The Aga Khan Foundation is non-profit dedicated to partnering with communities globally to build better futures. AKF takes a different approach from many traditional charities—instead of simply giving resources as determined by the organization, they partner with local organizations and consult with local leadership to meet the multifaceted needs of places seeking sustainable growth.
I joined the foundation as a staff member in 2016, shortly after Dilafruz Khonikboyeva was appointed the Director of Public Affairs and Strategic Communications. AKF USA had gone through a branding process in 2013 that we both felt could be visually strengthened and more audience focused. With Emily Honstein Stanton, Senior Communications Officer, we reimagined the journey of a person's introduction to the Aga Khan Foundation.
In professional and casual settings where AKF USA staff and high-level volunteers discuss our organization, business cards are the first point of introduction. Each representative was given a new set of cards that included a brief mission statement about the organization and a representational variety of inspirational images of our partners in the field.
The next brand touchpoint is our introductory brochure. It gives a "mile-high" overview of our work, covering our impact, approach, and opportunities for volunteer and sponsor involvement.
The universal pitch deck template can be customized to the audience and opportunity, whether it is an information session, a grant proposal, or a sponsorship pitch. This document would become a touchpoint for a new narrative approach to our brand story.
With the creation of these introductory materials and a developing sense of AKF USA's refreshed visual style, the team was ready to tackle our website.
AKFUSA.org serves two primary audiences. Potential governmental and grant-making partners and donors who wish to learn about the Aga Khan Foundation, and a dedicated base of volunteers who organize fundraising events nationwide. The site needed to explain our complex work simply, and also provide tools for marketing fundraising walks, golf tournaments, and dinners. The following presentation outlines personas representing facets of our audiences and the overall site design process.
We took a narrative-based approach to the site's layout and navigation. Instead of starting with our vast wealth of information to share and then figuring out a navigational taxonomy to get to that information, we took a user-first approach. We imagined how we could direct a journey through the page, providing contextual branchouts within the flow of the story. In collaboration with Jessica Ferko at Back Pocket Media, Emily Honstein Stanton and I concepted what this might look like, and found rapid wireframing on paper was a great way to talk through this journey and document our intent for each section.
Dynamically updating sections invite visitors to read stories from our blog related to the adjacent content, and calls to action are easily added or moved as strategy and analytics require. Volunteers and fundraisers can easily find events nationwide via a map and event listing.
Event pages and blog posts are easily customized with repeatable sections that allow us to leverage our wealth of beautiful photographs.
With a small design team and quick turn-arounds frequently needed for both programs and fundraising, developing templates that produce great results for non-designers was an essential part of the rebrand. An overview piece at a small size can easily be included with simple, easily updated and printed Word documents to create an effective package.
Volunteer event marketing materials were created in Canva so each region can produce consistent high-quality design on a rapid turn-around. These materials introduced a new color, Rubine Red, to our palette. We identified that the primary audience for the flyers were either members of the Ismaili community who are already familiar with the foundation, or are "run junkies" who are always looking for new races to participate in. We therefore emphasized the event type and location rather than detailed information about the organization. We simplified the banner styles to make it easy to modify them without significantly impacting the look and feel.
We also produced new informational banners that would feel appropriate at a variety of events, from an embassy function to a gala to a Walk-Run. They also help create a more on-brand environment in our office lobby.
At the end of the whirlwind year of reshaping our brand on the fly, I worked with my colleague Jodi Narde, current Senior Communications Officer at AKF USA, to more formally document the refresh. The resulting brand guidelines are considered a living document, updated as necessity arises. It has been partially adopted by our colleagues internationally, and will serve as a starting point to build a brand for our global programmes team.