Category: Logos

Making an Impact in 2016

Wow. 2016 was a bit of a doozy, eh? For all it’s ups and downs, we are #grateful because, when it comes right down to it, it was another year in which we got to do the work we love with people who care. The collaborative and creative relationships we cultivate with our clients are what make for the most inspiring outcomes.

Just because we are a small agency (and proud to be so) doesn’t mean we don’t think BIG. So when a BIG opportunity came to us out of Dallas we were thrilled—not only for a chance to do work on a national level, but to be involved in work with a lasting impact. Southern Methodist University’s Embrey Human Rights Program is a cutting edge, experiential education program that challenges societal and individual paradigms. Bringing students through all aspects of Human Rights throughout the country and the world, the Program celebrates their work every second year by awarding two recipients— one national and one international—with the Triumph of the Spirit award.

New Ground’s Art Director, Falyn, was the design lead on the project and we were excited to have been chosen from a bunch of other agencies throughout the South and East Coast to brand this event. We were brought on to help brand this year’s theme, Voices.


“It always feels good to be chosen to work on something that really inspires you.”


The team working on this event wanted something that spoke to diversity and inclusion, joy and unity, knowledge and expression. The team included Music2Life, who coordinated the event, directors from the Embrey Human Rights Program, and ourselves. The energy between everyone involved in the project was awesome throughout all stages of the process. It was a truly collaborative experience, with every viewpoint and perspective heard and honored—creating an atmosphere of incredible creativity.


“Here’s the thing about working with NGC. You’re getting an excellent skill base, of course, but what I found is that they became engaged partners who were truly invested in the successful outcome of our project.”

 – Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, Founder & Creative Director of Music2Life

Working on a design for a community and culture that is very different from where we live is particularly engaging because it naturally shakes up our process.

We developed a logo, color palette, and style guide for them which we used to create a broad array of collateral for this year’s event. An example of our “out of the box” thinking is how the logo, for certain uses, was interactive; participants and audience members filled in parts of the logo to show their own thoughts and hopes for Human Rights. One of the intentions of the Triumph of the Spirit Awards ceremony was engagement. We wanted the imagery to inspire and motivate participants to embody the mission of the event in their everyday lives.


“[New Ground Creative’s] responsiveness and intuitive get-it factor made them feel like extended staff people vs. a contracted vendor. Unlike a staff person, however, their perspective was fresh, always honest and unencumbered by any baggage.”

– Elizabeth Stookey Sunde, Founder & Creative Director of Music2Life

Projects like this one inspire us and they feel like a natural extension of all the non profit work we’ve done over the years. Now, more than ever, we want the work we produce to have the biggest impact possible. We put intention behind what we produce and the relationships we build in the process. We succeed when our clients do and, when the mission is protecting the rights of all humans and paving the way for a better world, well… count us in.

All event photos by Dylan Hollingsworth.

Color Me Bad(d)

colorsIf you get that reference, chances are you are older than 30 or have a strong propensity toward early ’90’s R&B. Either way, no judgement. Moving on.

Everything we see, smell, hear or touch gives us a reaction. Sometimes we are highly aware of what that reaction is, say when you smell baking cookies . . . But other reactions aren’t obvious to us. We aren’t aware that while our conscious mind isn’t affected, our subconscious one is.

That is something we pay close attention to when designing. There are many implications to shapes, straight or curved lines, and even the way paper feels in your hand. In this post, however, we will be talking about color.

Have you ever wondered why fast food restaurants almost all use the color red? Red signifies a lot of things: passion, rage, warmth, loudness, but it also has an actual affect on your physiology. It makes you hungry!

What about spas? Ever notice how much green is used in logos for this field of work? Soft green has a calming feeling to our psyches.

Part of our research when we have a new client is we ask them to give us adjectives that describe how they want to be perceived. So if a client says bold, fun, creative we would choose colors that brought that out in a person. If they say prestigious, reliable, knowledgeable, that would incur a completely different set of colors.

An easy mistake one can make when creating a brand is choosing colors solely based on preference. This only means that the one person who is designing is arbitrarily picking colors off what they like rather than making an informed choice on a look that will appeal to the correct audience.

Start taking a look around. See what colors a company chooses to incorporate in their logo and materials and then see if how those colors make you feel aligns with how they are trying be. Hopefully, if done right, it will resonate.

Insights abound

Vermont Insights LogoThis was a fun project that we just finished working on and we wanted to share with you what some of our thinking was. Vermont Insights is a data site for policy makers, philanthropists, nonprofits and a host of other users to make sense of who we are as a state. An extension of the amazing nonprofit, Building Bright Futures, Vermont Insights provides the tools and resources to make better decisions for Vermont communities.

They approached us to create a logo and tagline for the site. It was challenging because we wanted to make it engaging and friendly without being too cute. After a couple of really, well, insightful conversations, we created a lot of possible concepts and settled on the pie chart within a lightbulb. The thinking was that it was important to make it clear that this was about data—especially as the name doesn’t mention data and Vermont Insights could mean a lot of things. We also wanted to bring out that visual of great ideas coming from the resources on the site. We all have tremendous access to information these days but it’s harder to sift through it to build an actionable plan. That is exactly why this site is so necessary.

