Thursday, June 23, 2016

Young Rhinebeck branding and logo

Young Rhinebeck was (is) a wonderful community-based, volunteer-led not-for-profit organization based in the Mid-Hudson Valley town of Rhinebeck, NY.  Its signature program links English as new or English as second language (ENL & ESL) elementary school students with Bard College tutors to help with homework, enhance language skills and to provide translators for parents to help nurture connections and engagement with the family, school and broader community. Young Rhinebeck also offers world-focused events to fill in the second half of district-wide half days (Half Day/Whole World), world-intensive semester-long programming (World Connect) and arts programming, which had consisted entirely of a sleepover "Night at the Museum" at Bard's Hessel Museum. 

Their brand definition was non-existent, and for an organization that offered such a disparate range of services, it was not immediately apparent what they should or could reasonably stand for, in terms of branding. While the programs had enormous success and respect from the school system and participants, Young Rhinebeck was missing an opportunity to demonstrate their impact within the larger community and among donors.  In addition, YR wished to expand their programs to new school districts, so making a compelling case for the brand and what it could bring to new districts was essential.

One thing the board was immediately open to was a logo exploratory, just one part of the branding process, as we've written about extensively. (Read our essay "The Tortoise and the Hare" here.) Well, we love creating logos, and so we were happy to indulge. Here below are a few of the rough concepts we presented.
Now, as it happens, sometimes when a client delves into the process, they start to understand more and more of the possibilities and at this point in time, the Young Rhinebeck clients indicated that they were maybe kinda definitely open to the idea of changing the name!! Well, we liked that idea a lot and took the opportunity to engage them in a top to bottom rebranding.

So we sat down with the Board and talked about branding and what a brand is and how we work and then we sent them all home with our proprietary brand questionnaire to fill out. 50 questions about the brand and the target and the competition and whatnot. And when each of them had filled it out, we went through it and, as if by magic (seriously: it almost always works this way!) a predominant theme emerged. A brand essence, if you will. "Connections." Young Rhinebeck makes connections. Their LLL program connects ESL kids to their studies, their school and community, and to each other; the other programs connect different constituencies to different cultures and to the arts.  Connections.

So, with this in mind, we did an entire name and URL exploratory (good URL's are getting harder and harder to find) and ended up on "CultureConnect" and Nice name, nice URL. Now we started making the logos.


Really, if we could be absolutely brutal here . . . not our best showing with the stuff above. But at some point, thinking about connectors (we do kinda love the staples above, abstract as they might be), we thought about puzzle pieces. Connecting other pieces to a bigger whole. Well, we liked that idea and ran with it.

Eventually we landed here (below) and realized that the position of the name under the graphic would also work to define the left side of the graphic. The letter "C" on the left of the globe-filled puzzle piece "C" on the right. (scroll down)

Et voila!! With a million tweaks between the version above and the final version below, our new name had a new logo!. And this, we don't mind saying, really IS our best showing:

The new logo successfully created a distinguishing visual identity of CulturalConenct’s brand with an immediate strong sense of mission and purpose.  

Now with the branding complete, the new name and the new logo, there were a few more things to do. We worked out a streamlining of the mission statement:

CultureConnect prepares youth
to interact with their local and
global communities with intelligence,
compassion, and cultural competence.

We got a banner and marched in the local Memorial Day parade . . .

. . . and we've created an award for a graduating senior who has served CultureConnect over the course of their high school career. It will be given out in front of the thousands of people who attend H.S. Graduation ceremony every year.

In addition, Woodstock Organic Concepts wrote and produced a wonderful video explaining CultureConnect's LLL program. You can see it here:

So, that's our story about branding Young Rhinebeck. Almost. You see, one of the new programs this newly branded organization has come up with is a 5 week trip to Madagascar, where the second language is French. Well, it turns out that "cul" and "con" are slightly vulgar French slang that we didn't want to be advertising in our URL. Luckily, we caught this before the URL went out into the world (one of us here at WOC lived in France and remembered at the last minute) and so now the new URL is:

And CultureConnect, with its newly unified and recognizable brand identity is poised for even greater good.

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