• Written by Linda Leunissen
    7 March 2019

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen our new look. The big reveal happened a few weeks ago when we launched our new website, and I’m super proud of what we’ve designed. My colleague Alvaro wrote about the six things you need to know about Akvo in 2019, but you might wonder how the visual rebrand fits in with this, and how these changes reflect who we are as an organisation today.

As you may expect, this was not a project with a quick turn around. It was a long process, which started about two years ago when I got this niggling feeling that Akvo’s visual style and brand were lacking something. I kept picking at it, like a thread that pops out of a woollen jumper, until the whole thing unravelled. As a team, we deconstructed and then reconstructed our visual brand until we found a style that fits with who we are today.

 

Deconstruction

When Akvo launched in 2008, our aim was to introduce IT tools to international development - specifically the water sector - to help speed up reporting processes and encourage knowledge sharing. The logo and identity that were created back then were fitting. The logo was blue, referring to the water sector. It was a URL (Akvo.org), which reflected the online nature of our tools. The font for the logo was round and curvy, bringing softness to IT, which at the time was alien to the international development sector.

Nowadays, however,  these things no longer apply to us. Technology is widely accepted and adopted in the sector. We don’t just do tools anymore, but have a wide range of services and a methodology to help our partners go from data to decision. Finally, we don’t just work in water and sanitation. We have expertise in smallholder farming, sustainable energy, and much more.

 

Reconstruction

Early in 2018, I blogged about the first steps in this process. The work described in that post was the basis for reconstructing our brand. We want all of our materials to communicate clarity, dynamism and impact, because, at our core, that is what we bring to the table when we work with partners. That meant letting go of all the familiar visual elements we had and starting afresh.

We’ve brought in clarity by pulling together a much smaller colour palette, adding lots of white space and using crisp and fresh images. Dynamism is communicated through a mixture of heavy and light fonts and bold colours. Impact is created by pulling all of these elements together and combining them with bright highlights, dynamic patterns and a new logo.

"The new logo makes a statement. Akvo. Full stop. We're the ones you want to work with."

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Logo

Our new logo is simple. The font is heavier, communicating robustness - we’re a solid partner to work with. The heavy outline gives it a stamp like appearance; an indication of quality. It’s a predominantly black logo, communicating clarity and simplicity - a key trait we bring to the table. It's also no longer a URL, since we are not just web-based nowadays, but by keeping the dot we reference our history and we make a statement: Akvo. Full stop. We're the ones you want to work with. The dot can change colour showing that, despite being robust, we can also be flexible and adjust to partners’ needs.

Fonts

Over time, the font library of our brand became quite busy and full. With our new visual style of clarity, dynamism and impact, we wanted to strip things back and keep it simple.

We’ve chosen a mix of two Open Source Google fonts (we love open source) and a variety of different weights. Roboto Condensed Bold and Thin complement the logo well and provide us with the dynamism we’re looking for. We designed a font treatment similar to highlighted text, to give sentences an extra punch where needed. Assistant is our body copy font; simple, practical and combines beautifully with Roboto Condensed.  

Colours

Besides a few exceptions, we’re sticking to black plus one bold colour for each of the materials we create. According to colour psychology, black helps us to communicate our approach: powerful, dynamic and serious. It’s the key message we want to shine through every piece of collateral we use. Depending on the message we want to get across, we choose a colour to accompany the black.

Patterns

At Akvo we don’t do one size fits all, because it never really does. To emphasise this, we designed patterns based on brush strokes, highlighting the way we create a bespoke solution for each and every one of our partners. They help create interest and add another point of recognition to the Akvo brand.

Fit for who we are today

Two years ago, when I started picking at our brand, slowly unravelling it, trying to understand what wasn’t working anymore, I had no idea that it would lead to the huge brand refresh we see today. It’s been quite a process, but as Akvo’s art director and graphic designer, I’m incredibly proud of the end result.

Clarity. Dynamism. Impact. That’s what we bring to our partners. It’s not new, we’ve been working that way for a while. But as a fast growing organisation, it hadn’t yet trickled down into the way we present ourselves. With this visual refresh, the way we look and communicate visually is in line with the way we work. It’s got all of us at Akvo excited, it sets us up for the future, and gives us plenty of room to keep growing and developing the way we work with our partners.


Linda Leunissen is Akvo's art director, based in London. You can follow her on Twitter @lindadutches