As for the tagline, Communities Connected by Data, we wanted to reiterate the data-driven nature of the site but balance that with the sense of community that makes Vermont such a cool state. The concept of connection—in both the human meaning and the information meaning—was also important.

All in all, we think these pieces are pretty cool and they feel like a natural extension of all of the nonprofit work we’ve been doing over the years. We’re sharing this because it’s a project that, like so much of the work we do for our clients, will have a big impact.

Vision is an end state

A brand's vision is how you know that your organization is a success.We hear a lot about vision. It’s often a gauzy, uncertain, poorly communicated thought about where a person or organization may be going or may want to be going. It’s like the word “dream,” but translated into corpro-speak.

In the context of brand, and as a component of mission, vision, and values, it is ideally more concise and points to an end state for the organization or the community within which the organization exists. Going back to Lady Gaga (from a previous post), her vision may be to be the undisputed pop culture and music icon in the world. For Google, perhaps their goal is a world in which people can find the exact information they need when they need it (while also clicking through their ads).

Vision is an end state. It is how you know that your organization is a success. For a homeless shelter, perhaps it is to have there been no homelessness. For your organization, it may be to be the leader in your sector or industry. These visions needn’t be 100% realistic, they are aspirations.

A quick note about doing it wrong. We hear a lot about sustainability these days yet one of the most fundamental “visions” of many organizations is exactly unsustainable–that is to say, “growth.” If growth is your final goal or vision, it is very much unsustainable in that there is no way to know it when you get there. It is an unsatisfiable conclusion because it doesn’t indicate the end state.

So, what is your organization’s ultimate goal? When will you know that you have done what you set out to do? For your organization to set their vision is to put forward, hopefully for all to see, the moment you will know that you have arrived. Vision should give you, not only something to reach for, but to actually guide your progress by.

Working together, values, mission, and vision tell you why you do what you do, what you actually do, and what you hope all this activity will eventually lead to.

A Values Proposition

A brand's values both inform and reflect its mission.So, we’ve talked about what a brand is and we’ve talked about the first element of a brand: mission. The organization’s values are the next of the three foundational elements in a brand and, just as with people, values are “guiding principles.” These values are not often stated in an annual report or anything but they come up in other ways. For instance, you’ll see values both inform and reflect a mission.

Let’s make it a bit more concrete. Google is a great/terrible company that does wonderful/horrible things for us/them. No matter what you think about the company, however, it is arguably pretty successful. Unlike many other organizations, I was able to find both Google’s values and their concise (Yay!) mission.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

That is a nice mission. Now, look at the values. Do you see how some of them are implied and referenced in this short statement? Specifically:

  • Focus on the user. (universally accessible and useful)
  • Fast is better than slow. (organize the world’s information and make it . . . useful)
  • Democracy. (universally accessible)
  • You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. (universally accessible)
  • There’s always more information. (organize the world’s information)
  • The need for information crosses all borders. (universally accessible)

Not all of the values are so directly implied in the mission but you can see how the values and the mission are, as I said, reflected and informed by each other.

Coming up with values for your organization starts by answering some of the “whys” of the organization’s existence. Why do we do what we do? Why is it important? Why do we not do this another cheaper/easier/faster way? Sometimes the values are based on a founder’s understandings. Sometimes they are looking at the way the organization hopes to change their customers, society, or even their world.

What are your organization’s values? Why do you do what you do in the way you do it? If you are having trouble answering that question, we would like to help you with that.

Next time: Vision.

Mission Impressible

Mission is what your organization does.Last post, we were talking about brand. To summarize, a brand is the sum total of the public’s perception of an organization, somewhat influenced, but not totally, by the intentions and actions of the organization. That second part is where I want to start focusing.

An organization, or even an individual (see: Lady Gaga), builds their brand. The materials from which the brand is built are Mission, Vision, and Values.

Mission is what your organization does. We’ve all seen organizations’ mission statements and the best are ones in which the organization succinctly states what it does and hints at the intention behind that “doing.” Ideally, there is an emphasis on the word succinctly. As a wise old man who lived next door to me during my Virginia childhood once said, “Hell, sun even shines on a dog’s ass every now and again.” To state it another way, more words do not equal saying more (though that meaning may not be easily found in that saying but I’ve always wanted to get that saying into the modern vernacular . . . along with bringing back “You be illin’.”)

Here are some examples of Mission Statements. Now, I can just hear the eye-rolling as you read the mission statements on that page. ADM? Of massive agribusiness fame? Really? Well, the answer is, yes. The Mission is the what of the organization. It isn’t the Why or the How or the Goals. Look at CVS, the pharmacy: We will be the easiest pharmacy retailer for customers to use. That’s pretty tight. It is the What of their organization.

So, what is your mission? Let’s go back up to Lady Gaga. Maybe her mission should be:

I create engaging music and performance to entertain, inspire, and provoke.

