The United Nations (UN) rarely needs an introduction, it being a well-established organization that has grown to incorporate 193 member states since its inception in 1945. In short: it is huge, omnipresent, and well-regarded, representing a way towards a better world.
But as well known as it is, the UN and its affiliated organizations do not have the same name recognition or resonance with younger audiences. A new initiative by the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) called GenUN (Generation United Nations) aims to address this by working to engage younger generations in working towards UN goals, both online and off.
At the outset of the project, the cStreet team worked long and hard to give a voice and a home to this initiative, developing an in-depth strategy and brand that would feel more relevant to a younger audience and inspire action.
My own biggest contribution to this project was the branding of GenUN, and let me tell you, it was quite the challenge. There is so much history behind the UN, and the visual language used by the organization is not only strong, it’s iconic. When you close your eyes and think of the UN, your mind immediately fills with a muted, calming blue; you see round shapes, delicate branches, a map of the world, passionate speakers, peacekeepers with their blue hard hats.
How do you design a brand that stays true to all of these things—and relates to the rich visuals of the UN—while also creating something that’s both distinct and relevant to youth?
Through a lengthy process of performing research, exploring art direction from Amy (VP: Operations), brainstorming descriptive adjectives (to guide form), sketching, more sketching, and, well, even more sketching, the vision for the new identity started to take shape.
There were three directions that we showed to the leadership team at GenUN—based around ideas of connectivity, impact, and progress—out of which one resonated the most. Then came another intense round of development, accompanied with even more sketching.
The final three variations were all strongly structural and faceted, but at the same time had a nice unity that reflected the UN vision. They all alluded to the iconic UN laurels, to varying degrees, and the option that most closely resembled them was the one chosen by GenUN leadership.
The language of the identity is youthful, and the typography references the UN wordmark often seen on peacekeepers’ hard hats. The application of the identity is rich: it can be toned down and look “traditionally” UN for more formal communication (blue on white background and vice versa) or kept vibrantly colourful for promotional materials on the web or in print. The visual language and colours of the main, colourful logo extends to lively social media applications, and makes a tasteful appearance on the new GenUN digital home.
All of this was then neatly packaged into easy-to-use and clear brand guidelines, and accompanied with ready to use infographics, profile pictures, and banners to brighten up their social media streams.
We hope that the new identity will continue to serve GenUN and the UNA-USA well, and looking forward to tackling our next branding challenge!