Earlier this year I offered up some of my time to do some volunteer branding for The Harvest Fund. It’s a non-profit entity, their mission is to assist women farmers in developing nations get out of poverty. And I mean, EXTREME poverty. Nothing like what I can imagine.
They do this by getting select farmers access to finance from donors and investors and by giving them pieces of technology that helps in their growing and harvesting productivity. Such as a solar powered irrigation pump. They also school them in sound business practices for sustainability.
This all sounds pretty clear, right? Unless you were already versed in the lingo or in the industry/sector, it would go over your head. At least for me it cleared mine by seven feet.
After my first discussion with one of the US-based founders I was able to get a clearer understanding of what was needed. There appeared to be a branding problem. Inconsistent brand elements being used such as fonts and colors including lack of hierarchy. Our talk made it clear to me that there was a need to help clarify how the organization talks about itself.
Where the industry jargon was second nature to them, it didn’t translate with their target audience of tech savvy millennials and 30-40 something mothers. So now aside from the visual end of branding we also have a big communication problem that needed to be reimagined. How can we explain what we do in a clear, simple, and concise manner?
Rethinking how they speak about themselves was a critical factor in revamping the corporate language that was instilled into the business. Everything seemed to get muddy in the details before we know anything about the company or the people they serve. Then during my branding research phase I occurred to me that I want to know more about these people in need.
Simon Sinek gave a Ted Talks a number of years ago that summed it up perfectly. “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it”. Brilliant. And right on target. Why is The Harvest Fund helping poor women farmers in Africa? The focus is now shifting from talking about the organization to talking about who the organization is benefiting.
From there now we are able to start redirecting the conversation to focus on the farmers and the challenges they face. One step further, The Harvest Fund is there to eliminate those problems and increase the quality of life for those people. Oh! And we do that by funding their expenses and help them become more efficient in what they do.
Key areas to help from brand language and the visual side moving forward was targeting several words the summarize the organization and why they do what they do.
Security, Independence, Prosperity, Unity.
These words were identified as key pillars that are at the core of The Harvest Fund and support their mission: To eliminate extreme poverty by cultivating independence for women farmers through financial support, education, and increasing food and financial security.
Developing Brand Identity
My previous article on my creative process runs through the steps I take in most projects that bring me to effective design solutions, so I won’t get into the details here.
Some of the most fun moments in design is researching more about any given subject. In this case, understanding more about African culture was enlightening as well as inspiring. Several resources brought me to images and information on the tribal cultures throughout central Africa. Notably a local art style called Bartsi from the Ari tribe in Ethiopia.
The mood board that was created was minimal, depicting mostly simple images, geometry, and a hand-made quality reminiscent of the Bartsi style. A client goal was to achieve a more positive, light-hearted look as well as gear it toward a feminine audience. This was achieved in various ways.
Photo credits: Allison Greenwald - allisongreenwald.com
Color is foundational along with the logo. The logo itself had several tones of green and was rather clumsy-looking. Refreshing the color with a couple of secondary colors, yellow and peach, connect to the natural world of agriculture and are typically positive, feminine colors.
Typography was selected to be more playful and textural. Social media is the primary method to connect to millennials, so something that didn’t reek of corporate needed to be selected. Arsilion fit perfectly as the primary display font and supported by Metropolis, a clean sans-serif with various faces a great legibility.
Photography was a balance of candid, “in the moment” shots that are more natural, less posed. This contrasted with a strong portrait shot just slightly below chest level. Camera positioning here creates a sense of strength and dignity tying back to the brand values, security, independence, prosperity, unity.
View the brand guide
Developing brand identity is a process. The greatest task is understanding the needs of the client and assessing my ability to help solve their problems. In this case, the biggest hurdle was figuring out how to coach effective communication. I’m proud to say that there was a great deal of positive response to the branding work that was created with great enthusiasm. And even more is that their message is supported with a cohesive brand that, if done consistently, will serve them well through the lifetime of the organization.