In 2018, I was invited to discuss a brand refresh with the leadership of the Victoria department of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA). We didn’t know it at the time, but a much bigger transformation was in store: What began as a discussion about designing a single asset for 1 division led to a comprehensive rebranding framework for the full organization.
IPAA is Australia’s professional association for civil servants and others working towards the public fine in the nonprofit and academic sectors. The parent organization has 1 department for each of Australia’s 8 territorial divisions. IPAA’s core mission requires speaking effectively about events and services that support their members’ work in civil service.
One of my favorite parts of any project is digging in to discover what is and isn’t working. It’s always enlightening to learn about challenges from those who interact with the brand every day. In this case, taking the time to acquire a deep understanding of the brand enabled me to bring IPAA’s full visible identity into the prospective.
How a Logo Refresh Led to a Full Rebrand
When I first met with IPAA leaders, there was no question that the organization desired a new brand. The existing 1 was dated and didn’t make the dynamic, forward-considering impression that IPAA leadership needed. There were practical issues as well: For instance, the logotype became illegible when sized for smaller applications such as favicons and social media avatars.
However, my initial meeting about modernizing the brand led to wider discussions about brand architecture and cohesion across 8 territorial divisions. Subsequent brand discovery workshops with leaders at the other branches revealed significant inconsistencies in IPAA’s visible identity and brand positioning.
The branches worked independently of each other, and each had approach to use different typefaces, colors, and communications styles across their respective platforms. This resulted in poor visible cohesion and made it impossible for IPAA to define its subbrands and choices in a clear, intuitive way.
I realized that simply updating IPAA Victoria’s brand would only exacerbate the confusion. What IPAA desired was a new brand ecosystem—an integrated framework of names, symbols, colors, and typography, and a visible vocabulary for the master brand and its subbrands to provide a constant gaze and feel for all print, digital, and physical touchpoints. IPAA leadership agreed. Ultimately our collaboration resulted in a cohesive brand identity for the full organization, for everything from business cards to interior design.
A Meaningful Logo
A brand is typically the most recognizable brand asset for an organization, so it was essential that I bring IPAA’s up to standard. I created a bespoke logotype (the acronym IPAA) that conveyed power, unity, and longevity. I needed it to be inherently powerful and serve as a master brand on which the full visible identity would be anchored.
The 2 capital A’s in the logotype were designed to mimic triangles. I constructed horizontal and vertical iterations for digital and print deliverables as well as an icon iteration (the triangulated “A” with the acronym beneath it) for platforms that require a subtle brand presence, like a mobile app.
The triangle nods to progress in a number of ways. Early philosophers and scientists recognized the number 3 as an expression of a complete cycle—past, present, and prospective. An upward-pointing triangle visually indicators a positive, upward trajectory and a solid foundation. The 3 points of the triangle are also a subtle homage to the 3 points in IPAA’s mission statement: to promote fine governance; encourage excellence in the provision of public services across Australia; and contribute to the development of public policy and management practices that will enhance the performance of the public sector.
While some may not read this much into it, I firmly consider incorporating such symbolism is integral to worthy design.
The Right Typeface
While few will consciously notice a worthy typeface, they will certainly notice a bad 1. Choosing the right typeface is among the key identifiers for a brand, and it helps construct familiarity and belief.
I selected the Open Sans family for digital communications and Frutiger Next Pro and Futura STD as the primary typeface for print products. Prior to the rebrand, IPAA had used an inconsistent mix of Arial and Times New Roman. I chose the new typefaces because they provide fine readability and gray value, which make the text more pleasing to gaze at and legible at different sizes across all touchpoints.
Territorial Distinctions Inspired by Nature
IPAA has 8 territory divisions from the Northern Territory to Tasmania. To establish a visible identity for each, I developed a color palette that reflects the variety and beauty of Australia. I spent considerable time looking at nature, crops and animals for inspiration, and ultimately settled on the rosella, a type of parrot native to Australia.
The rosella’s feather formations of vibrant red and gold, vivid blues and greens, and shades of gray, white, and black are quite stunning to see up close, inspiring a putting yet balanced color palette. Each territory was assigned its own color and signature secondary accent color.
Brand Architecture and Hierarchy
IPAA’s brand architecture enables the organization to segment messaging and services so that each goal viewers hears what it needs to hear. It was vital to follow a clear brand hierarchy when presenting IPAA alongside its products and services so the master brand was never compromised.
