Co-lead the project, starting with developing the project proposal with the Creative Director.
Co-facilitated workshops engaging the client to extract design direction, establishing strong alignment and excitement for the re-design.
Constructed a scaleable design language, which is able to tell AFT's cohesive brand story across print, web, and social media.
Client workshops go beyond the direct client, involving internal employees and end-users is essential to creating long-term growth and value.
Clients communicate in a variety of ways— taking the time to jump on a call and have a 15-min conversation can drastically clarify needs and expectations.
How do you reimagine a brand that exists across multiple channels for multiple people: students, teachers, and staff, as a cohesive narrative?
At the start of 2022 Alliance Française Toronto approached DoUC for a brand refresh for their specific chapter that captured both their main brand activities and highlighted their 120th anniversary for the year. Working closely with the Creative Director I was involved in the process of the project from the initial client meeting, to scoping and pitch development, to budget creation, and finally design and production.
Creating a system that spans their many media channels, including print, web, social media, and email communications, we designed a narrative that would transition audiences seamlessly from one to the next while delivering the necessary information through a simple and clean aesthetic language. Throughout this journey we collaborated closely with the client through workshops to ensure that the range of their needs and their various audience needs were being addressed in the best way possible.
At the end of the three-month project, we delivered a full set of brand and style guidelines that detailed the new identity, colour palette, typography, grid, and various user interface components as well as full mockups for AFT to develop and use as necessary.
How does the brand currently exist? What's essential? What's necessary for its growth?
Challenge: A branding refresh for a historical Toronto institution on their 120th year anniversary— looking to bridge the past with the present, while maintaining a strong presence of their parent brand.
We initialized our discovery by both independently browsing through the existing communication channels from the brand, as well as having initial conversations with the decision makers. What do we see? What do they see? Through these structured conversations we were able to determine that the client needed an approach that addressed the ever-changing needs both end-users (students), and internal staff (educators, admin).
All of this packaged within a system that acknowledges the institutions long history and evolves it for years to come.
What is the ideal experience you are hoping to create for users and staff? What is the current actual experience available to them?
We defined some rough user groups and engaged with key stakeholders, including decision makers and staff, to understand how they hope to transform engagement for these users. Defining both what is working now and what simply doesn't exist.
Some key insights from this stage:
The user experience must bridge the feelings created internally and externally by the brand— pride, connection, and empowerment —meet— informed, organized, belonging, curiousity, and ambition.
These feelings must be consistent across three key channels: website, social media, and print communications— which are still very important to the institution's long standing members.
Consider these as extensions of the community cultural center experience.
How can we build a modular design system to unify the brand across various channels?
To understand where we wanted to take the brand in order to address the feelings previously identified, we began a large mood board to experiment with colour, imagery, pattern, motion, and explore some existing modular branding systems.
What did we hear from our conversations with stakeholders? What visual languages can we explore to connect these dots?
With a better understanding of how the various aspects of the design system could come together, we created an experience map. A simple visualization to capture the overall look and feel.
We specifically avoided creating user personas. Due to budget and timeline constraints, we would not have enough data to construct definable averages. This map was a result of our conversations with the few key stakeholders we had access to.
Presenting this map to our stakeholders, we were able to get a sense that we were headed in the right direction and it was time to start exploring visual directions.
Who is AFT currently? Who does AFT want to be in the future? How do we visually bridge these together?
With lots of room to play, we began exploring how the unique Toronto identity could grow out/attach to the larger Alliance Française institutional logo in different ways. Landing on an interesting direction when breaking down the parent logo—it fit comfortably within a 3x3 grid—something we could scale infinitely to all applications of the new branding.
Which option do you connect to the best? Why?
Exploring further using the 3x3 grid, we continued to grow its applications in various ways and showcased three major options to the client.
How can we use the squares to their utmost potential to create both variety and consistency among all channels of communication?
The fun part! With client selection of Services Option 3 we were able to begin designing the brand narrative through web, print, and social channels.
How does the branding apply across all channels effectively? How can it be maintained over time in an easy and efficient way?
With a full set of comprehensive brand guidelines and templates created for the new design system—including digital rules and code bits for developers—we were able to collectively assess for any final edits, changes, and improvements.
Client and key stakeholders require further guidance on how to use the grid to generate additional variations of and completely new templates.
What is the potential for this design to continue evolving as the organization grows and changes over time?
After final edits and changes, we setup a developer hand-off to complete the process. With all guidelines, templates, and resources in their hands, the client could ensure that they were able to produce the design system as needed.
Even with fairly simple and minimal design building blocks, we can create something that flourishes to incorporate excitement and curiousity, generating greater ongoing engagement.
This design system has the potential to grow further within AFT's channels, with application across course materials, presentations, and even spatial design.