great entrepreneurs and their amazing stories as well as from visits to tech giants such as Google and Ebay. Towards the end of the program, I was simply thrilled to explore the world of business even more.
In that very summer, I also met most of the amazing people who I am working with today—I met the team. The team was and still is what motivates me the most when it comes to entrepreneurship. We have come a long way, from Menerva seven months ago to College Hive today. We have combined our unique skills and talents together to build exciting things. I’m looking forward to accomplish more great things together.
D: I actually didn’t realize I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship until after I completed the MIT Launch Summer Program. I just happened to apply for the program, thinking it would be great to spend four weeks in Cambridge during my summer, and I ended up falling in love with the start up world. MIT Launch really introduced me to the core concepts of entrepreneurship and I realized then and there that these fundamental ideas were also the core concepts of my personal philosophy. Entrepreneurship is a perfect fit for who I am and who I strive to be in the future.
What aspects of your Catapult team’s business did you develop with the instruction/guidance of our volunteers?
A: We were working with Elana to develop the core design aspects of our venture which included our logo as well as our brand image. It was a crucial step for us as we were still maturing our new venture, College Hive, after a significant pivot. We also spent time imagining the user experience and creating a mockup for our MVP. The mockup was a key tool for us to demonstrate to other people how we envision our service.
D: Marlon’s input on our logo and advice on branding was absolutely invaluable. First and foremost, I want to thank you all at verynice for your support. Marlon really helped us solidify what TacBoard’s mission was, helping create a “brand dictionary”. He reflected our precise mission in the new logo he created for TacBoard.
What were your most useful/memorable takeaways from working with our volunteers?
A: Working with Elana was an absolute privilege for our team. It was very fun and it felt as if she was actually a part of the team. Apart from all the exciting Google Hangouts, I remember sharing a board on Pinterest and just pinning down ideas together for our design. We shared color schemes, design styles and patterns we liked and eventually combined them together to finalize our brand design. I had never thought Pinterest could be such a useful tool in the idea sharing process.
Elana also introduced us to InVision, an awesome tool for teams to collaborate on design work and create mockups. When she showed us what she had done for the mockup, we were in awe. “Wow”, I remember our excitement when we saw it. The mockup was spectacular. It later became a key piece in our pitch as well as the Q&A session on Demo Day. We cannot thank Elana enough for her help and guidance!
D: The most useful takeaway from working with Marlon was this: to make sure that everyone in the team had a clear idea of the one, district vision for TacBoard. After that, we would have to make sure that every task and every idea formulated within TacBoard aligned with our vision. This idea of knowing exactly what your brand is now, how you see it growing in the future and developing a plan to get from now to the future was a really important concept that my team and I learned during the sessions with Marlon.
In your view, what are some of the main challenges that young (high school age or below) entrepreneurs face today?
A: Two things: experience and mentorship. Experience relates to learning by doing, whether it be doing things such as surveys or pitching. I think that sometimes it can be intimidating to actually go out and see how people perceive your idea as well as how they perceive you. This also relates to having the courage to fail, to embrace failures and quickly learn from them. I used to be a fan of ‘playing safe’, but looking back, I found that by avoiding risks, I was not making the most out of my potential for growth.
I think mentorship is crucial for young entrepreneurs, or even entrepreneurs in general. Listening for advice from experienced entrepreneurs and passionate people has been such a valuable learning experience for me and my team. I think that the lack of mentorship limits one’s ability to see a bigger picture. Sometimes that can either mean success or failure. Both experience and mentorship are only some of the great things that Catapult provides to us young entrepreneurs and I will be forever grateful for that!
D: In my view, the biggest challenge for high school entrepreneurs is bringing an idea to reality and I believe that Catapult really fills this need. Catapult not only lays the groundwork for ideation and development of start ups, but they provide specific deliverables that bring business ideas into realities– particularly the design consultations with verynice employees and the free legal services from DLA Piper.
Has participating in Catapult affected your approach to entrepreneurship and/or your goals for the future?
A: Catapult has transformed my lifelong aspirations completely. It has taught me to believe that we as members of the younger generation can actually make a difference in this world. It is a thought that I had deemed preposterous not too long ago, but today is a different story. Today, I’m not afraid to experiment with new ideas and to learn more from new exciting entrepreneurial adventures. My goal for the future is to work with passionate people to create solutions to real world problems. Catapult will always be a great source of inspiration and motivation in my journey to achieve my goal. I am very excited to see where my experience at Catapult will take me in the future!
D: For me, Catapult itself was a form of an MVP to see if I really wanted to be an entrepreneur in the future. It was a low risk way to see if I really enjoyed entrepreneurship or not. Now that the program is over I can say with certainty that living and breathing the start up life is definitely what I want my future to be. Not only do I enjoy actually building something from the very beginning and watching it grow, but the people that are involved in entrepreneurship are the kind of people that I want to be around– they’re inspiring and passionate about everything that they do. I absolutely thrive in that kind of environment.
