The story behind the European Journalism Centre’s new visual identity

Over our twenty-five year history, the European Journalism Centre has built an amazing network; a patchwork of communities from all journalistic disciplines and European geographies.

We’ve also had a lot of logos.

But it is time for a new one, it is time for a new visual identity to reflect our new focus and our changing role in the landscape of European journalism.

Our job in 2017 and beyond is to connect journalists with new ideas. We do this through grants, events, training, research and media development. We are able to do it because we have the trust of our network. We have that trust because we are independent, we have 25 years of experience, and we are experts in the latest media technology and trends.

In the original rebrand announcement to our team, I wrote…

What is a rebrand? A rebrand is not a new logo, nor a new website. A rebrand is a critical look at ourselves, our audience and our future. It starts with this team and ends up with the question “does this reflect who we are?” If the answer is yes, then we’ve been successful.

So, let’s look at where we’re at…

The Brief

We gave our designer Marco a whole world of starting material from my 100 days of questions blog, team discussions, and lots of feedback from our community on why they work with us.

We defined that our new visual identity needed to be:

  • Clean, contemporary and recognisable.
  • Reflective of both our history but also where we want to go
  • Able to retain a strong identity when used with other logos, when used with photography, and when photocopied one hundred times.
  • Great in print and online.
  • More than a logo. We needed a design system that could unify lots of digital projects and websites. Like these…

Most people don’t realise we’re behind all of these projects and communities (and many more). How could we create a visual identity that helps people associate them, whilst allowing the projects to have their own identities?

Font

We started with the logo typography. In line with the brief, Marco chose a font that had deep historical roots, but a modern story.

Akzidenz Grotesk is a grotesque sans-serif typeface that dates back to 1896, and was a vital influence on the development of Helvetica, so has been a huge influence on modern communications.

We loved the functional, elegant style and the European backstory (type nerds will appreciate its influence on the ‘Swiss’ design style of the 50s and 60s).

Lots of other EJCs exist, and our name is one of the best things about us. It contains everything we are — our focus is European, our goal relates to journalism, and our core value is that we are a centre for communities and knowledge.

Rejected experiments.

We had decided early on that our logo would include our full name so it was important that this looked good spelled out.

The playful and unusual elements of Akzidenz Grotesk give the 120-year-old font character, and means it looks great either horizontal or stacked.

Colour

With the font selected, Marco went to work on colours and shapes. To build that unifying principle that could link all our websites and projects, we needed a design system.

We wanted website and book designers to use the identity creatively, but within a framework that helped people to recognise an EJC project. Colour and shape was the best way to approach this.

Marco worked on a palette of colours inspired by an era that would work with the typeface. We decided to stay away from primary colours or neons in order to distance ourself from various partners (and our previous logo). He arrived at four main colours.

Each of these colours then has a supporting palette. Here’s the accessory colours for green, for instance.

The idea is that we reserve the main colours for our brand, but these supporting colours can be used by designers to build websites and design print items that are complimentary. When done correctly, they should all feel part of the same family without the need for us to splash our logo everywhere.

Shape

Shape is the second unifying part of the system. We wanted to give designers another element they could build patterns and structures with.

Marco and I talked a lot about the EJC being “more than the sum of its parts,” and “a place where communities are connected”. This led to our coloured square — an element with a bold visual identity, but one that could be broken down into elements for creative design use.

I loved the way it reflected the variety of things we do. Lots of different elements that all fit together.

Logo

The logo is then where all of this comes together — the classic font, the bold colour palette, and the creative shapes.

Just as the logo links together the design elements, the logo also links together all of our different projects and the journalism communities they serve. It’s a symbol of the diversity of our work, our team, and the communities we work with.


There’s a family of logos for different uses and backgrounds.

Here’s how it looks against images (I love the way it pulls the colour of the photographs out).

And here are some creative interpretations of applications across print and stationary…

Here’s a set of banners that you’ll already see inhabiting our social networks:

Our first site following the new guidelines is already online too.

As well as opening up this process, we’ve made our style guide public. Take a look over at brand.ejc.net if you’re interested in more details.

It contains our new tone and voice guides (more on Laura’s work in a future post), which arrived as a result of this whole process. We’ll continue to evolve the style guide and brand on that site.


Thanks to Marco, Laura, the whole EJC team, and everyone from our communities that filled in a survey, completed an interview, and gave us feedback. Stayed tuned for a reboot of ejc.net, coming soon.