Established in 1869, Action for Children is one of the largest charities in the UK, helping disadvantaged children and young people. With nearly 7,000 staff and volunteers, Action for Children manages over 600 services — including fostering and adoption, intervening to stop neglect and abuse, and providing practical and emotional support — that help 390,000 children, young people, and families every year. Last month, the organization introduced a new identity designed by London-based Johnson Banks.
In our visits and research trips, we kept returning to the observation that they were breaking cycles and re-routing lives, for the better. This inspired a new brand approach based on the flow of their work, always beginning or ending with the words ‘How Action for Children Works’.
Rather than simply hiding behind a ‘new logo in the corner’, this forces the organisation to always show how they work, and the difference they have made. And, from almost the first layouts, we were able to talk about and illustrate the vast breadth of what they do – something that they struggled to do before.
The old logo had that naive charity/nonprofit aesthetic of a logo done on a budget, which can be endearing. It got the message across, or at least a message across: something to do with children and that doing it together is better, but not much else beyond that. Like other Johnson Banks identities — Cystic Fibrosis Trust or Acumen — this one transforms the logo into a brand message with every application by wrapping the wordmark, literally, inside a statement: How Action for Children Works.
The logo looks like a slightly tweaked Rubik (which is used throughout the identity) that gives it an almost undesigned, deadpan survey-like aesthetic, which doesn’t lend itself to a typical good, standalone logo but it works perfectly as a kind of cog that sets the identity in motion.
The strategy and visual manifestation is about always providing an opportunity for the organization to explain exactly what it does and how it does it differently than other charities, allowing it to provide clear, actionable statements that reflect its services and values. The logo works either as a starting point to deploy messages or as a punctuation mark that concludes messages. The flowchart aesthetic works great to convey that Action for Children offers a choice, a choice for something better. Maintaining the red color throughout gives it a sense of urgency but the silhouetted photographs of people and objects adds a certain warmth. At times it feels like maybe too much text, like it’s almost an assignment to make it through a poster or ad which may be a challenge with today’s lack-of-attention-span culture but, for those that care, it shouldn’t be a problem.
At times it also feels like the logo has to be working extra hard all the time… as if it can’t just be a logo, it always has to have some accompanying message. Not that logos have feelings or stamina but the people who use them do, and I can see maybe 3 – 5 years down the line someone saying “Can I just put this logo on a tote and be done with it?”. Nonetheless, as a way to give the charity a boost, clarity, and a striking visual strategy to communicate their efforts, this is a smart, bold, and distinctive identity.