Tennessee’s 23 State Agencies Have Always Worked Together To Do Great Things For The State.

Now They Have A Visual Identity System That Works Just As Hard As They Do.

When citizens think of government, efficiency isn’t always top of mind. Yet, for years, Tennessee State Government has been diligently working to become more efficient and effective for the citizens of Tennessee.

Agencies and departments were working together to leverage shared resources and expertise across the state. However, Tennessee State Government was operating as a “House of Brands.” Because each agency had developed their own identities individually there was no shared vision across the agencies, which created confusion for citizens and potential business partnerships as well as within the government.


For any business, the prospect of uniting multiple sub-brands under one identity is a huge undertaking. What the Governor’s Office asked us to do was to help create efficiency across all agencies by creating the first consistent identity system for the state. This system had to include comprehensive brand guidelines and sub-logos for all departments and take into account how to design for new agencies or departments that could be created in the future. This system also had to take into account the myriad of applications, including everything from signage and brochures to computers and mobile devices.

Our Objective: Improve and strengthen the Tennessee State Government brand by creating the state’s first consistent graphic identity.
Before: Tennessee State government as a “House of Brands”
After: First consistent graphic identity for Tennessee State Government

The Process

We conducted several collaborative sessions with representatives across all state agencies. We learned what kinds of challenges they faced, what was working and what wasn’t. We also gained insights from citizens. By bringing together this diverse group of government employees and citizens of the State of Tennessee, we were able to identify key areas of shared concern across all agencies. It became clear to the agency that the approach required was to move state agency identifiers to a “Branded House” model. This would help create efficiency and maximize clarity. The Branded House approach would also help build equity for all agencies as it helped the state leverage these agencies as a powerful enterprise.

Ideation Phase

Next, we looked at how other governments had solved similar challenges to gain insight into what has worked in the past. We also looked to the private sector to help influence how we want to be viewed by outsiders in business.

As we began working on the actual visual identity system, we did additional research on how other governments had solved this challenge and on the history of the State of Tennessee. We explored hundreds of symbols, including everything from the popular Tri-Star and geographic cues to department symbolism and more. As our exploration evolved, we made sure that individual marks for each agency could ladder up to an overall vision, building separation through color palettes and a shared system.

Tennessee State Flag, State Seal and State Government Logo

Coexisting with the State’s Rich Heritage

Along with the need for us to create something that was simple and clear, we were also tasked with creating something that was completely ownable — something that wouldn’t be confused with other state iconography. This was a key reason for avoiding the state’s beloved Tri-Star — which has been used in thousands of applications from sports and healthcare to waste management and more. Ultimately, we developed a mark that takes visual cues from the state flag and works in harmony with the state seal and the Tri-Star.

One Mark for Tennessee — Inspired by History, Pointed at the Future

After exploring hundreds of conceptual directions and even more marks, we landed on a simple and clear mark that is easily recognizable and scalable. This system is one that all agencies could use as part of a Branded House. It’s efficient, modern and still hints at the state’s rich history. Most importantly, the mark and the system are effective at letting citizens and employees know that Tennessee doesn’t operate as 23 individual departments — but as one statewide enterprise doing great things for the citizens of Tennessee.

State Government Stationery
State Signage
State Departmental Social Media