Each tier represents a level in the hierarchy. The pictured brand lockup—a standardized combination of a brand with other brand elements—shows the partitions for the master IPAA brand, the territorial department acronym (ACT), the service category (soft gold, for conferences), the conference’s main headline (“Thinking Differently”), and the conference’s subhead (“Building Trust”). Hewing to this template retains the visible identity intuitive and coherent.
Strict guidelines were set to maintain the integrity of the tiers in the hierarchy across all events and services.
A Clear, Friendly Voice
A uniform brand voice was also instituted to ensure that messaging was disseminated consistently. IPAA’s house style requires all communications to be straightforward and accessible; motivational and imaginative; relatable and engaging; and reflective of its dedication to its members. These principles boiled down to 4 overarching qualities: clear, inspiring, human, and dedicated.
In practice, that means all copy should be structured in a hierarchical way, with the most necessary information prioritized and additional detail disclosed as desired. It should be distinctive—free of clichés and timeworn jargon. It should also be approachable, using everyday language instead of formal legal or academic prose.
For example, the preview text for a story on the IPAA website reads: “The vast majority of public servants behave respectfully and civilly to their colleagues. But surveys show bullying is significantly more widespread than codes of conduct or workers’ compensation claims suggest. Dr. Gordon de Brouwer explores bullying and harassment in public sector workplaces across Australia.” While research communications can take on a dry tone, this text indicators that the article will clarify a thorny issue that is likely to impact the majority of IPAA’s members.
Bold Black-and-white Photography
I chose a black-and-white photographic style for digital and print communications that is simple, bold, and iconic. The monochromatic images contrast nicely against the color palette, creating visible stability and hierarchy on the page or screen. The images themselves relate symbolically to the content and mirror IPAA’s dynamic but reliable brand character.
Together with the typeface, color palette, and logomark, the photographic style provides a cohesive and compelling aesthetic that is not only pretty but efficient in its mission to communicate and inspire. This visible effect is used across digital and print platforms as well as in headers for social media accounts.
The IPAA’s Victoria office is a significant touchpoint not only for members and visitors, but also for representatives. The visible aesthetic of an office space sends a message about your brand identity to anyone who enters. As a multidisciplinary designer, I also have experience in architectural design, and this allowed me to create a new space that communicates the organization’s values to visitors while meeting the needs of representatives.
Because the existing space was relatively small for the number of representatives using it, it was a challenge to make it gaze spacious, organized, and uncluttered. I opted for an open-office arrangement with most of the representatives seated in 2 central pods to make the space feel lighter and less cramped, while nonetheless promoting collaboration.
The partitions are painted white to make the space appear larger. To mirror the brand’s forward-looking positioning, the furnishings is modern in style, with clean, simple lines in shades of white and gray. Some of the surfaces are textured to create a subtle contrast.
The brand’s primary and secondary territorial colors appear on accent partitions, soft furnishings, and tabletop accessories. These colors are used sparingly to hold the space feeling modern and light, but not sterile.
Bold environmental graphics reinforce IPAA’s brand to representatives and foster greater connection to the mission. Some visuals feature signature IPAA slogans and concepts, including “The Cultural Instigator,” “Leadership with IPAA,” and “Innovate with IPAA.” Other graphics feature black-and-white photography of work by rising Aboriginal artists.
Protecting the Brand
I created a style guide to maintain the integrity of logos and wordmarks for all uses. It was my position as a designer to define what deliverables IPAA would need across all customer journey touchpoints. The style guide included examples of every deliverable, from grid comps to final comps.
I even designed a bespoke 3D trophy to replace the simple etched plaques the organization used to present for achievement awards. I created the mockups using 3D software—namely, Cinema 4D and Adobe Dimensions with Adobe Illustrator using the Origami plugin.
A Rebranding Success
After 8 months of working closely with IPAA leadership, program managers, and marketing teams, the project was complete. My work received worthy feedback from IPAA’s territorial divisions, and executives were excited about the energy this redesign brought to their work. The process of collaborating to develop the rebrand—all the thought, analysis, and experimentation that went into it—was a powerful team-building exercise for IPAA leadership as well. They emerged from the experience more focused on their mission and better equipped to serve and empower members.
Building a brand ecosystem requires creativity, logic, and persistence. It can be a maddening and complex experience, but also a rewarding 1. There were times it took a bit of persuading to get stakeholder buy-in, and there were many late nights spent grappling with how to make all the pieces fit. But at 1 of our final conferences, an IPAA executive said, “This is a worthy legacy Rehan is leaving behind.” I was humbled, and it was hard to consider it all initiated with the simple thought of redesigning a brand.