Design writing
12 December, 2013
Posted by: Drew Joyce

Getting all cross

We’ve never let a difficult problem stand in the way of pursuing a great idea and this was no exception.

It was always going to be a tricky task developing naming and brand identity for a client based between Bangkok and Melbourne, that would create awareness around the plight of women with HIV, wanting to create a distinct position and differentiate themselves in a saturated market, that had to work across print, film, merchandise and campaign, across multiple languages and broad demographics. Sure. Positively Fabulous was born and launched in Thailand and Australia supported with a series of public events, merchandise and an emotive movie teaser shot by Adelaide film studio Change Media.

The design process was certainly challenging to move through and beyond the cliches and stereotypes that typify this area of social services nationally. We needed to develop a mark that would bring power and meaning to the campaign and unite the multiplicity of functions and brand elements. A mark that would speak simply and clearly and represent the cause of women with HIV. Emerging from an intensive series of internal design conversations, working sessions with the client remotely, the film directors and collaborative designer Cody Buchanan we had our name, our mark and our brand identity. The only issue was that the mark had been in use for sometime in a form we know as the Red Cross.

We’ve never let a difficult problem stand in the way of pursuing a great idea and this was no exception. Our process took us through a series of studies around what we called “plus-marks” that spoke about being positive – both HIV (positive) and emotionally (positive). Working objectively across a range of line weights we settled on a mark we determined worked the best and was the only one that would support the brand development. We’re not sure who designed the Red Cross mark but it’s awesome, immensely well resolved as a mark and has great clarity and simplicity.

The next issue was to see just how close we could go to this without getting anyone bigger than us mad. Calls followed to our patent attorney Collison&Co for a preliminary determination which advised that generally we can’t use any crosses, plus marks or anything that resembles or approximates the Red Cross emblem and especially in a colour that is “within the red range on a white background”. Advice followed to the client recommending against the use of their preferred dark pink – which was politely dismissed. We also had the brilliant idea of rotating the mark from a static vertical axis to 6º off vertical which activated the mark in a way that brought life to the brand identity and shifted it away from the Red Cross. Comfortable we had done our due diligence the client launched the brand.

Within 10 days we had an email from the client advising of contact from the Red Cross detailing a notification of infringement and requesting clarification. Following several discussions with the Red Cross office in Melbourne we learnt the following: the Red Cross symbol is an emblem, it’s not protected by trademark but by the Geneva Convention that sets the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of war, they’re bigger than us, have a big bat and are backed by the military globally, dark pink is in the red range, rotating a cross by 6º is not enough to distinguish our mark from the Red Cross emblem and, that in the entire history of infringement of the Red Cross emblem only one person has been prosecuted.

On this basis we made minor amendments to the mark retaining the dark pink colour but reproducing it in stripes (it works), retaining the cross form and the 6º rotation off axis and we got in principal approval from the Red Cross.

What we learnt is that in the pursuit of realising a great idea it’s worth challenging (Geneva) conventions.

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