Strategic design helps 'Art as Therapy' evolve their symbolic bird icon into an impactful brand identity system

Case Study by Rahul Bhogal RGD, Nothing Design Studio


Art as Therapy provides art psychotherapy for children, youth and adults of all ages, supporting mental wellness through the process of creating something. The branding needed to have universal appeal, to counteract the common assumption that this type of therapy is only for children while maintaining the feeling of the brand: limitless, playful, open to endless possibilities. The branding also needed to be professional but not too clinical, with a dash of whimsy.



The existing logo did not match the client's brand tone and values. They felt it was too noisy and created challenges when it was used across multiple print and digital platforms. They wanted to stay true to the bird imagery, which has been used in various forms since the organization's beginning, but otherwise they were looking for something fresh and new. 


With approximately 45 days until the grand opening of their second location, where they hoped to launch the new branding, it was a tight timeline. The client needed to approve the final version with enough time to print new business cards, postcards and signage. The scope of work included logo design, stationery design (business cards and letterhead), postcards and email signatures.



I had to come up with a precise project plan that met all the requirements for the grand opening, without compromising quality of work. I created a project roadmap with tentative milestones in order set clear expectations of the project and deliverables from both my end and the clients end. This roadmap consisted of the following elements: 


1. Client Discovery
Conversations with the client helped me learn about the company culture, their values and the way they do business. The company had gone through the process of revisiting their values and had conducted a brand audit to evaluate how their brand was seen. They created a mind map of words that their brand was associated with and provided us with some insights on the impact their organization has had up to this point, primarily based on customer feedback. We further gathered information about their audience and how they were currently being served. This allowed us to make more informed decisions on what typography to use and what shapes and colour to consider.


2. Investigating Demographics
Art as Therapy sees a wide range of clients, but families with school aged children make up the majority. These could be two parent families or one parent, or children who are being looked after in non-traditional ways, by their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, foster parents or adoptive parents. The organization also sees individual adult clients as well as older adults (seniors).


3. Competitor Analysis
We found that both in Orangeville and Milton, Art as Therapy was the only private art therapy practice. There were many other places, especially in Milton, that offer other types of therapy (i.e. talk therapy), primarily to children. There were also similar free services in Milton and Orangeville, but these organizations had limited funding and no Art Therapists on staff. The takeaway was that these communities had plenty of opportunities for building engagement and awareness. 



4. Environment Insights
Visiting the Art as Therapy office space gave me insight on the workplace environment and what their clients experience when they visit. I found the office to be calm, clean, free from clutter and aesthetically pleasing. The space is created to be a blank slate, where clients are free to explore whatever is on their minds.


5. Colour
Based on the nature of the business, I knew colour would play a crucial role in the design process. I researched basic colour psychology and design trends to help inspire ideas and concepts. This research involved consulting online resources and speaking with the therapists at Art as Therapy who are experts in this domain. We found that colour affected people differently based on age, gender, ethnicity and emotional state of mind. It was important to ensure the brand felt emotionally neutral, so we opened up the brand's colour palette to six colours, ranging from warm to cool, achieving a playful yet professional look and feel. 




At the initial kick-off meeting, the client showed a strong preference for incorporating birds into the final design. I researched images and logo trends that included birds and simple shapes, explored various shapes and forms, and did some wing studies using photos as references. I explored type forms and investigated different font pairings. To keep things moving quickly and efficiently, I worked both in my sketchbook as well as a digital sketch board.


I had two weeks to present initial concepts, so I jumped into the concept process to have something ready to present to the client. Each concept was presented with a thorough explanation based on my research.


The concepts were well received by the client. They wanted to see how the typography from one concept would look on the other, and vice versa. We pushed back and explained how each type was appropriate for the specific concept in which it was presented. They favoured one design over the other but were hesitant to move forward, as it was a much simpler direction than what they were used to. To help visualize the end product, I asked if we could represent the concept on a few more applications. We came back a week later with stronger mockups, at which point they felt ecstatic and gave us the green light to finalize the design.




Art as Therapy didn’t want to abandon their symbolic bird, so I embraced it and created a symbol that is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, calm and playful. It is open to creative expression and interpretation and sparks an instant association to creativity and freedom. Comprised of six carefully selected colours, the brand identity serves as more than just a colourful palette. It also creates a brand with a neutral emotional impact.


The brand identity become a tool for new ideas within the company. The organization found different ways to inject identity, from naming each other with the colours, such as Sunny yellow, and Rubi red, to creating new workshops that engage their clients' creativity.


"The rebranding process itself provided a wonderful opportunity for us to think about who we are, what we represent and what we envision in our future. The new identity beautifully and simply captured our essence, giving us all the necessary elements to tell our story and to engage existing and new clients in a really meaningful way. The clear, crisp and concise brand identity along with the clever use of colour, allows us to stand out in a crowd. We simply love our rebrand as do our clients! " - Rapinder Kaur, Founder of Art as Therapy




In the past I have made the mistake of presenting concepts at rough stages. The way you present work to a client substantially impacts their decision. I’ve learned that it is important to help your clients see what their brand will look like in the real world. You can emphasize the versatility and longevity of the identity by showing it in various applications. The presentation will make or break the work you do for a client.



Published August 22, 2018