This month, USGBC launched a brand refresh. I want to explain the design thinking that went into the brand refresh, and showcase all the work that went into the project.
Evolving our brand
First, why would you even do a brand refresh? Companies rebrand to remain relevant. It’s as simple as that. You can’t change what people already think of your brand—those are their memories. But you can change how they feel about you moving forward. USGBC is 25 years old, and we are the expert in our industry. But to remain relevant and show our audience that we are still at the top, we needed to refresh. I aimed to modernize the USGBC brand and show that the organization is evolving.
I decided to stop using our gray seal as the main logo. We have used it for so long that is has begun to feel dated. Moving forward, I introduced using the black seal on formal printed materials such as letterhead, certificates and advertisements. This is our most recognizable mark and should be future customers’ introduction to our brand. Using the black seal offers high contrast, and it feels like a modern spin on an existing presence.
I also introduced a new piece to our recognizable look: our oak leaves. We will now use the oak leaves in an informal context. This includes social media, staff merchandise or promotional swag like stickers or tote bags. Since this wasn’t a full rebrand for the organization, this was a way to evolve our logo subtly and introduce some new applications for a fresh take on the brand.
Along with our oak leaves, I introduced a new lowercase wordmark that is reserved specifically for employee use. It will be used on staff business cards, as well as internal staff communications. This wordmark is meant to encompass our staff culture. It’s a way to bring us together and have an internal look and feel as an organization.
Introducing new colors and fonts
For 25 years, USGBC has had a huge color palette. I decided to trim this down to a smaller range of colors, and I chose colors that evoke emotions we hope people associate with USGBC. The new palette is approachable, and you’ll notice a lot of our colors are in the blue family—blue tends to be associated with trust, stability and loyalty.
I chose to introduce two new fonts that offer a huge range of weights and widths, which means they can be used on many platforms. They also feature more subtle transitions of stroke width, which creates a more humanist tone of voice when using them. While I wanted the brand refresh to feel modern, people are still at the core of our mission, so it was also important for our fonts to feel welcoming.
When looking at fonts for a brand refresh, I always suggest checking out the full history. Why were the fonts created? Where have they been used before? That can tell you a lot about how easy they are to read and how familiar they may seem to people.
USGBC’s new business cards show off our new wordmark and features organic shapes pulled from our recognizable oak leaves. I like being able to think about how we can repurpose our existing logo to give us a new perspective. Just because our oak leaves are recognizable doesn’t mean we can’t play with scale to create some new, bold shapes. Removing our formal seal from the business card subtly moves away from exclusive use of our formal seal and allows the card to really capture our staff brand identity.
Drawing new icons
I also developed a set of custom hand-drawn iconography that can be used for articles and email images when photography can’t be sourced. This helps to show a diversity of visual styles across our platforms. Icons are super popular right now, especially on the web. If you want to include icons in a brand refresh, I always suggest seeing what’s out there, but ultimately creating your own set. You want them to feel personal to your company’s brand. I decided to hand-illustrate ours, again because people are at the core of our mission. Anything too clean and modern would feel impersonal for our brand.
Sharing the new style
To launch this brand refresh to staff, I prepared a toolkit for staff to reference and use over the year. The toolkit includes a full brand style guide, social graphics to share, a postcard cheat sheet and slides to include in presentation decks. Our social media manager took the time to provide a USGBC brand ambassador cheat sheet that’s included in the toolkit.
While this refresh is actually a big change for USGBC, one of the most important things I wanted at the forefront of our messaging is that we still stand by the same mission. New look, same mission. Same vision. Same purpose. Same USGBC.