Submitted as a part of an RGD Certification Application.
Previously known as the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Wavefront Centre provides resources, education, and a gathering place for the hard-of-hearing, deaf, and deaf-blind communities in the Greater Vancouver Area. As the Wavefront team set out to build a multimillion dollar state-of-the-art facility, they came to Harc for a brand refresh that would reflect the promise of their new home and expanded capabilities with a new name, storytelling strategy, visual identity, and accessible websites.
Because this project centred on a new name for the organization to grow into, we partnered with the client to structure a community-engagement process with two aims: generate much-needed intel to inform our creative work, and– more important– give disabled community members a meaningful container in which to express their trepidation to categorization and ‘branding’ in general. We began by convening and facilitating eight community focus groups for clients, staff, parallel organizations, and external community members. From there, we deployed community questionnaires, facilitated one-on-one interviews with deaf clients and family members, and dug into the fifty-year-old organization’s cardboard box archives.
Shifting away from a designative name that listed client demographics, I led the organization toward a metaphorical name that points towards the finish line: communication accessibility. Once the English name was settled on, I collaborated with two deaf ASL interpreters to design a hand-sign that evokes the same sense of potential as “Wavefront”. From there, I began work on the visual identity, centering the logo on a ‘W’ form to increase recognizability for ASL-speaking folks most familiar with the organization’s existent spelled-out acronym (WIDHH).
The resulting W icon was initially designed to represent a sound-wave reflective of a hard-of-hearing client’s audiogram. However, feedback from a townhall brand review session indicated that many deaf folks felt triggered by audiograms as they related to clinical moments of trauma in their diagnosis stories. Ultimately, we worked with deaf community members to find a meaningful re-treatment of the initial ‘W’ that felt less clinical and more mountain-like (in dialogue with Vancouver’s geography). The resulting visual identity was presented and voted on and approved by Wavefront’s entire community of members, board of directors, and in-house staff at three community town-halls over the course of three months.
With Wavefront Centre’s refreshed name and brand set in place, we shifted gears to brand application. Our primary objective from day one had been to ensure continuity and cohesion for deeply-attached community members, so the brand design and subsequent processes all stayed focused on a minimal colour palette, approachable typography, human-centered photography, and subtly playful geometric background textures. Over the nine months following adoption of the over-arching brand, we produced myriad printed brochures, social media direction, interior wayfinding graphics, mural design, physical signage design, and accessible website design and development.
Within a year of opening its new location, Wavefront Centre’s client database doubled in size, they hired over twenty new audiologists, and received a gold rating from the Rick Hansen Foundation for outstanding efforts towards accessibility.