Work

DonorsChoose

After 20 years of bringing joy to classrooms all over the country, DonorsChoose was ready to reintroduce itself to the world with a fresh face and new visual story.

Brand Strategy, Visual Identity, Digital Toolkit
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Background

When DonorsChoose launched in 2001, the technology was the centerpiece of their work: an easy-to-use, direct-to-teacher platform that made learning possible for millions of students across the country. With one click, donors could send money whizzing through the internet and into a classroom full of children anywhere in the country.

The challenge

Over two decades, a lot had changed. The company had grown substantially, proving the value of its concept and triggering a whole set of competitors and copycats. Classrooms also evolved, placing greater emphasis on technology, flexible learning, and integrated curricula. It was time to level up. And it wasn’t uncommon for first-timers to ask, “Donors choose...what?” In order to compensate for a challenging name, the brand leaned on an ad hoc visual language of outdated symbols like apples and books.

It was a hands down, clear decision for us to work with Hyperakt. They had respect for us, respect for our brand, and a real desire to get to know us.
Chris Pearsall
Vice President, Brand & Communications, DonorsChoose
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The opportunity

How could we use branding to position DonorsChoose as a leading charity, in crowdfunding and beyond? How could we build relationships with new donors and strengthen connections with existing donors through a heart-forward visual brand? How could we create a brand that was easy for teachers to adapt to their unique identities and needs?

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A brand of boundless possibility

No teacher or classroom should ever feel limited by geography or money. The new brand is all about DonorsChoose making teachers’ dreams come true and empowering them to spark their students’ curiosity, awe, and wonder.

The brand is made of infinite building blocks, showing that when teachers and DonorsChoose join together, students can learn, grow, create, and explore a world with boundless possibilities.

The platform quite literally helps fill the shelves of classrooms around the country. Anything is possible. Donors can give to who they want. Teachers can ask for what they want. The new brand evokes a sense of classroom abundance and limitless imagination.

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A custom font and a solid foundation

Even after dropping the original .org, the brand name posed some challenges. With 12 characters and 2 words, we had to ensure the logo didn’t become too wide. And we needed legibility and presence at very small sizes because this is first and foremost a digital brand. To solve for all of these challenges, we worked with Frere-Jones Type to develop a custom typeface for the primary wordmark. From there, the team developed a full-body display face that conveys a sense of playfulness yet holds its ground, striking the right tone between playful and reputable— it’s a brand for both students and teachers.

A kaleidoscope of color

Classrooms are playgrounds of color, where bright hues mix and mingle, building energy in their spontaneous, ever-changing combinations. The main brand color, Buxton blue, is a rich tone that anchors the broader palette of aqua, yellow, and orange. We also prioritized accessibility, selecting bold, high contrast colors that are clearly legible in all brand applications in print and online.

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A toolkit for teachers

Make it teacher-friendly” was our north star throughout the rebrand. Teachers are ambassadors who push their campaigns to their friends and families and advocate for their classrooms with unparalleled energy and vision. We needed to create a brand that teachers could make their own and infuse with their unique identities and personal stories. The Design Playground, an innovative outgrowth of the rebrand, gives teachers the power to create personal, beautifully branded social media assets, with custom messaging, colors & illustrations, to help them amplify their classroom campaigns.

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The brand refresh has saved us countless hours in design work, and our corporate partners clamor to integrate our brand assets into their campaigns. In fact, our brand assets were customized to appear on everything from Kleenex boxes to race cars to athletes' shoes.
Chris Pearsall
Vice President, Brand & Communications, DonorsChoose
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Creative collaboration

While the Hyperakt team took the lead on crafting every detail of this brand, our work was all the better because of the rich, thought-provoking ideas generated by the DonorsChoose team. From the outset of the project, we designed a series of creative workshops that enabled the team to step away from their day-to-day roles, see their brand and organization in a new light, and experiment with what it could look like in the future.

Internally, we've had strong adoption of the brand as well, and folks are more likely to create brand-consistent materials, given our extensive template library.
Chris Pearsall
Vice President, Brand & Communications, DonorsChoose
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Having a stronger, refreshed brand has helped us boost our impact, more clearly communicate our mission and vision, and streamline design work, while creating a vivid and memorable impression for our teachers, donors, partners, and supporters.
Chris Pearsall
Vice President, Brand & Communications, DonorsChoose
  • 24%
    of visitors downloaded assets from the Design Playground
  • 2 mins.
    average time on site for the Design Playground
Just after we launched the new brand, COVID-19 hit and we had to reimagine our marketing approach. A national public service announcement (PSA) campaign that we'd been planning had to be scrapped because we couldn't film in classrooms; however, because we had such a comprehensive brand library, our PSA producers were able to pivot and produce an animated PSA using our new brand assets. The PSA production costs were lower because we had such a strong new brand, and the reach was fantastic: our PSA was one of the top in the country, and over 18 months generated over $100 million in free ad placements.
Chris Pearsall
Vice President, Brand & Communications, DonorsChoose

Behind the Scenes

Project Credits

Project Team
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