Common Cause

Brand Refresh and Art Direction

Common Cause is a democracy advocacy and reform organization. As the political climate began to change in Washington, Common Cause’s profile was on the rise. After the election, their membership hit the 1 million mark. Common Cause needed their organization’s appearance to reflect their status as a major player in the democracy reform movement. They wanted to update their brand: both design and strategy. They explored large agencies, but couldn’t afford or justify the cost to their Board.

KV Design had been working with Common Cause for over 5 years and offered to collaborate with VP of Communications on a brand strategy and redesign at a significant cost savings. After surveying the key players (Board members, staff, members, and the public), Common Cause decided to go with a refresh rather than a full rebrand. Most of the respondents agreed that the star was a key identifier with the brand, so it was agreed that the star should remain but in a new form, with new colors, and new typography.

KV Design first initiated a visual audit of Common Cause's brand identity. The organization has 34 separate state chapters, a 501-C(3) arm, and a national brand. Kerstin's findings:

  • Each group was operating independently and modifying the logo for their own needs and uses.
  • There was no central asset storage so logos and materials were not consistent and often used in the wrong file formats at low resolution.
  • The logo itself had a dated design and the type and line weights did not scale well, rendering it inflexible for today's media environment (digital, environmental, mobile, and print).
  • It also had a poor visibility when partnered with other organizations.

After drawing well over 200 different stars, the final refresh was chosen.

  • Its red swoosh is reminiscent of the flag lines from the original, but the image is bolder and can be viewed easily from far away.
  • The colors are more contemporary and bright -- they reproduce well in both print and digital.
  • The type is thicker and the sans serif makes it feel more approachable and modern.
  • Using blue and red highlights that the organization is nonpartisan so the signature colors from both political parties are represented.

Once the base design was chosen, Kerstin developed a flexible system for future design uses. The finished product included:

  • The logo itself in three formats, vertical, horizontal, and centered.
  • Each logo iteration updated with state versions. Each of those versions is now available with and without the tagline, in color and in black and white.
  • A cloud-based storage system where the logos could now easily be downloaded and used by everyone in the organization regardless of location.
  • A brand toolkit that specifies fonts, colors, motifs, etc. to empower the staff with their own design capabilities.
  • Staff trainings in asset management and brand usage.

Print materials were rolled out first.

Working closely with the new web design team, Kerstin helped art direct the new website. She then developed a full suite of social media templates in Canva that the staff could use from any office location.

Kerstin designed templates in Mailchimp for Common Cause's newsletters.

Continuing her work on reports, Kerstin updated the brand and illustrated all of the covers. She created a template for the interior designs.

Common Cause offered Kerstin a retainer structure as art director at a significant cost savings. They moved all direct mail production and design to KV Design. This whole payment structure enabled the price of the brand refresh to be COMPLETELY NET NEUTRAL.

Kerstin designed rally t-shirts and sign templates. The signs are easily seen from far away and give Common Cause a brand presence at democracy rallies. Kerstin worked with the organization to bring in much of the printing in house. Common Cause purchased a large format Xerox printer, which now allows them to print large signs and print and bind brochures and reports.

To inspire the staff and reinforce the brand, Kerstin designed and oversaw the installation of large-scale branded wall murals.

KV Design continues to develop materials for Common Cause pushing the brand's boundaries. These traveling banner stands reinforce the brand on the road. Large-format three dimensional quotes from Common Cause board members, founders, and presidents inspire members and staff who visit.