Every Voice Matters: A New Visual Identity System for VIVA Singers

VIVA was founded in 2000 in response to widespread cuts to public school arts programs. As a lifelong vocal music educator, Carol Woodward Ratzlaff believes that every person should have access to a singing experience. With this in mind, for over two decades, VIVA Singers has been committed to putting chorister voice at the forefront of their organization through the core values of performance artistry, vocal music education, inclusion, leadership and mentoring, and community.

This branding and visual identity design project by Now Creative Group began in 2019 and was delivered in January 2020, in time for the organization’s 20th Anniversary.

Only 3 months later, the pandemic hit — but the organization has continued to innovate and thrive.

“When youth or adult choristers need to engage in at-home learning, VIVA’s responsive pedagogy and innovative approach is readily adaptable.”

As part of this branding process, the organization’s main name also changed from VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto to VIVA Singers.

Learn more about the branding process throughout this article and see the final result in use today.

Design Approach

Now Creative Group had the opportunity to work with VIVA Singers on a brand refresh for their 20th Anniversary that better represented how the not-for-profit organization has evolved, the impact they’ve made on their community, their passion for music, and their firm footing in inclusivity. 

VIVA Singers is a not-for-profit family of choirs with a mandate to give members, ages four through adult, the opportunity to achieve artistic excellence in a singer-centred, collaborative choral community.

A key pillar for VIVA is inclusion and so anything that we designed needed to accommodate the diverse community that the organization is home to. Singers of all ages, talents, and backgrounds are welcomed into the organization without ever sacrificing musical quality or artistic excellence.

An important consideration for the project was the large age range that the choir caters to. The refreshed brand needed to be simple enough to represent singers as young as 4 years old all the way through adults aged 84, but also distinguishable enough to stand out amongst similar organizations.

They also required a logo that could easily be printed in black or all-white – without losing brand impact and recognition – as they print a lot of programming material themselves, and do one-colour prints on clothing.

Attempts were made by others to redesign the brand in the past, before Now was brought on to lead this project. Previous issues included a lack of consideration for the diverse age range and lack of adaptability for their sub-brands. The options previously presented to the organization felt too youthful and were difficult to work across different mediums.

Our Strategy and Methodology

The team at Now Creative Group began by compiling and reviewing visual identities from arts organizations within the non-profit sector, to understand the landscape from both a visual and naming convention perspective.

We then conducted keyword searches of similar organizations to gauge a better understanding of where the newly designed brand would fit amongst competitors. We learned that most choirs resembled a number of the failed designs in that they used a full spectrum of bright, primary colours, and were paired with iconography that was literal in the choir and music world – such as musical notes, treble clefs, and various silhouettes of predominantly children and youth. 

Our process also included looking back on all the failed designs to see what was being done incorrectly when compared against the organization’s values and key pillars.

To relate more to the participants and stakeholders, our also research delved into the process of making music and layering in vocals to form the choir.

Our Solution

Based on the problems and objectives presented by the client, and after research, we presented them with two logo options that did the following:

  1. Embodied their key pillar of inclusion
  2. Worked for any aged singer, and
  3. Took the concept of “music” and “singing” outside the box to differentiate the organization.

We took inspiration in the word “harmony” as it represented both a literal style of vocal in singing, but also synonymously represented inclusion and working together. The logos we presented used iconography that featured gradients and spirals to show this idea of harmony. Both options were paired with an easy to read, free-flowing font that joined each respective icon to show flow. 

The client was instantly drawn to the option that is now their official logo and noted that this was exactly the impact they wanted to achieve – a bold and powerful logo that instantly catches your attention. The logo features three main elements: the icon, the wordmark, and the tagline each designed to work as individual components and harmoniously with one another.

The icon we designed features a simple, yet bold spiral. The shape is both a nod to the “V” of “VIVA”, but also a representation of a gradually growing vibration, which is ultimately what produces vocals. The simplicity of the single spiral – one colour, no distinguishing marks or details – represents the unification and connectivity of all members. We contained the spiral inside a square to add power and emphasis to the icon through contrast, and to house the icon so it doesn’t get lost at any scale or in any colour – specifically in black, as was requested by the client. 

The wordmark extends the theme of harmony through the play on the “V” and “A”. We used the opportunity of similar letter shapes to add visual balance and harmony to ensure the thought is never lost, specifically when the wordmark is used independently from the icon. We used a clean and bold, easy to read font for the remaining lettering to allow for greater impact of the icon.

Lastly, we developed a colour palette that better represented the brand, and that amplified the logo design. The main colour we chose is green as its psychology represents balance and harmony, carrying on the theme that is important to the essence of the brand. We used a combination of an emerald and sage green – emerald to bring life and vibrancy into the green, and sage to tone it back slightly in order to cater to a larger audience.

Now used complementary, but still just as impactful colours for the sub-brands – a tangerine orange and mustard yellow – to continue to breathe life into the brand, but still make each a distinguishable and unique stand-alone “brand”.

Ultimately, this helped the organization and their stakeholders feel more connected and proudly embrace their new, united, consistent branding.

You can learn about each of their individual choirs here.

Results and Impact

Facilitating sessions with a wide range of stakeholders — from the visionary founder to the artistic directors, and from the parents and board of directors to choristers — allowed us to connect with the range of needs, desires and visions for this organization, which has clearly made an impact on people’s lives for over 20 years. Given the various opinions and visions, we helped to align through our facilitated branding and strategy sessions.

With so many programming aspects to fit into one single brand and logo, our solution was to create a range of sub-brands with 3 branches.

The result is that the individual groups are all able to feel ownership and identify with their sub-brand and colours.

Moving the Organization Forward

With their new unified visual identity, VIVA Singers entered the 2020/2021 season with a total of seven choirs. These choirs continue to bring people of all ages, all abilities, and all levels of musical experience together through the power of choral music. They continue to push boundaries by applying current research in vocal pedagogy (including transgender voices, changing adolescent voices, supporting ageing voices), vocal music education, inclusion studies, and academia to best meet the needs of our singers.

At the heart of VIVA’s family of choirs is the Every Voice Matters Chorus, a chorus of teens and adults with disabilities.

“We continue to advocate for all voices, and push for inclusivity to ensure that anyone who enjoys music is welcomed — and challenged — at VIVA.” 

The organization’s efforts during the pandemic did not go unnoticed. As one parent shares:

“VIVA did an AMAZING job responding to the pandemic and adapting the choral programs. The existing strong sense of community, passion for music education and care for our kids continued through the new online platform, without missing a beat! Our kids were able to remain and feel connected with each of their choral groups. We believe that this connection with VIVA and being able to continue singing together, yet apart, has helped our kids during this strange time. VIVA has supported their mental health AND allowed them to continue to grow in their musical journey. We are definitely with VIVA for the long run!”

The organization’s goal of authentic music-making and community-building through the best possible repertoire is achieved by a team of fine musicians and educators, members of the Choral Mentoring & Leadership Program, and a dynamic Board of Directors. Now Creative Group delivered an identity that the members of this passionate organization can continue to use for years to come.

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