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Renewing an existing brand – Oxfam

Renewing an existing brand - Oxfam
So at once at the brief, we worked really together with them. We did lots of workshops, collaborations, discussions, interviews. And out of that, we helped them articulate what really, really sums what they do in our times. And that is the new value proposition, if you like. The new value proposition is to be both practical and to be a visionary. So it has two sides– one that really believes, is optimistic, and it has hope. One that is very professional, almost like McKinsey, because they are super well trained and they are a charity you can trust. The brief for the creative work was that.
But also you add to that the great ambition that we have been telling them, and also comes from their heart, which is to substantially change the world of charities. And we define that as making charity history– so not being like an old fashioned, traditional charity that you just donate to, but being that much more like a start up, an NGO, something that accepts that we are as professional as any other business.
So taking that as a brief, we started to work, then, in the creative to create a language that expresses that. And that language had to also be very much working for every culture, every part of the world, and not feel like it’s coming from Oxford. So it had to be really international, cosmopolitan, non-Western. So we created a type face patchwork language that brings culture together, brings colours, brings optimism, brings hope. It’s the visionary side of Oxfam. And to go with that, to complement that, we had a very matter of fact typography and style of messaging that was really professional and practical.
So the two together formed a new language, which is, as I said, visionary and practical at the same time.
To bring the solution into the world was quite a complex journey, because Oxfam is very democratic. It’s everywhere. So everyone gets involved. And they also are incredibly intelligent and intellectual people. So you do want to learn from everyone. You want to involve and incorporate every comment. But you know how difficult it is to do things by committee. I think we managed to survive the journey. We were proud with what we did. But we also had to create a system to help them go from very simple language– when they only needed to go to an emergency situation, when there’s a flooding somewhere, crisis somewhere, Syria or whatever, and they are there. And all you need is to look like emergency.
You’re there to help people trust. And then there’s the other side of the system, which is when they want to be very visionary and look for the future– changing the world, optimism, every culture, every nation coming together. And that’s a much richer side of the same language. So quite a complex system to roll out, but it took a few months of talking and collaborating with the client. Our team, we had specialists that knew how to migrate and do all of that. And we got to a result that we were very proud of.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organisations, networked together in more than 90 countries as part of a global movement for change. It aims to build a future free from the injustice of poverty. Wolff Olins created a new brand identity for Oxfam in 2012.

Watch designer Marina Willer – who’s now a partner at Pentagram – explain how the design happened. How well do you think the identity expresses the two sides of ‘practical’ and ‘visionary’? And how far does it renew the brand, in the sense of helping us see Oxfam as much more than a traditional charity?

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