Brand Overview and Competitive Review
Center For Court Innovation Ex-Offender Organization
The purpose of this document is to review the name and brand identity for the ex-offenders support organizations sponsored by the Center for Court Innovation in the form of a overview and competitive review. It is both an introspective- and outward-looking activity observing symbols and language used by us and other organizations. By analyzing ourselves, we are able to:
- Attain a glimpse of how sponsors, clients and the public see us.
- Understand why and how our representing symbols and language have evolved.
- Enhance characteristics that are most beneficial while minimizing or eliminating those communication qualities that do not enhance or further our purpose.
By looking at other organizations similar to ours, it is possible to:
- See what symbols and language they use, how they are applied in the public space, and assess their successes and/or shortcomings.
- Look for patterns or repetitive trends that show parody and cause commonality among social service organizations supporting ex-offenders.
- Identify unique approaches to supporting ex-offender public re-entry and understand whether those unique approaches warrant merit.
- Use these observations in our rebranding efforts to differentiate us from the similar organizations, and rise above other ex-offender social service efforts in the public, client, and institutional realms.
- Make it easier for clients to desire us; attain funding and support from the public and government and corporate institutions; and to gain positive PR and editorial presence.
The goal is not to interpret the data subjectively nor to read into what competing communications might convey, and instead, we must try to simply analyze what we see, and make observations and decisions based on that.
Additionally, once naming and design phases are in progress, a similar process to evaluate the potential of new names, symbols and language should be applied to us.
This proposal has three sections: this introduction, a brand overview, and a competitive review.
The Motherbrand: Center for Court Innovation
The Center for Court Innovation identity is a combination of two rectangular graphical elements and four centered lines of text. The typeface is similar to Garamond or Minion, and all words are in capital letters. The color palette is a warm grey.
- It bears some similarity to and is compatible with law firm identity.
- It complimentary to the chunky-letter New York City promotional logo, and less so to the City of New York or State of New York seals.
- It communicates less about social service and more about justice leadership and institutionalism.
- It is essentially a flag.
- Largely typographical, the CFCI logo positions comfortably with other corporate and institutional branding.
Sub-Brand One: Times Square Ink. A Midtown Community Enterprise
Where the Center For Court Innovation identity is a flag-shaped landscape rectangle, the Times Square Ink. identity is a square. Like its motherbrand, its primary graphical devices are typography and horizontal rectangles or rules, but in the case of the Times Square Ink. logo, the emphasis is reversed — the typography is large and powerful compared to the subtle and sophisticated CFCI typography. It is a bold stencil words layered in graphical tiers.
The name implies a geographical boundary to the organization’s services, which are largely job readiness in focus, and within the brand identity is contained verbiage affiliating it to Midtown Community Court.
- It can be compared to the Willing and Able cleanup and job-providing organization.
- Greater emphasis on work and jobs, less about reintegration with family.
- Conveys a more retail-public face; less compatible presence among corporate or civic institutions like CFCI.
- Compatible with other public urban entities in entertainment, not-for-profit, service sector or package good classes of trade.
- Seems to be a more public-facing identity versus one to be owned by the participants.
Sub-Brand Two: Dads United for Parenting: D-UP!
360 degrees from the Times Square Ink. brand identity is Dads United for Parenting. Where Times Square Ink. is a powerful graphical symbol, Dads United for Parenting is illustrative and narrative. At first glance, it could be branding constructed of crude clip art. Yet, upon closer look, the child wears a baseball cap — a clear NYC/urban dress symbol, and dad is proportioned like a dad and not like a J Crew model. The thoughtful type layout, creates altogether an impactful grassroots symbol.
- Also compatible to Ready, Willing and Able cleanup and job-providing organizations.
- Thematically similar to government-sponsored, religious-backed, or not-for-profit organizations symbols of varying sophistication.
- Also a more public-directed symbol and not client-ownable symbol.
Aiming at One Target With Two Services
These two sub-brand entities serve largely overlapping groups — ex-offenders and fathers — the first brand minimizing or eradicating the ex-offender stigma while encouraging reentry into the job market, and the latter focused on connecting ex-offender fathers with their families. Both sub-brands operate under the auspices of the mother brand, the State court system, and both support largely the same individuals.
