PLANTING THE SEED
In summer of 2016, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was presented with an opportunity. The Garden was embarking on master site planning, working with 3North charting the course for future development of the Garden.
Part of the master site planning process was to assemble internal and external stakeholders for research about visions of what the Garden could be for the community. Participants represented a range of diverse groups, including staff and volunteers, community leaders, even fourth-graders! Some had close relationships to the Garden, others may have never or rarely visited.
Part of 3North’s process was an activity called an IQ Charrette. A charrette is a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to map solutions; the “IQ” stands for intangible qualities. Part of the exercise was for participants to choose colors, fonts and other visuals to express themselves. At the end of the day, the Garden had 3-pronged vision to be a Garden of:
1) Timeliness: A Garden of All Ages
2) Community: A Garden for Cultivating Community
3) Awakening: Mind, Spirit, Body
IDEAS TAKE ROOT
At the same time, the Garden’s ad agency Elevation had been suggesting a brand refresh. In its 30+ year history, the Garden had never had a brand platform. The Garden only had a logo featuring the Conservatory and a one-pager with guidance on fonts and color.
The Conservatory logo was designed by Elevation in 2003 when the Conservatory opened. Since that time, the Conservatory has become a focal point and one of the most recognized landmarks in the Richmond Region. It is tied to the development of the Garden and its consistent ranking among the top 10 public gardens in the U.S.
However, the Garden of today is much different than that of 2003, for instance the addition of a Children’s Garden and a growing involvement in community gardening.
It was time for a refresh.
Executive Director Shane Tippett agreed; however, his direction was to keep the Conservatory logo. Elevation concurred, citing the value of the brand equity already built into the logo.
Then something remarkable happened. The Garden, 3North and Elevation met to discuss the IQ Charrette results. Clearly what the Garden is today and what the community wants the Garden to be in the future has changed since 2003. The results of the IQ Charrette were the basis for a brand refresh for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
A FRESH LOOK EMERGES
Elevation went to work. Principals Aaron Dotson and Frank Gilliam presented the challenge and Art Director Scott Vadas and Account Manager Sydney Stoddard led the project.
Elevation created approximately 50 different concepts based on the research, then narrowed it down to half a dozen. Then they invited Tippett and others from the Garden to Elevation’s offices and put the 6 concepts on the wall. Each concept was considered and discussed at length.
Perhaps the most dramatic departure was the suggestion to not have a logo, but to use a wordmark of the Garden’s name instead. There were strong reasons for this, both philosophical and practical. Principal Frank Gillam, principal and creative director at Elevation said, “We wanted to complement the natural beauty of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden — which is integral to a visitor’s experience. We also wanted to make sure our brand was appealing to current and future patrons. This resulted in the creation of a contemporary logotype and a set of watercolor icons that represent flowers, seasons and events you will find at Lewis Ginter throughout the year. ”
The Conservatory is certainly a centerpiece building that has helped make the growth of the Garden possible. At the same time, this growth has made the Conservatory part of a bigger whole. The Conservatory logo of 2003 emphasized one building; now there are opportunities to show the many facets of the Garden using a natural and organic feel. In addition, the Conservatory is almost always featured as the Garden’s hero shot anyway; this “two Conservatories” approach using it in the logo and a photo was redundant.
From a practical standpoint, the media landscape is more competitive and crowded than ever before. The Garden needed its name to stand out on everything from billboards to digital ads on smartphones. The wordmark allows the Garden’s name to be read.
A BRAND BLOOMS
The Garden chose a graphic direction supported by the IQ Charrette feedback; a look that was colorful and natural, appealing to all ages, and most of all, welcoming.
As part of the brand platform, Elevation included illustrations that can be used in combination with the wordmark, depending on what and how the Garden is trying to communicate. This “toolkit” approach provides incredible flexibility and brings a freshness and variety to all Garden materials. A 44-page Brand Standards document helps the Garden maintain the consistency of the brand. This consistency is extremely important in today’s business world, yet it is not something many nonprofits have.
Recognizing the Garden does not have the resources to do an immediate change-over to the brand refresh, it will be implemented throughout 2018 as opportunities occur and materials need to be replaced. The Garden now has new nametags and business cards reflecting the brand refresh and it will blossom as the centerpiece for the spring advertising campaign for A Million Blooms starting March 31.
This article was shared by Beth Monroe, Public Relations & Marketing Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Does your nonprofit have a best practice or story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!