Regenstrief Institute is a dynamic people-centered research organization that creates pathways for better health. Their global research has made them pioneers in biomedical informatics and health information solutions, aging research for vulnerable elders, and advancements in health care and patient experiences.
When they approached us ready to transform their brand and website, we were pretty excited. The scope and impact of their work was a huge motivator for our team. While Regenstrief is headquartered here in Indianapolis, their work reaches far corners of the globe.
Our Regenstrief project lead, communications specialist Lisa Welch, serves as the first ever internal marketing hire for the organization. They have been around since 1969 – so this is kind of a big deal. While Regenstrief had a rich history of stories, without this role or focus, they had never intentionally defined things like their brand voice or a content creation process.
We started as we always do – with research and interviews meant to understand people across the organization: scientists, center directors, program managers and administrators alike. It’s important for us to hear directly from people what their organization means to them. One of our favorite questions: What makes you get up and at it every day?
Asking questions like this helps us empathize with the personalities behind the magic. This research gave us many insights, including one crucial theme: it’s all about the people.
When we began talking about messaging direction during a visioning exercise, it took a long time for the word “science” to come up. It was a profound moment that made everyone in that early creative session pause.
“You know what! I’ve just realized we haven’t said science once yet.”
Don’t take that the wrong way – the folks at Regenstrief, from administrators to the investigators doing the research, all care very deeply about science. If you talk to people within their organization for more than a few minutes, you’ll hear someone geeking out about it. But what emerged throughout our Discovery process was again confirmed in that session: what they care about most is people.
This led us to focus on building a human brand with a genuine voice, one that reflects the patient-focused and people-centered work. All of their research is pointed toward creating better pathways to health care and improving lives for real people. At the end of the day, that’s their “why” – the people they serve.
We believe branding work should be fun. And, yes, sometimes that means dancing. We knew we were in good company when the Regenstrief team didn’t mind one bit when we broke out into dance during one of our generative sessions focused on defining brand voice.
And they rolled with it when we said we wanted to play a game called Business Origami to map out their content flow. We mapped their current content creation process, noting any pain points or confusion along the way, then made notes on new ways to improve their process.
One common mistake we’ve seen in working on projects like a rebrand for large, complex organizations is lack of planning for how to share information and collaborate with a wider team. While many think of their external audiences or public rollouts, the employees are critical to a successful adoption and rollout of new language and processes. This mapping work with Regenstrief paved the way for a much smoother process as we moved into website planning, content development and beyond – ultimately leading to better collaboration across their entire organization.
While Regenstrief was ready to part ways with most of their brand assets, they didn’t need a complete wrecking ball. For their logo, everyone agreed that their visual palindrome (meaning it appears the same whether right side up or flipped upside down) was delightful. It just needed modernizing.
When we started sketching, we wanted to go as broad as we could with the palindrome, while maintaining the integrity of the concept. A constraint like this might seem limiting, but it can be just the opposite.
In the end, we streamlined the circle, narrowed the path of the palindrome and chose a bright, lively blue. For the typeface, we chose Averta, a geometric sans serif, to support the clean, modern style of the new mark.
The rest of the brand system – the colors and visual styles – were open for complete transformation. As we often do, we found inspiration for their color palette, photography and visual direction through a magazine brainstorming activity.
Regenstrief’s project team curated dozens of samples of images that they felt represented their aspirational brand. Together, we refined these to create a spark for our creative direction.
To bring their brand to life in various applications, we added textures and custom photography treatments inspired from this activity and others. The various options give Regenstrief a flexible system they can use for trade shows, presentations and all kinds of brand collateral.
It’s not everyday you get to rebrand a storied institution while they build a new headquarters. Walking through their new space and seeing the design work all come together as an immersive brand experience was a real treat for our team.
We also eventually went on to launch their brand new digital home, regenstrief.org.