Established in 1905, Rotary is a “global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges” across six areas: promoting peace, preventing diseases, providing access to clean water and sanitation, enhancing maternal and child health, improving basic education and literacy, and helping communities develop. Their most well-known cause is their ongoing dedication to end polio. Over 1.2 million members worldwide convene at local Rotary clubs which are supported by Rotary International and the non-profit, fundraising Rotary Foundation. The name comes from “the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.” Working on strategy and brand expression since 2011 with Siegel+Gale, Rotary introduced its revitalized identity and simplified messaging last month.
“Rotary has an identity that’s recognized around the world,” said Justin Peters, global executive creative director of Siegel+Gale. “The team didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel (logo). On the contrary, the goal was to celebrate the wheel’s heritage and build upon an identity that has unified and inspired Rotarians for over a century. The new identity enables the organization to move forward with a stronger, more consistent visual expression. While the design system better aligns Rotary communications, it also provides enough flexibility that each club can have its own creative voice within the framework.”
Elevating the Rotary name was the first critical step in re-energizing the logo. Not only did scaling up the word Rotary in proportion to the wheel symbol put the more proprietary identity component front and center, it unified the two parts of the organization—Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation—under one powerful banner. The wheel is applied boldly as a mark of excellence—a pledge of commitment, a symbol of leadership, a sign of social and ethical responsibility. We also made sure that it was optimized for digital use.
Logo-wise there isn’t much here. The original “wheel” logo has been kept exactly as it was, except for the removal of the stroke, while a new, very Siegel+Gale-ish wordmark has been added right next to it. It is a very nice wordmark, with good spacing, remarkably normal title casing, and a solid relationship in its lock-up with the wheel. (It’s too bad the full logo reads Rotary Rotary International). It works, specially when the logo is used small and the type in the wheel becomes more of a texture — although when it’s small, as it is on their website, the digital logo should be used. As I mentioned, logo-wise and even identity-wise this project isn’t particularly interesting but I found the strategy and rationalization — very generously shared by Siegel+Gale — to be the more interesting aspect and I encourage everyone to read it. I also found it quite telling that the Rotary press release opening sentence is “Together with global strategic branding firm Siegel+Gale…”. Clearly this was a project that went above and beyond designing a new wordmark and was instead about finding the right way to communicate what this insanely large organization is which, until last night when I was reading about it in the new site, seemed as mysterious to me as The Order of Skull and Bones. Unfortunately great strategy doesn’t always lead to great creative.
With a stronger primary logo in place, the team set out to build a bolder, easier-to-manage visual system that would continue to inspire creativity while enabling strategic decision-making and visual consistency across communications, media types and geographies. Together, a refreshed color palette, typography system and re-inspired approach to using photography—capturing the spirit of Rotarians around the world and the communities they serve—enable the organization to move forward with a more consistent visual expression.
In application — perhaps because of the large size of the organization and the flexibility needed to deploy an identity on a global, decentralized scale — the identity doesn’t do much of anything other than prescribe to not suck too much. The secondary typography, used in all uppercase and at different combined sizes, looks clunky and cheap. The blue and yellow/gold colors on mobile and digital applications just don’t work very well with the vérité photography of people in business suits or of children. The one nice idea is using the wheel as a graphic badge… it’s too bad the wheel itself is not that appealing — if I worked at Siegel+Gale they would have needed to put me in a straightjacket to stop me from updating that wheel thing. Overall, a very interesting case study about a different kind of rebranding.