Established in 1895, the mission of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is to “save wildlife and wild places across the globe”, managing 500 conservation projects in more than 60 countries as well as 200 million acres of protected lands with more than 200 scientists on staff. They are best known in New York, where they are headquartered, for the five parks they manage: the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo,Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo. Along with the release of its 2020 Strategic Plan, WCS introduced a new identity designed by New York, NY-based Pentagram partner Michael Bierut.
Bierut and his team worked closely with WCS leadership to develop the program. The designers first helped the organization refine its brand strategy with a simple statement that connects all of its initiatives with a memorable tagline: “We stand for wildlife.” The new identity visualizes this promise with a stylized “W.” Made of simple geometry, the mark can project a wide range of expressions, from serious to lively, and has a built-in flexibility that reflects the idea of biodiversity.
The mark can appear in linear form or contain different colors and images of animals. The graphic structure suggests the balance of species and systems that make up the natural world. At the same time, the overlapping shapes convey the comprehensive scope of WCS and have a dimensional depth that hints at the physical places where the organization works (mountains, oceans). The full-color version of the symbol appears in five shades of green and blue that reference the land, skies and seas where animals live.
The symbol is accompanied by the organization’s full name or the acronym “WCS.” The vertical acronym version fits into a perfect square, so it can be easily used as a social media icon. The system will be integrated into the graphics for the different parks and programs, where the mark appears alongside the zoo name, putting the organization on equal footing with its well known components. Typography is set in Futura.
The previous logo was fairly decent, representing (I think) thick foliage that represents (I think) habitats for wildlife. Even if it wasn’t anything of that, it looked wildlife-ish and had decent typography but it wasn’t very flexible nor did it look like a logo for a global organization. The new logo drops the grassroots aesthetic and single-form logo and takes on a much more corporate aesthetic and organizational structure. At the core is a simple “W” made of three interlocking pieces and colors. It’s neither exciting nor boring but it helps establish “wildlife” as the most important element of the organization. The logo is at its best when it includes an animal on the right half of the “W” and the colors change to match it — it’s particularly effective if you consider that the holding shape where the animal is looks like a heart.
The logo is supported by Futura as the main typeface and it works better when used in full words than when it’s only the acronym, where “WCS” starts to look almost like a default font — somewhere along the line Paul Renner forgot to Futurisize those three letters that don’t have the same impact as the rest of the alphabet.
Also, I doubt any of WCS’s supporters or its parks’ visitors will make this association but the new logo is very reminiscent of Michael’s logo for Mohawk that also has overlaying colors; multiple color combinations; and a linear, single-color version. Again, for WCS it has no real consequence but for us logo nerds it’s hard not to notice the similarities. Nonetheless, when you see the guideline pages below it’s a very convincing logo system.
Color is an essential element of the system, used to playfully echo the animals and environments. By applying tints, a two-color version of the symbol can give the appearance of a five-color combination, creating a modern, vibrant pattern. Different colors can also be used to represent the various parks and programs.
In application, things are kept fairly simple with the “W” taking up large swaths of space in the promotional items and ads and using the logo as a small endorser. The most important attribute for the identity is its flexibility to operate as both an institutional mark for the organization’s fundraising and research efforts as well as a consumer mark, establishing a link between New York’s popular parks and with swag that lets its wearers make bold statements that they, too, support wildlife.