Established in 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization that helps children realize their potential and build their futures through mentoring relationships. The largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network in the U.S., Big Brothers Big Sisters makes monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 6 through 18, to develop positive relationships. With 270 affiliates in all 50 states, the organization has served nearly 2 million children. This month, Big Brothers Big Sisters introduced a new identity designed by Kansas City, MO-based Barkley.
A one-page site with the new look can be found here.
In collaboration with Barkley, the firm managing the brand transformation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America has embraced a new logo, new colors and new messaging. Months of research showed that the legacy brand was not connecting with younger, prospective mentors (“Bigs”) or adequately conveying the urgency of the organizations mission. Rallying behind the newly-developed red thread, or core belief of the brand, “Together, We Are Defenders of Potential”, the organization has left its logo and prominent purple behind.
Replacing the former logo (two figures holding hands) is a powerful and bold capital “B”. The new logo, designed by Barkley with input from the Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate network, key stakeholders, and Littles, is a symbol of the powerful relationships between Bigs and Littles. The little “b,” which symbolizes the Little, is the at the center of the mark, and the green lines that complete the capital “B” symbolize the Big, who empowers the Little’s potential.
The old logo was, unfortunately, visually not good, at all. Conceptually, sure, it showed a big human sprite and a little human sprite holding hands, making it clear that it was about bringing the two together. As a recruiting element it wasn’t very inspirational. The new logo is undoubtedly more contemporary and vibrant with the clear intention to appeal to a new, younger generation of big brothers and big sisters and make the organization look more in tune with them. Conceptually, I like that they built a lowercase “b” and an uppercase “B” into a single monogram and how the striking new brand green helps point out that combination. I wish the execution of the monogram had been done better — the innermost curve sends shivers down my spine. I know most or none of the people that matter — the big and little brothers and sisters — will be preoccupied with it or be deterred by it but that’s why there is a blog where the rest of us can worry about stuff like this. My eye immediately goes to the tight, squat curves in the two letters and becomes a distraction that I can’t shake. In general, in all the concentric lines, the way the curves meet the straight lines is not handled as well as it should have been. The wordmark is okay; I like that it’s not a regular sans serif but something with a little more personality and peculiarity that does complement the monogram well.
Instead of purple, the brand has pivoted to black, white and electric green. Full of energy and strength, the new branding is laser-focused on recruiting new Bigs—especially young adult men, who the organization urgently needs. This color approach, along with open-license fonts, is cost-effective for the over 270 local affiliates nationwide who activate this brand. The pattern, composed of cropped areas of the logo, is reminiscent of overhead views of the communities BBBS serves. From city blocks to rural areas, everyone impacted by Big Brothers Big Sisters was purposefully integrated into the design.
The pattern is an interesting element to add to the identity. I think it does a good job in conveying the idea of connection and sort of weaving a community but I wonder if it’s too visually aggressive? Like maybe it tries much harder to make the organization look more exciting than nurturing. But maybe I’m reading too much into it. I do like how the pattern looks, I’m just not sure it’s right for the organization. I also like better when the pattern pieces are used big as in the messaging animations below but, again, maybe they come on too in-your-face with the quick cuts and color shifts where they could probably do it in a less drastic way.
In application there is a heavy use of the condensed sans serif in large font sizes that is very loud and overpowers both the photography and messaging it’s trying to spell out. The posters above are like five people talking to you at the same time… in different languages. There is big patterns, tiny patterns; tightly-spaced type, loosely-spaced type; monotone photos, duotone photos; big type, tiny type; etc., etc. It’s one or four too many approaches.
Overall, there is a good direction set in motion with this redesign in making the organization feel younger and more vibrant but I think they took it one step too far in trying too make it too much of an urban lifestyle brand instead of building on the strength and gravitas of an organization with 100 years worth of history. There is potential here, it just needs to be defended from trying too hard.
Thanks to Anna Yan for the tip.