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from "Have Mercy on My Logo," by Steff Geisbuhler, Brand New, 11 December 2009 :: first posted here 11 December 2009

A typical identity project involves plenty of personal creative investment, hours upon hours devoted to rounds of sketching, revisions, and the painstaking final tweaks to create a singular, perfect end result. Once the identity is complete and leaves our hands, though, we can’t protect the precious qualities of what we delivered, and it’s at the hands of clients to see if it remains in its intended form as time goes on. Yet, during a routine check-up call — something I do from time to time with previous clients — one of my logos definitely strayed from any branding guidelines, but, surprisingly, done so to the betterment and even salvation of populations living continents away.

During one such call, I spoke with Jennifer Dylan, Senior Manager of Creative Services at Mercy Corps, the aid organization for which we designed a new identity several years ago. “How is the brand identity going?” I asked, “Is the logo working in the field?” To which she answered, “Your logo saves lives!” That is by far the most unexpected and most profound response I have ever heard. She elaborated about how important it was for the victims to recognize the much-desired help and to differentiate it from not-so-well meaning people and the “enemy.” Just like the Red Cross is instantly recognizable, so too does Mercy Corps have to signal their brand on vehicles of any kind, on tents and primitive structures, on clothing, flags and banners, on wells and supplies, packages, and signs.