Personally, she’s not my kind of music. That, happily, is utterly irrelevant. The key is to simply and clearly state what you do. Do you have a mission? Personally or organizationally? Done right, it forms the foundation that leads to what your brand will represent.

Next time: Values.

What’s in a brand?

Brand is an opportunity to communicate who you are to your clients and the world.Brand is a high-fiber grain often used in cereal that can help you to more easily . . . nope, no, sorry, I was thinking Bran.

Right, a brand is an opportunity to communicate who you are to your clients and the world. An organization’s actual brand is the entire experience of the client and the foundations upon which the organization was built–not just the logo.

As an example, the Nike swoosh is a well-known logo. It indicates action, movement, dynamism and all of the things that those ideas bring with them by association: youth, fitness, health, strength, speed, athleticism and on and on. Is this their brand, though?

For some, Nike is all of those things but the brand also includes:
• A college track coach using a waffle iron to make better soles for running shoes.
• Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Carl Lewis, etc.
• “Just Do It”

A brand is the sum total of the public’s perception of the organization. For the organization, you want to create and develop your brand to be the feeling, promise, and reality of who you are and what you do.

You build your brand, first, by determining three elements of your organization:
• Mission
• Vision
• Values

In the following posts, we’ll take a look at these three pieces. Stay tuned.

What’s in a Name?

The right name will be timeless, tireless, easy to say and remember, stands for something, and allows for future growth.

The right name will be timeless, tireless, easy to say and remember, stands for
something, and allows for future growth.

Background questions to consider

  1. Think about your current name: What about it is working? What isn’t working? What is your purpose in changing it?
  2. Think about your company or product: What does your company or product do? Why does it matter? Who are your audiences (Primary, secondary, tertiary)? What is your company or product’s personality?
  3. Think about your audience: How are they finding you?
  4. If a brief name will be more easily remembered and used, what are the essential words to be included? What can be sacrificed for the sake of brevity?

Qualities of an effective name

  • Meaningful: It communicates something about the essence of your organization
  • Distinctive: It is unique, easy to remember, pronounce, and spell.
  • Future Oriented: It anticipates an organization’s growth and change.
  • Positive: It has positive connotations and no strong negatives. (Including initials.)
  • Visual: It lends itself well to graphic presentation in a logo and on a website.

Try Creating and See What Happens.

We are ready to make something from within ourselves that we can express outside ourselves.Remember when you were a kid and an adult, whether it was a teacher, your mom, or a babysitter, would draw squiggly lines on a piece of paper and give it to you with crayons to fill in the circles? Please tell me you do and that isn’t just something that existed in our little worlds.

Anyways, the point here is that we were creating something out of nothing. It was a simple project (maybe to only occupy us into silence) that in the end gave our young minds a sense of accomplishment and creativity.

These days, our clients are the ones giving us a creative problem to solve. How do we reflect who their company is with an image? How do we fit all that copy into an attractive and easy to read format? What structure would best serve their website? This is our modern day “filling in the circles.”

Sometimes, however, we need to create off the computer. Something with our hands. Something that uses a different kind of creativity. And sometimes we don’t even know what it might be when we start.

Carrie loves to sing and play guitar. That is an outlet that opens up a different way of being inspired. She also writes music. You can’t get more creatively raw then when you sing and play a song you have written.

Falyn finds solace in the medium of charcoal. Starting with a blank sheet, and covering it with black to form an image that is unique to her is a rewarding experience.

When we start, either with a pen or piece of charcoal in hand, we don’t necessarily know where the journey is going to take us. All we know is we are ready to make something from within ourselves that we can express outside ourselves.

We suggest you try it.

What Inspires Us?

So many things in the world can inspire us.Ever listen to a song and get completely transported to a different time? Maybe it is a moment from your childhood, or maybe it is just a feeling that washes over you, and it changes your mood in an instant.

Is there a person that whenever you are around them, your whole world becomes electrified? The sky is a more vivid blue and the birds are alarmingly more joyful.

When you get home from a long day at work and put on your favorite sweatshirt, do you become immediately relaxed?

I hope you answered yes to at least one of these questions; otherwise you are sitting there saying what are the kids at Woodward Design ON?

But, seriously, we are affected by our surroundings. Everything affects us, even if we aren’t aware of it. The smallest change can lift us up or bring us down.

Being designers we have to be more alert to what is happening around us. That is how we stay current, keep on top of the next thing and continue to have audiences engaged in what we are doing. Because of this heightened sense, so many things in the world can inspire us.

Of course we are in awe of other designer’s work. We flip through Communication Arts pointing, laughing, sighing, and moaning about all the work we wish we had come up with. But, inspiration doesn’t come just from other’s ideas.

A crack in an old building, an elderly couple holding hands, steam from a coffee cup, and the list goes on. Anything can spark an idea, an emotion, a thought, and a feeling that can lead to the creation of work. You just have to be open to accepting the world around, in, so that it can translate itself, out.

Everything, is the answer. Broad, overwhelming and completely exciting.