As a communication design major at the University of North Texas, Adriana Vieraitis set out to tackle an ambitious project during her senior year: reimagining the “National Parks Conservation Association” (NPCA) brand identity. Under the mentorship of Professor Douglas May, she took on the task of innovating the brand image of this respected nonprofit organization, committed to the critical cause of safeguarding America’s national parks. Leveraging her finely honed design skills and comprehension of the NPCA’s ethos, Vieraitis crafted a strong, aligned branding system to secure a prestigious Gold award in New Talent 2023. Now, let’s journey through her experience, the obstacles she overcame, and the novel solutions she devised.
By: Adriana Vieraitis
Background: The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is a respected nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s national parks. With more than 1.6 million members and supporters, they are the voice working to protect our natural treasures for future generations. UNT Communication Design major Adriana Vieraitis recognized an opportunity for an updated branding system to impact a wider audience and effectively communicate the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
Challenges: The primary obstacle in the design process was finding a way to encapsulate a concept through a unified visual identity that would resonate across an array of participants. This need included the appeal to an expanded demographic, including a new generation of park enthusiasts, policymakers, and potential donors. This required envisioning a brand that would strike a balance between approachability and professionalism.
Research: The first step involved researching the NPCA’s history, mission, and audiences. A review of existing national park visual branding and the nonprofit sector helped identify unique opportunities for differentiation.
Brand Strategy: Working with UNT professor Douglas May, a creative brief was developed to frame the visual expression of the organization. This included defining the brand’s core values, personality traits, and key messaging pillars.
Visual Identity: The creation of NPCA’s visual identity began by developing a distinctive logo. The logo needed to evoke the majesty of the national parks while incorporating elements that symbolized conservation and advocacy. Iterative design trials and in-class feedback loops helped refine the logo into a reductive representation of the NPCA ideals. Within the details of the logo are these symbols; the bear’s head represents wildlife, the bear’s ear signifies the sun, the mountain indicates the land, and the dots symbolize community and hiking trails.
Brand Guidelines: To ensure consistency across all touchpoints, brand elements were developed for logo usage, color palette, typography, and secondary graphic elements. The earthy color palette reflects the land, wildlife, and environment NPCA protects. The designer selected the typeface Dapifer for its traditional characteristics with a modern serif reflecting the transition from old to new.
Applications: The branding system was extended to various materials, including park signage, brochures, stationery, and digital assets.
Marketing: Adriana developed a frequent-visitor award program using patches containing logo elements. Completing different physical tasks highlight individuals’ accomplishments and visualizes community care for the parks. One example is if you complete the longest trail in any national park, you earn the trail patch.
Solution: Adriana’s branding system addresses many of the organization’s challenges in professional engagement. The new logo captures the essence of the national parks, utilizing natural motifs and vibrant colors to convey a sense of vitality and stewardship. The brand’s visual identity strikes a balance between approachability and professionalism, connecting emotionally with a wide range of stakeholders. The comprehensive brand guidelines would give NPCA’s team the necessary elements to maintain brand consistency across internal and external communications.
Conclusion: Designing a branding system for the National Parks Conservation Association presented unique challenges due to the breadth of its mission and the diverse audience it aimed to engage. The proposed solution considers the organization’s dedication to protecting national parks while potentially attracting the participation of new supporters.
About the Designer:
Adriana Vieraitis graduated in May 2023 with a BFA in Communication Design with minors in Art History and Marketing at the University of North Texas. As an entry-level job seeker, she wants to create purpose-driven ideas and conceptualize appropriate and effective communication upon gaining employment as a design professional.
Associate Professor Douglas May holds undergraduate degrees from the University of North Texas and Art Center College of Design, and he earned his MFA from Texas A&M University-Commerce. His professional design career has included assignments from local to international clientele. His recognition as an AIGA Fellow tops 200 professional design awards and career achievements, including the AAF Dallas 2020 Educator of the Year.