By Susan Davis, Executive Director, Improve InternationaL
I’m excited to present the logo for Improve International. Before I show it to you I want you to know about how it was developed. [If you can’t stand the suspense skip to the bottom.] I worked with Ashley Bothwell of Green Chair Creative, a designer recommended by my friend Kitsy Rose.
I liked the preparation process that the agency used in the recent re-branding process for Water For People, so I borrowed from that. I sent Ashley an email with a description of the organization, some examples of logos that I liked, and some key words that describe the values Improve International will embrace.
When I first thought of the concept and the name for the organization, the “IM” in improvement could stand for “independent monitoring” or “international monitoring” or “information management”; the “prove” is for verifying the work that people are doing (results); and “improve” is what I’m envisioning happening once organizations and donors have more information about their work
- giving people (the people for whom the water systems are built) a voice
- open / transparent
After a phone call to discuss the organization and these ideas, Ashley came back with six draft concepts, with brief descriptions about her inspiration for them. I immediately gravitated towards three of the concepts but sent them around to a few folks to get fresh eyes. It was a good thing I did, because one of the concepts looked very similar to a well known bank logo, and another one reminded a couple people of bicycle shorts.
One of my early favorites had this description.
The symbol used here is loosely based on the Mayan symbol N’oj in Kiche Maya. This is the symbol of intelligence; and is very useful for creativity and the power of intellect to find solutions to challenges. The highest expression: a great steward of our natural resources, especially the Earth and water.
On the mind level, the idea of “creativity and power of intellect to find solutions to challenges” particularly appealed to me. I started Improve International not only to promote learning from monitoring results and evaluation, but also to spark creativity in addressing the world’s water challenges.
At the gut level, Ashley’s choice of this symbol for inspiration seemed serendipitous. Ashley didn’t know that I have been to Guatemala (and other Central American countries) several times, and I have been to a Mayan shaman blessing ceremony, and have had my Mayan calendar reading. I love the Mayan calendars and have a beautiful embroidered version of one hanging on my walls.
I wasn’t familiar with N’oj (or Noj), so I looked up a few more descriptions.
Noj is known as the thinker, is intelligent, mentally active, rationalizing, reflective and practical. Noj is a doer, often becoming a leader in its community. Meditative and visionary, Noj, in Maya, they are known as “the brains of heaven.” [Found here]
Noj is wisdom, the name of our thoughts, the customs of behavior. Symbolizes the ambivalent moral strengths of the human mind. It is the energy that governs the mind, knowledge and good memory. It is synonymous with good creative talent. No’j is the day of decision and advice. [Found here]
These made the symbol even more appealing. Improve International will thrive on learning, and reflecting on work in the water and sanitation sector. I believe the organization will also need to be practical and a “doer”. This could mean facilitating knowledge sharing among implementing organizations and donors or helping to identify patterns and themes of what works and what doesn’t in water and sanitation projects.
After a couple more design rounds involving colors, we came up with a slight modification to Ashley’s original concept. I’m pleased to share the meaningful logo for Improve International. The colors remind me of the globe (international) and grass and water. It is still inspired by the symbol for N’oj, which will in turn be an ongoing inspiration to me. Thanks Ashley!