Branding & Identity Design


When the VP of Marketing approached us for Anita Borg Institute to design and consult on their brand, the scope of change was left somewhat open — they didn’t ask for a new name, but in the end were open to this significant a rebrand. The challenges, however, were clearly defined:

1. Brand Equity • Programs and events were not conveying equity back to the main brand. Many people knew about the Grace Hopper Celebration, but the nonprofit behind it was relatively unknown.

2. Verbosity • Many programs and events, when locked up together with the main brand, end up with a lot of words< 3. Signification • The current mark without tagline didn’t signify that the brand was about women, transformation, community, technology, or intersectionality. They abstractly made up the letters ABI, which doesn’t convey any of these things.


Our new identity system met all of the brief challenges.

Brand Equity // Surveys showed Grace Hopper Celebration 2017 attendees were more than twice as likely to understand what was than they had in any prior years been able to identify Anita Borg Institute.

Verbosity // Changing the organization’s name from Anita Borg Institute to allows for a friendlier, fresher, and more techy brand, and a quick read as a nonprofit. Plus, it is a much more concise logo and allows for simpler program marks.

Signification // The mark, which we christened “The Brilliant,” appears like abstract geometry, but within it are many complexities related to change in technology and inclusive vision that might be picked up on in different ways by different people.


The mark — called THE BRILLIANT — illustrates how serves as a light in the darkness. It’s a word that signifies intelligence that’s less gendered than “genius;” it’s is strongly correlated with gemstones, another symbol of feminine strength. The mark’s FACETS reflect our intersectional approach as well as our diverse audience. The mark’s dynamic CUT-SQUARE shape points to inequity and the work that remains to be done. The embedded up-and-to-the-right CURSOR ARROW indicates how we’re changing the direction of tech, and points to a future of mutual growth. The central TRIANGLE borrows an ancient, sacred symbol of the feminine, a reversal of a dominator pyramid. The SLASH connects the logo to the wordmark, and references computer code at a glance. The .ORG in our name references our presence in both the tech and nonprofit worlds.

THE NEW IDENTITY SYSTEM hosts the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, as well as a number of other related events. We needed to design a large logo system that was flexible enough to fit all of the need of the brand and its community partners.

The colorful and distinctive “Brilliant” mark appears in all secondary logos, and events and community programs include the whole logo.

On some level, the Crest (which has the powerful truth Women transform technology / Technology transforms the world in a ring text around the “Brilliant”) is the most emotionally resonant. However, it does not feature the brand’s name/functional URL. In the brand guidelines, I made sure there were specific rules about how it could be used: either together with the wordmark elsewhere in the piece or with in text (as in the Abie Awards shown below, or when used as profile avatars in the brand’s social media channels.)

In instances such as some swag where the colorful mark cannot be reproduced, the wordmark (with its slash and .ORG called out) is still plenty distinctive and memorable.

View the abridged brand guidelines here.


In the weeks after the logo suite was finalized, we were invited to discuss how the brand launch would happen at Grace Hopper Celebration. After a few of these meetings, Owen was invited to join as the nonprofit’s first Creative Director. In the following months, through many projects, large and small, he expanded and refined the identity system, preparing for the simultaneous conference, website, and brand launch.


In preparation for the brand launch, Owen brainstormed with the team ways to increase attendees’ personal connection to the brand and mission. We came up with an “I AM” campaign, where women’s self-presentation—whether it was definition beyond a job title, their intersectional identity, or intention-setting—would be written on the reverse of the new, uniquely-shaped “Brilliant” logo mark.

The video promo for I AM, which seeded the activation, played at the start of the keynotes and introduced the new logo’s personal side. The respondents’ diversity and their responses coming together to form the logo helped make concrete some of its intent.

Every keynote speaker was told in advance about this campaign and asked to think of an “I AM” phrase that they’d show on an oversized sign onstage. They walked out bearing a giant version of the logo, then flipped it around to show the hand-lettered phrase. Owen lettered nearly all of these onsite, careful to offer a variety of lettering styles so each felt personal and individualized.

Overall the campaign was a success in reaching a broad swath of the show, from enthusiastic selfies to the signs attendees brought back home as keepsakes. Whether attendees kept their statements, put them on a wall for others to read, or only saw the inspiring ones held by keynote speakers, the new logo and this collection of bold affirmations were continuously linked throughout the show.

Pin It on Pinterest

Skip to content