Multiple Sub-Brands from one Mother
If the overlapping services do not function for all potential ex-offenders, and if by combining the sub-brand entities into one entity excludes one group or another (ex-offenders needing work versus those reconnecting to family), then perhaps a single sub-brand will not be a plausible solution.
- Not all of those who need job support are dads or will be able to sustain family relationships, or,
- Ex-offender dads do not require the support available within a job-opportunity organization.
The reality is, however, according to Midtown Community Court, that these specific ex-offenders often need workforce and family support. Why have two services to serve one ex-offender?
There are ways to create a sub-brand to solve for this:
In creating a brand that diverts from the judicial dimension of the State court system (judgement and punishment) and instead takes on the identity of the job- and family-building support system (success and recovery), the goal is to design a brand symbol that permits the ex-offend either or both job and family support identity. The Humane Society brand identity localizes and globalizes itself with essentially the same symbolic communication. It is the strategic presentation of its symbol set that defines its regional or global reach. Likewise, Midtown Community Courts can brand its ex-offender support system to function in multiple roles by emphasizing the person and recovery effort, not a specific service.
The Ex-Offender: Who Are We Talking About?
The Idealized Target — The Fantasy
The Reality of Those Re-Engaging in the Workforce and Family
Although academic and social research would be valuable to describe ascending tiers of ex-offender patterns or recidivism and recovery, it is not within the scope of this document to delve into possible client profiles, except to say that the reality of the challenges faced by ex-offenders as well as the venues for recovery might be better represented in a more realistic fashion as opposed to the idealized version, that even main-stream society finds hard to replicate in its own life.
What Symbols Do Ex-Offenders Gravitate Toward?
Ex-offenders are tribe members — prior to their encounter with Center For Court Innovation, have spent time with other offenders. In a way, we can call them, once collected in the penal system, a tribe. This tribe can simply be members of a religion, a class of crime, an ethnic division, or a locale. Or, it can be a collectively a marginalized contained group.
However, this is presumably not an ex-offender’s first tribal experience, and it is possible to imagine that this person was once a part of a home-tribe or neighbor-tribe.
Brand identity creates tribes too: those who identify with Apple computers versus those that prefer Microsoft Windows computers, or those who identify with Lexus automobiles over Audi. Can we create symbols that will attract ex-offenders and transition them into a new type of power-tribe?
Two Tribes Using Symbols of Different Cultures and Institutions
The mother tribe, informed and identified with other governmental and corporate institutions:
The sub-tribe, informed and identified with urban culture reflecting struggle:
Will ex-offenders with these tribal affiliations participate in work and parenthood programs that function with the same symbol set of the mother brand, Center for Court Innovation, itself claiming tribal affiliation with other government and corporate institutions? Or, is possible to create one identity that accomplishes a tribal unity without compromising two very different cultural and institutional affiliations?
Summary and Observations
The Center For Court Innovation’s effort to support ex-offenders aims to target two very important hurdles for those exiting the penal system: Attaining meaningful work that deters behavior resulting in penal system reentry, and providing resources and mentoring to ex-offenders to reconnect with family and children. In combining and redefining Times Square Ink. and Dads United for Parenting, it is necessary to find a compelling name and symbol with supporting URL that encases these efforts and other ex-offender issues.
However, it must be decided if it is more important to create identity that speaks to the institutions and corporations with which CFCI participates, or, if instead there is greater advantage to develop a name and symbol that attracts and embodies the individual who is vested in self-renovation and overcoming enormous stigmas applied by society to ex-offenders. The following competitive review presents some examples of both.
One way to look at this is to understand that CFCI has already opened the door to embracing the identity and complexity of the ex-offender, and that it not only has the potential to permit a more vibrant and culturally attractive type of symbols for the ex-offenders it seeks to support, but because of its makeup, it is strong enough to buffer the institutional and corporate community that uses an entirely different language and symbol-set.
View the competitive review: