Select Page


Assembling the Brand

Ellery Mann, New York

September 2016

On the surface, branding is mostly seen as being a name and logo – but branding goes far beyond that. Branding affects how an organization or service is recognized and perceived. Although the brand name and its accompanying logo is at the forefront, branding encompasses strategic positioning, a visual presence, unique messaging, a tone of voice, and how the brand interacts with their intended audience in ways that resonate to create a strong and loyal relationship.

At Bureau Blank, we run a tight process connecting strategy with our design decisions, making sure our client’s mission is surfaced through their visual presence. We are extremely proud of the work that went into our latest branding project, Assembly, and our engagement with this initiative is a great case study for successful brand development.

Assembly is a new initiative from the Center for Active Design, a leading non-profit organization that uses design to foster healthy and engaged communities. This new and exciting initiative will make a big impact on the way cities approach the relationship between the built environment and civic engagement. The Center’s research findings will become practical design guidelines for city leaders, urban planners and architects to improve engagement in communities.

Strategic objectives

While creating the identity for Assembly, we had three strategic objectives in mind:


  • Capture the new brand’s positioning and value proposition in a clear and memorable way
  • Establish the new brand’s place within the Center for Active Design parent brand architecture
  • Provide an introduction to the work with key themes and talking points tailored for key audiences

Photography capturing city life.

When we refer to positioning, we’re explaining what a brand is offering to people. What’s the value? Why is this brand different from others who do or provide something similar? It’s the big idea behind all of the brand’s public language and communications.

A brand’s voice refers to the brand’s personality; how do they speak to people? Are they formal? Playful? Will they use slang? How about humor? Are certain words central to this brand’s identity? Voice is another crucial part of a brand’s communications and messaging.

As we dove into creating the visual components to Assembly’s new brand, we needed to identify the target audiences for the initiative. Who will be using and interacting most with Assembly? To answer this, we talked to folks, from our client to professionals in each of the audiences the Center for Active Design wanted to reach.

Those interviews were enormously helpful and yielded insights that helped us figure a few things out:

  • Where do stakeholders gather to engage in dialogue about how to use design to improve civic engagement?
  • What will those professionals find most compelling and exciting about Assembly?
  • What terms needed unpacking for each audience? (In particular, what did interviewees think about “civic engagement”, a rather broad term?)

From those interviews and research, we developed key identity language and messaging for Assembly that would work in concert with the visual brand, from how Assembly will benefit city leaders to the positive impacts it will have on civic engagement in communities.

Assembly logo with dynamic color system.

“The main objective of Assembly’s visual identity is to create a sense of movement and transformation.”

Project orientation document.

Visual objectives

These strategic objectives drove our creative decisions:


  • The new brand must feel like it belongs to its parent brand, The Center for Active Design
  • Naming of the brand should be descriptive and straightforward
  • Graphic elements must be flexible for use across a range of situations

The main objective of Assembly’s visual identity is to create a sense of movement and transformation. This objective ties directly into what we identified as their unique position “leading the movement of transforming city spaces to invite participation in city life”. To bring Assembly’s mission to the forefront of their visual presence, we applied this strategy towards the main elements of their visual language. This is shown through their logo, typography, color palette, photography, and supporting graphics.

  • The logo is a modified typeface with graphic elements pulled from the letter forms in a way that suggests an active process of joining together or assembling, reflecting the way public spaces are created.
  • A sans-serif typeface has been chosen as the main font for its architectural angles, wide range of weights, and legibility across web and print. A complimentary serif typeface with warm and soft attributes was chosen to work in harmony with the main typeface.
  • A limited color palette of bright hues is used to convey a bold, confident, and inclusive attitude while paying homage to Assembly’s parent brand, The Center for Active Design. The color palette is dynamic and able to be applied in several combinations, which allows for the brand to be consistently presented in fresh ways.
  • Photography used throughout Assembly’s visual presence directly represents participation in city life. Highly curated photography of people in public spaces is a great way to capture and present what Assembly strives to do.

By using these four elements of visual language and creating Assembly’s brand guidelines, we have created a consistent system for Assembly to visually present itself. Assembly’s branding is strong, unique, and highly recognizable while directly representing Assembly’s mission and positioning it in a leading role in the civic space.