Note: This behind the scenes look at the development of the new MOCHA logo is reposted from the blog of Front Group Design, the studio responsible for the rebranding project.
Front Group was thrilled when the Museum of Children’s Art approached our studio to develop a fresh brand and an attractive, functional web presence to replace the institution’s dated site. At the start of 2013, MOCHA had begun to take the first steps towards a fundamental shift in the trajectory of the 24 year old Oakland-based organization. A new staff, new board and new executive director with a creative and inspiring vision for the future were all eager to move out of the past and redefine the museum to better meet the needs of young people across the Bay Area by providing them with vital spaces to share and connect through art. They also planned to move into a bigger and better building later in the year. Our studio was tasked with developing a revised identity that would reflect and communicate this new direction and help build an excitement around the evolving arts institution.
1. Site visits and organization analysis
Before diving into the specific details of developing a new look for the organization, we spent a good deal of time around MOCHA talking with staff, parents and kids and learning as much as we could about the history and day to day operations of the museum. It was immediately clear that this was an institution with no shortage of content from which we could draw all kinds of inspiration. We made sure to take a lot of pictures and these would heavily influence our work moving forward.
2. Review of the old logo:
When we sat down to rebuild MOCHA’s identity, we started by breaking down the pros and cons of the old logo. It successfully conveyed a hands on experience, and the bright colors matched the mood of the Museum. But it felt very outdated, it did not reproduce well at small sizes, the typography was stale, and it could be easily interpreted as kids fighting over a paintbrush! There was, however, one thing we recommended stay the same: the name MOCHA. Initial discussions about rebranding the organization included ideas about changing the name and moving away from referring to the organization as a museum. MOCHA’s main focus has always been hands on arts programs for kids and not maintaining exhibits and galleries. After thoughtful discussion and research, Front Group proposed keeping the name and embracing the identity of a museum in an era when many museums are moving towards interactive and participatory models. MOCHA can position itself as a leader in this turn and it has 24 years of overwhelmingly positive experiences that far outweigh any benefits that would come with a new name. With that decision out of the way, we were ready to move on with the conceptual development phase.
3. Initial Sketches:
We began to sketch out various ideas by hand. Some were based on geometric shapes, others were primarily typographic and others worked with some kind of representation of a child’s hand. A lot of the sketches were half baked and silly but together they laid the crucial foundation for fleshing out the best concepts to show the client.
4. Concept mockups:
From the sketches we executed a series of mockups on the computer that explored what the concepts could actually look like. Some were much more successful than others!
5. Narrowing in on the best:
Out of all the sketches, one in particular stood out. It was a child’s hand integrated into the lines of overlapping splashes of paint. The mockup turned out great and it confirmed that the concept had potential. When we presented the first round of mockups, the staff at MOCHA agreed. The chosen direction kept the “hands on” theme of the old logo but took the concept and execution in a new and energetic direction.
Next we worked to refine the vector line work by cleaning up the curves of the paint splatter and making the hand less cartoonish. Notice the changes in the fingers and the shapes of the splash edges in the before and after versions below:
6. Color & Typography:
After settling on the final vector shapes, we set out to explore various color palates that worked with the chosen conceptual direction. This would need to be a colorful logo which would be another line of consistency with the old brand. For the colors to work together, we used a simple logic. The color palate would need to be made up of three main colors. The right splash, left splash and bottom splash would each be assigned one of these main colors. The two intermediary splashes on the lower left and lower right of the logo would be the combinations of the colors in the two main splashes to either side. And where all the splashes overlap and form the shape of a hand, the color is made up of all inks added together: black.
We also played with a range of typographic styles. In our experimentation, we were surprised to find that there were serif, sans-serif and slab serif options that all seemed to have potential. But across the board, the rounded typefaces we played with all worked the best with the fluid shapes of the hand and paint splashes. They also conveyed a friendly look that matched MOCHA’s identity.
7. The final execution:
In the end, we went back to the photos we had taken in the first site visits. This wall of layer upon layer of bright colored paint stood out to us. We pulled the final color palate for the brand from a selection of its splatters and using the color logic we had developed for the logo.
We also settled on the typeface Rooney by Jan Fromm for the logotype and all other aspects of the identity. Rooney is confidently built on the classical principles of older serif faces but it has the warm rounded edges that work so well with the logo and give it a very contemporary feel. It reads nicely at small sizes but is interesting and has a lot of character when displayed large. Web versions of the fonts are also available and this sealed the deal.
With this final color palate and final typographic selection we had our final logo! MOCHA loved it and we couldn’t be happier with the process and the results.
8. Website & Print Collateral:
From here we extended the identity to build out a complete website with a calendar function, dynamic online gallery, blog and creative but functional design. We echoed the color palate defined in the logo development process as well as the use of rounded edges. The underlying feeling of confident and straightforward mixed with colorful and playful guided our development of the new site’s look. It was also built with a user friendly WordPress CMS so that the staff at MOCHA can easily maintain it and update it on their own.
We also developed print collateral for the organization to maintain full spectrum brand consistency. Can’t wait to see the business cards and letterhead when they come off the press!
It was a pleasure working with MOCHA to complete this project and the results very clearly speak for themselves. With the launch of this brand, MOCHA has turned the page to an exciting new chapter in their history. We are confident that MOCHA will continue to bring art into the lives of tens of thousands of kids every year and it will grow to become one of the premier arts institutions in Oakland. We feel lucky that Front Group was there to help push the organization forward at this crucial juncture.