Thank you to Catapult for an amazing partnership and the privilege of working with such bright entrepreneurs. Find out how design can shape business and learn more about our work here.
We recently had the privilege of working with the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) on their brand identity and website. Most of our staff had already been fans of this museum that features only California artists and designers in order to explore culture, influences, and issues that are unique to California. Having explored PMCA a little on our own, we knew they had already had a fresh, vibrant personality that should easily translate into a strong brand.
However, PMCA's personality was not reflected in their website, which was nonresponsive, difficult to navigate, and hardly displayed any of the art and design featured in their exhibits. Because of this, PMCA’s website was causing potential new members to leave the site and lose interest. In order to resolve this, we first had to look closely at the needs of their current and desired membership and work to create a brand identity that both served this audience and mirrored the energy of PMCA’s exhibits.
Part of PMCA’s appeal is that it doesn’t have a permanent collection; rotating exhibits keeps the museum dynamic and fresh. In order to reflect this, we created a logo that acts as a frame— its thicker font allows the artwork they’re currently exhibiting to show through. In the website itself, we created custom headers for each page, which incorporates the logo and a large paneled photograph that both relates to the page content and features the artwork currently on display. This way, we let their exhibits speak for themselves without letting the navigation or additional design elements interfere.
In order to address PMCA’s audience, we had to merge two very distinct needs— those of their older members (above age 60) and their younger, twenty or thirty-something audience. The older members are used to a more traditional website design and system of navigation while younger members find minimal design and navigation to be both intuitive and more pleasing. In order to create a very modern, pleasing site without alienating a portion of PMCA’s membership, we created a minimal design while incorporating features that would make it more intuitive and accessible, such as larger font size and prominent arrows that indicate where to click and scroll.
To recap the process from PMCA’s side, we asked their Marketing and Outreach Associate, Alex Kaneshiro, to tell us a little about PMCA, their California-focused mission, and what working with verynice has meant for them so far. Check out what Alex has to say below!
Hi, Alex! Can you tell us a bit about the PMCA's mission?
Our mission is to present the breadth of California art and design through exhibitions that explore the cultural dynamics and influences that are unique to California. This means that our programming encompasses both historical and contemporary art, celebrating in equal measure plein-air painters inspired by the region's mountains and deserts, and experimental artists who choose to use the building as canvas.
Before you approached verynice, what were some of the barriers PMCA was facing in terms of reaching your potential audience and achieving your mission?
While our website had served us well in the past, it was clear that our website had become outdated, and that there was a disconnect between our current PMCA voice/sensibility and our brand identity/website. Our old website no longer registered as accessible and vibrant—in fact, our analytics reported a high bounce rate and increasingly low engagement. We found that our site map and non-responsive design discouraged users from spending more than a few seconds on the website.
How has the new website opened up room for PMCA to grow?
The new website has really opened up a whole new world for us. Now that the site is user friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and perfectly encapsulates the PMCA, visitors are immediately drawn in and are more likely to convert to first-time museum visitors / become more involved as members, volunteers, repeat donors.
Donating is now made easy AND visible literally on every page—an important detail as individual giving composes over half of our revenue.
The new website also enables us to create dedicated spaces for exhibition-related materials, from brochures to shop items to educational materials, which simultaneously archive all of our temporary exhibitions.
How has our work around brand strategy helped clarify PMCA's next steps or opened up room for growth?
As we move forward with marketing collateral and gradually roll out updated on-site/wayfinding signage, I’m realizing just how helpful it was to have identified qualities by which to measure brand success: Is it accessible and engaging? Is it dynamic and fresh? Etc. etc. Prior to our rebrand, we didn’t have identity guidelines in place to serve as checkpoints—so for consistency’s sake, working with verynice on brand strategy was eye-opening and a huge leap!
What does the future look like for PMCA? Any key goals in the works you can share?
The future looks bright! In mid-June, we’re opening two new exhibitions, Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent and Alexandra Grant and Steve Roden: “These Carnations Defy Language”—in addition to transforming our Project Room into an educational space inspired by Corita’s Immaculate Heart classroom. Our schedule is packed with dynamic programming (Poetry! Performance! Zines! Children’s workshops! Play reading!), and I’m aiming to make as much of it available online as possible. Lesson plans and educational materials, video/audio recordings of panel discussions and the like—basically playing around with engaging interactive content, since Wordpress allows for such beautiful, seamless integration. Stay tuned!
We can't wait! If you live in Los Angeles or have plans to visit, check out what's going on at PMCA right now.
