Knowbility Redesign: Designing an Accessible Logo

Knowbility, a well-respected non-profit consultancy that specializes in helping Fortune 500 companies make their websites compliant with accessibility standards, contacted me to redesign their logo and website.

Our mission is to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities by promoting the use and improving the availability of accessible information technology.

Part 1: Research

Before we started working with Knowbility, they had already recently redrawn their existing logo:

knowbility logo with a disability symbol in place of the “o”
The Knowbility logo

The Name

Before breaking down the logo, we began by talking first about the name. Obviously, they weren’t going to rename the organization, but it was an opportunity because people often mispronounced the name as“no ability.” That didn’t align with their mission. I wanted to make sure that when we redrew this logo that it would be at the very least be more natural to read for everyone.

Assessment

As an initial point, this logo was not technically great, or in my opinion, visually good. But, beyond that, Knowbility didn’t have a reference point for why it wasn’t right beyond my opinion.

Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the lowercase “k”
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the lowercase “k”
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the lowercase “k.”
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the strong serifs in the font
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the strong serifs in the font
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the strong serifs in the font
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the Accessible Icon replacing the “o”.
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the Accessible Icon replacing the “o”.
Knowbility logo altered to emphasize the Accessible Icon replacing the “o”.

Technical Goals:

So coming out of this conversation, we had a few technical goals in mind in selecting a typeface. To align with what I thought would be an improvement, I was looking for:

  1. Tall x-height so the contrast between upper and lower case letterforms and their ascenders and descenders wouldn’t be too dramatically different.
  2. No icons disrupting the flow of the text

Part 2: Exploration and Selection

I presented several options for a new logo, conceptualized a number of symbols to represent Knowability’s primary mission, then offered some recommendations about integrating the new brand assets.

Typefaces:

We looked at many options for a typeface that aligned with our technical goals. What felt right in this case was a font that wasn’t sterile or cold and that had a simplicity but didn’t lack personality. We narrowed it down to around four primary type choices (all of which are more or less humanist typefaces), from which the client selected one.

Clockwise from the top Foco Bold, Gibson Semibold, Scheme Regular, Henderson Sans
Four variations of the Knowbility logo in different typefaces
Clockwise from the top Gibson Semibold, Foco Bold, Henderson Sans, Scheme Regular

Symbols:

When making a final decision about the logo itself, it was decided that the text should be able to stand on its own as a bold, simple, legible text mark. But, it was also agreed that to better express Knowbility’s overall mission to educate that a metaphorical symbol was needed in connection with the logo.

Three symbols to represent Knowbility: knowledge (tree), nobility (crown), and education (brain).

Decisions, Decisions

It was more challenging (as it often is) to choose a typeface we all agreed on. Knowbility felt some of the typefaces were too serious and/or sterile and wouldn’t provide the friendly face they wanted to put out into the world. So the team chose Henderson Sans, the most friendly and expressive option. Below is the final logo:

Knowbility’s final revised logo
Knowbility’s final revised logo
Knowbility’s final revised logo

Final thoughts

The process of redesigning a logo or a website involves a lot of different perspectives, stakeholder alignment, and communication. For this particular project, what we agreed would be the first goal of the redesign was to make sure it aligned with Knowbility’s mission.

Web designer, air drummer, friend. living in the Berkshires.

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