Philanthropy that speaks its mind

How we worked with Luminate to build a brand as strong as their convictions.

Feb 11 · 4 min read

For almost a decade, Luminate was the Governance & Citizen Engagement initiative at Omidyar Network, the philanthropic investment firm set up by eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam.

Over time, the initiative developed a distinct mission and grew to a such a scale that its portfolio would be better served by an independent organisation. By taking this step, Luminate could expand its investment scope and be more responsive to arising issues and investee needs. Just as importantly, they could be louder advocates for change — challenging perceptions about how philanthropies should behave.

Why now exactly?

Take a look around. The last few years have seen sustained political upheaval — and a connected set of issues now threaten global social progress. All over the world, civic space is under attack and basic freedoms are being withdrawn. Meanwhile, the downsides of technological innovation are becoming clear. Those with power are increasingly misusing data and tech to enhance their positions in society.

It is against this backdrop that Luminate operates, funding and supporting non-profit and for-profit organisations and advocating for policies that drive change.

Protestors in Rio, Brazil.

Clarity in a complex world

Invited to pitch to develop the brand for this new organisation, we immersed ourselves in Luminate’s world — focusing on barriers to impact. Insights gathered, we showcased the need for brevity, simplicity and clarity in their messaging and proposed a number of brand shifts to express the new organisation’s positioning.

These shifts informed our brand territory. Using bold typography and graphic language to amplify Luminate’s voice, it has a strong, provocative tone which runs deliberately counter to the organisation’s more neutral name.

The Luminate homepage puts their vision centre stage.

Collaborative by design

Developing Luminate’s brand put us in contact with all corners of their global network, including journalists, investees and those with boots on the ground. Drawing on these varied perspectives, we began articulating what Luminate does and why.

While most organisations have vision and mission statements, they’re rarely truly driven by them — despite what they may claim. That wasn’t the case here. Luminate has a strong societal driver and we wanted to in something the organisation could be held accountable to.

The type-led design across offline materials.

Visionary expression

Being direct with our language was vital — but there were also tonal sensitivities to consider. Luminate works across countries with varying political and social norms. An innocuous phrase in one could be inflammatory in another. A delicate touch — and local guidance — was required.

From the verbal to the visual, Luminate’s combination of vocal advocacy and bold investment and grantmaking meant our design solution had to be active and uncompromising. We avoided a complex scheme which could obscure their clear sense of mission.

The result was a strong, modern visual brand with only three elements: a single colour, human-led imagery, and strong typography that uses repetition to challenge the reader.

Putting ingrained thinking under the microscope.

An immersive experience

Luminate launched in late 2018 with an event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. We created an exhibition space to bring the brand into the physical environment and give the CEO a platform to share his vision.

The video wall at the launch event.

The story of the new organisation was told using a video wall and posters attached to bespoke yet unvarnished wooden boards. This juxtaposition of digital and analogue platforms captured the variety of work Luminate undertakes: a compelling combination of leveraging the latest technology and endorsing grassroots advocacy.

You can watch a short video of the event .

“The development of the Luminate brand was a critical part of our evolution, that needed to build on our heritage and experience but also clearly communicate the distinct mission and values that drive our organisation and work. The team at OPX quickly understood the complex nature of our work, listened to us, and challenged us where appropriate.”

Jim Peacock, Marketing & Communications Director, Luminate

“This has been work that we have been passionate about from the start. It’s great to partner with a client who is genuinely making a difference and to develop a brand for them that will play a part in helping them deliver their important mission.”

Frances Jackson, CEO, OPX


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