When it comes to getting funded, nonprofits must overcome a few more hurdles than for-profits, especially when it comes to reaching potential donors. For-profit companies trying to bring in new customers work hard to leave an impression on their desired audience. Put simply, when they present a strong and consistent view of their brand to the right people, they see success.
While nonprofits can effectively acquire new donors in the same way, they often have fewer means to do so. Without the budget or staffing to create a robust brand, they loose valuable opportunities to reach an audience that cares about the work they’re doing. This affects their ability to retain donors, and therefore to set long-term goals for growth.
When our client, <dev>tech academy, approached verynice with this same issue, we knew we wanted to help. <dev>tech is a nonprofit that provides a comprehensive web development program, job training, and personal finance skills to disadvantaged youth. We were immediately impressed by their ability to create social change by matching two major issues— the tech skills gap and the lack of opportunity faced by youth who cannot afford a college education. In order to help <dev>tech build a support network, we just needed to help them communicate the power of their model to the world. How? By giving them a strong brand strategy and visual identity.
Instead of taking you through this process ourselves, we asked <dev>tech Co-Founder, Stacy McCoy, to talk about <dev>tech, their work with verynyice, and what she sees for the organization’s future.
Hi, Stacy! Can you tell us about who <dev>tech serves?
500%. That’s how much the cost of college has risen since 1985. Student loan debt is over $1 trillion and is second only to mortgage debt. It’s not an affordable option for everyone anymore. Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives. Those without higher education will make on-average less than $30,000 a year and struggle to find a job because unemployment rates are much higher for those without a college degree.
At the same time, there’s a tech talent shortage. Code.org estimates that by 2020 there will be 1,000,000 more jobs than students. And it’s much harder for companies in smaller tech hubs to recruit and retain talent. <dev>tech academy bridges this gap by helping youth that can’t afford to go to college gain the skills necessary to get a job as a junior developer at a local tech company. Youth get access to higher paying jobs and a stable career, tech companies get the talent they need to grow and scale, and the surrounding communities experience greater economic development due to the additional money flowing into the local economy. It’s a win-win-win!
Are there any differences between the traditional “dev bootcamps” we’re becoming familiar with and <dev>tech’s model?
<dev>tech academy takes the standard for-profit web development bootcamp model, bumps it out to 6 months, and adds a long-term apprenticeship. This was a novel idea when the model was designed a couple of years ago. But now these types of models are starting to be tested in a couple of big cities around the country. But we take it a step further. On top of providing mentorship and career services, we also provide financial literacy support from opening bank accounts to teaching how to manage money and save. I would also like to think the curriculum we’ve developed is one of the best. Finally, we have plans for creating a model that works for rural areas and monetizing the model so that it’s self-sustainable. But it’s too early to share the details of those. Stay tuned!
Even though the <dev>tech model seems incredibly robust and relevant, were you facing any barriers to getting off the ground?
Though the idea behind <dev>tech academy was formed a couple of years ago when I was living in Los Angeles, I held off on launching it because I knew I would be moving soon. When my husband and I moved to Durham late last April, I hit the ground running. Finding advisors and community support was easy. The pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place as one after another people offered to help. Durham is such an amazing city! But there was one big piece missing: funding. The cornerstone of the program is a bootcamp, which requires a skilled teacher to be competitive. Skilled web development instructors are expensive! It’s a big ask. My first venture Give To Get Jobs – which is organized as a for-profit LLC – was self-funded. Fundraising, especially non-profit fundraising, is completely new to me. And pilot programs are the hardest to fund. It’s been difficult going from moving so fast to needing to slow down in order to find the right donor(s).
Now that you have a visual identity, how has that removed some of the barriers you’ve been facing?
Revamping <dev>tech academy’s visual identity was huge for us. It makes us look a lot more professional, which is important when you’re asking for large sums of money. It also helped guide a website redesign and will inform all graphic design styles moving forward. And I’m a lot more confident that we’ll be able to effectively reach our target market with this new identity.
How about the brand strategy piece? Did that open up new opportunities for <dev>tech as well?The new brand strategy is helpful beyond words. Working towards that strategy pushed us to dig deep and determine what’s behind the <dev>tech academy brand. Our brand and brand story is a lot clearer now enabling us to tell the story in a much more effective way.
Sounds like <dev>tech is headed toward a bright future! How are you visualizing your next steps?The biggest goal is to get the money to pay an instructor. Once that happens, we can have the program up and running in less than a month and a half. Everything else is ready to go. Once we launch the pilot program, the next big step will be to run a successful program. When we have proof of concept, we’ll be scaling the program rapidly. And then the adventure will really begin! It’s a big undertaking, but I can’t wait. And I can’t thank verynice enough for helping <dev>tech academy as we set out to develop communities by developing tech talent.
Thank you, Stacy!