Phinney Bischoff improves businesses and organizational results through design that puts people first. That means we use research and insights to inspire our thinking, collaboration to improve it, and passion to ensure our design solutions engage at a powerful emotional level.
We experienced a real and very human side of people-first design in our work with Sight Connection, the organization formerly known as Community Services for the Blind and Partially Sighted.
For close to 50 years, Community Services was most recognized for collecting household donations sold at Value Village to benefit the organization. When they changed their name to Sight Connection to reflect all they did for the community – Braille and life skills training, and sales of assistive technologies among many other services – they didn’t widely publicize the name change or the new logo design. Brand awareness plummeted since donor households thought that Community Services had discontinued its business.
Phinney Bischoff’s assignment was to help reintroduce Sight Connection to Western Washington, and rebuild brand equity by regaining and increasing brand awareness. Accessibility was a key driver of our design and an unexpected opportunity to broaden our understanding of how the broader community experiences our work.
Accessibility is a familiar term today in user experience (UX) design, having become mainstream functional criteria. It is expected that online content will be available to users with disabilities, or who are blind or partially sighted, by assistive technologies like screen readers, and user interfaces that allow them to experience the content.
Savvy marketers and communicators also make design decisions based on how accessible their online content is from a visual standpoint. Some of our corporate clients engage in extensive usability testing for contrast levels between type and backgrounds, the legibility of text based on the character of the typeface and what actions are most likely to be made based on colors on digital devices.
In our work with Sight Connection we needed to take accessibility to an even deeper level. It’s one thing to code text in a web project to fulfill standards. It’s another to sit around a table with our clients, all of whom experience low vision, to hear first-hand about their experiences with design and how it impacts their lives.
We started with our clients sharing their thoughts about what design elements work and don’t work for themselves and the community they serve. Based on that input and fresh insight, we conducted more research into what makes a successful, accessible brand identity system:
+ Create an environment for best legibility, with adequate white space around the logo, adequate spacing between the logo and tagline, and plain backgrounds
+ Select colors with good contrast, and that differ dramatically in hue and saturation
+ Give consideration to the size of the letterforms and proportional relationship of identity to the tagline (not too big of a scale difference for legibility)
+ Choose simple, solid fonts, with special attention to letters and numbers that look similar (1, I, l), and space between and within letters (o, d, g)
+ Specify fonts with easy-to-read cross strokes (t, f) and even strokes, and reconsider spindly serifs
+ Avoid italics, since the angle of the letterforms begins to run into the space of the next letter, blurring distinction
+ Design accompanying graphics or marks to follow similar criteria as fonts: adequate negative space, bolder strokes
The exciting challenge for us as brand designers is to work within a set of constraints and still create beautiful, effective design. With accessibility as a driver, we worked hard to achieve the most basic level of communication – being legible – while also communicating our client’s brand essence of “Independence” to its audiences in a compelling manner.
We learned during our discovery process that the colors of the client’s current logo didn’t register well for individuals with low vision and were too similar to the competition. The typography choice was legible, but undistinguished, with a tagline that was proportionately too small to be read by those with low vision.