Case Study: Summer of Good—Urban Housing Solutions
In the summer of 2012, AIGA Nashville paired three groups of design students with professional designer mentors. The teams used design thinking to create short-term deliverables and long-term strategies for local non-profit organizations and then presented the work to the larger design and business community.
The non-profit organizations went through an application process and phone interviews prior to being chosen. AIGA Nashville than vetted the three finalist non-profit organizations to make sure that they met certain criteria. The student participants had to apply as well. They were welcome to use the Summer of Good program for internship hours if their school allowed it. The professional mentors were volunteers as well.
This case study documents the work that was done with Urban Housing Solutions.
Urban Housing Solutions (UHS) has been in operation for twenty years. Founded in 1991, their goal is to provide permanent housing and support services to homeless, disabled and low-income residents. The Nashville-based organization is an established pioneer and innovator in housing services and is well-known within the housing community as a leader (no one is bigger except for the Public Housing Authority in Nashville). However, they were not well-known in the community at large as they lacked a consistent visual and verbal branding solution. They needed a solution that would resonate with their two target audiences—desired renters and potential donors/influencers—and would therefore aid increasing the community’s awareness of the organization, attracting volunteers and donations.
Before the program began, AIGA Nashville met with UHS via conference call where overall goals and a few specific deliverables were discussed. The following project objectives were established based off of this call plus information shared during a kick-off meeting between UHS and the group:
- Create new logo and language guidelines
- Develop visual and verbal brand guidelines defining UHS and what differentiates them from other nonprofits in Nashville working toward similar or related goals
- The brand should be relevant to the diverse range of solutions UHS offers now while allowing for continued growth as they expand to meet the ever-evolving needs of those they serve
- Logo, tagline, business suite
- Defined mission, vision and values statements
- Verbiage describing the organization’s position in the community
- Promotional deliverable to introduce the new brand
This was an all-volunteer project. AIGA Nashville hosted a final reception at a local restaurant at the end of the eight-week program.
After meeting with Rusty Lawrence, executive director of UHS, at the initial Summer of Good kick-off meeting, where he supplied a presentation about what his organization does in the community and the printed publications they have produced in the past, the team met twice with three people from the UHS team to get things started. In the first meeting, we tackled learning more about the organization, defining target audiences and laying out the goals for the project. During the second meeting, our team presented to UHS the creative brief. We refined it during the meeting, incorporating the feedback we gained from them. Then our team went on to develop a verbal branding system, which included brand keywords. We continued to include UHS in the branding process, allowing them to choose the order and structure of the final list of keywords we developed.
Before interpreting the verbal branding visually, we walked around the neighborhoods in Nashville that surround UHS’s office, viewed pictures of UHS properties and talked with people in the neighborhood to help us get an idea of how well-known UHS is in the community, as well as the perceptions of those who might fall into their target audience. After gathering this information and building the foundation with the verbal brand, we began to implement our findings visually.
To establish the visual brand, we focused on six brand keywords developed as a result of being active listeners during the initial meetings when the UHS team talked about their organization and what made it unique. The positioning keywords were: innovation, supportive, revitalizing, opportunity, community and advancing. We used these six words as the benchmark during the development and decision-making process of the visual brand. All aspects of the brand—color, typography and logo mark—had to embody and reflect these characteristics in order to be deemed successful.
While the final UHS logo mark can be interpreted in a variety of ways—many doors closed in the face of failed opportunity but one door open to a second chance, an urban community full of opportunity that is yet to be discovered, an urban housing complex or high-rise building with untapped potential—the mark elicits the “correct” response from the viewer. Innovation, support and community are at the core of who UHS is as an organization.
Timing and follow-through after the program ended were the two main challenges. Middle Tennessee is a large area and the student participants had to travel from areas outside of Nashville to meet. Shannon Leutzinger traveled two hours from Huntsville, Alabama, while Janey Nachampasak traveled 45 minutes. Planning a meeting time and place that worked for the students, as well as for the mentor and facilitator (who both work full-time), was tough at times.
Working with UHS after the program concluded in order to implement the new brand is a challenge we still face today. Collaborating with Lawrence and the groups during the program was great, but once it ended, most of the work between AIGA, the students and UHS concluded as well. UHS is working to implement the changes and the new website. Hopefully this will be an area for improvement during the second year of Summer of Good.
This was the first year AIGA Nashville had a Design for Good program. The Summer of Good program was a success, though it relied upon 100 percent participation from all involved. We are using the summer of 2013 to strengthen the core of the program by developing a website that explains, promotes and showcases the program and recruiting a full committee to manage Summer of Good 2014.