See It to Believe It
We love explaining why a brand design refresh makes all the difference, but it’s also something you have to witness. That’s why we’re starting a Before and After Series on the blog. We want you to experience what happens to a brand when it’s been reconsidered, reworked, and reimagined.
As our creative director and co-founder, Cherry Lao, says, “When a brand is refreshed, it lives up to a fuller extent of its potential. It can be difficult to grasp what a transformation a brand story can take. In some ways, you need to see it to believe it.”
Meet the Brand
Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) is a nonprofit that makes outdoor adventures accessible to people with disabilities and under-resourced youth. When ETC first came to Citizen Best, they were concerned their website felt outdated and was difficult to maintain. We instantly wanted to help. Not only could we address their pain points, but we also saw that their brand story and the look and feel of their website didn’t represent the incredible work they did.
When we looked at the ETC website, we saw a big problem: It didn’t pop. It was overwhelmed by messaging and didn’t highlight the role of nature in the nonprofit’s mission. In short, the key brand story was getting lost.
To get ETC right, we needed to return to the basics and understand every aspect of the ETC brand. Working with their team, we dove into brand strategy, creative design, and the website design and development process. We didn’t leave any stone unturned. We considered various looks and feels through mood boards; we modernized their brand logo; and we landed on a brand statement that better encapsulated the ETC mission.
As part of this process, Cherry collaborated very closely with the client. She explains, “This period of work is really exciting. It’s like a puzzle that we’re trying to work out together. Yes, it’s about storytelling and branding, but it’s also about good old-fashioned creativity and exploration. I was endlessly inspired by ETC and the work they did, so I wanted to make their brand design as meaningful as their mission.”
By putting in the work, the ETC website transformed. It went from flat to rich with meaning.
Starting with colors, we landed on a color-palette that speaks to colors found in nature. We used shades that evoke water sports, kayaking, mountain ranges, and even trips to the Grand Canyon. We then developed a color system that applied the palette in a systematic way, using colors to create flow and hierarchy throughout the website. The result was a refined toolkit that’s easy for ETC to use and that feels harmonious in any asset.
We were similarly inspired in our use of graphic elements. We found a circular shape to be a nice fit for ETC as it communicates a sense of community and camaraderie—the feeling of finding your place. It also echoes through nature in the rise of waves and the concentric circles found in trees. The tone-on-tone line elements play a similar role for the background pattern, representing terrain and mimicking wood. These graphic elements are used throughout the brand experience to call attention to certain imagery, to elevate calls to action, and to add dimensionality.
An additional piece of this project was making sure the website was accessible and easy to update. For that reason, we designed with accessibility in mind—for instance, creating a high contrast design system and large font size for people with visual impairments. To keep the website maintenance simple for the ETC team, we built a content management system (CMS) on the backend. At the end of the project, we provided the team with a website training, giving them the tools to update assets going forward.
The ultimate result was a brand story that used color, graphics, photography and messaging to evoke environmental settings and to speak to the importance of community and a connection with nature. And a website that will help ETC continue their inspiring work for years to come.
The end result was a website that all parties were thrilled with, and one that will help ETC continue their inspiring work for years to come.
Parting thought for the day…
“Leave the roads; take the trails.” – Pythagoras