Michael, ArcStone Designer, discusses the process of developing a new brand identity for the Washington Passport Network and the personal connection he had to the project. Focusing on the ideas of a network, navigation, and the feeling of being lost, the final product resulted in a logo that is strong symbolically and visually.
Looking at the stars...
It was often said to me as a kid, from TV shows and stories, that if I was lost and looking for a way home, that I should look up at the stars for guidance. Laying in the dark in an unfamiliar room that was within an unfamiliar house, I was laying in the bottom bunk bed staring up at the wooden support boards for the top bunk in which there were plastic glow-in-the-dark stars pasted on them. Trying to muffle my sporadic gasps of air as tears were rolling down my cheeks, I was thinking about what had happened in the past couple of days.
It was another day in second grade, but once I came home and walked into our one bedroom apartment, everything happened so quickly. One moment I was comforting my crying baby sister, then the hospital, and then sitting in the back of a police car. Even for a small eight-year-old, the back seat had very little leg room. As I moved around trying to adjust to the uncomfortable setting, it wasn’t until a couple of days later — laying under plastic stars — that I realized that I might to be uncomfortable for a while.
As fortunate as one can be in foster care, my experience was for only a couple of weeks. But, I will never forget how lost, worried, and scared I was during that time.
Design gets personal
In most professional settings, it’s not often that you get to work on projects that you connect with on a personal level. But once in a while, one does come along, and for me that was the Washington Passport Network.
The Washington Passport Network (WPN) provides resources and information to professionals and adults who work to improve higher education outcomes for students from foster care. Looking to better connect with their target audience and improve the user-experience of their knowledge base, WPN came to ArcStone with a brand identity and a website redesign project.
Before designing the website, creating a new brand identity was the essential first step. Even though the target audience was not the students from foster care directly, the feelings of being lost and the need to better navigate the available resources and information was shared by the professionals and adults that worked with them. Working with WPN and through research, the focus was on these key ideas: network, navigation, and the feeling of being lost.
After mindmapping, moodboarding, and sketching, the concept that was strong symbolically and visually was centered around the idea of navigating by using the stars. Not only did it connect to the feeling of being lost and navigating to find the right direction, but the visual of stars and constellations look similar to a network.
The logomark, using the shape of Washington state, is both simple and dynamic. The lines that give the logomark energy are technically slicing the state into multiple shapes. But, through proximity and the mind’s natural tendency to complete forms, the logomark is perceived as one shape. The irregular shape of the state is also balanced by a vertically stacked wordmark, which with its own uneven shape is almost a symmetrical reflection of the logomark.
Now, with a strong foundation for the Washington Passport Network’s brand, we’re working on the first phase of the website redesign to make sure that the resources that they provide to their users are clear and easy to find. Stay tuned for a case study on their website!