Arts Council Santa Cruz County

Centering Equity for a Regional Arts Organization

Arts Council Hero

The Challenge

Arts Council Santa Cruz County has served as a connector between artists, arts networks, government leaders, arts advocates, arts education, and arts organizations since 1979. When we started our work together their website and messaging wasn’t representing their dedication to equity for artists across Santa Cruz County.

The Outcome

The resulting visual brand system, updated messaging, website, and digital and physical collateral showcases the organization as one centered on equity and community. The impactful brand system showcases artists as much as art itself and encourages county-wide participation.


  • Strategic Brand Building
  • Content & Campaign Consulting
  • Digital Infrastructure

Focus Areas

  • Social Equity & Justice
  • Arts & Culture

Elevating a Brand with a Rich History

The Arts Council Santa Cruz County (Arts Council) has significant brand recognition established over more than four decades. For the sake of brand continuity, we kept their easily recognizable triangle and bright green color as keystones of their new visual identity.

Our starting point was a legacy site from around 2011. To take them from an old platform to a modern tech stack and update their visual identity, we simplified the overall look and feel, taking a minimalist black & white approach with an editorial feel. This aesthetic elevates the primary Arts Council brand, and allows the frequent co-branding with their internal sub-brands and partner organizations to work smoothly together.


A Community-based Design Approach

The overall design system places art front and center, expressing the Arts Council’s principle of art being from, by, and for the community.

The editorial aesthetic comes from a strong grid system combined with a typography palette that allows for bold headlines and utilitarian body copy for clear messaging. The minimalist approach makes room for the art and other visuals, letting those shine through.


Human-centered Photography

Showcasing the artists behind the art is the strategy driving the photography direction we chose for the design. It can be tempting just to show beautiful art on a site like this. But ultimately, art is about human connection and we wanted the photography to be as much about the artist community as it is about the art itself.


A Brand System for Today & Tomorrow

The Arts Council Santa Cruz County brand lives well beyond the digital realm. To demonstrate how the design system works in the real world, we created examples of how the brand can extend into new areas as the Arts Council team continues to use the brand moving forward.

Open Studios Cover
Branded Banners
Promotional Posters
Brochure Design

Foundational Materials

Arts Council Santa Cruz County is run by a small and talented team with a lot on their plates. With the core collateral and promotional materials we designed for them, they have a toolbox of resources to use now and into the future that helps them retain brand consistency. Having everything from business cards, to table drapes, signage, a newly designed and re-written Legacy Giving brochure, and more sets them up for success in their next chapter.

Business Cards
Legacy Giving Brochure
Bumper Sticker
Branded Stickers

A Digital Asset Refresh

The overhaul of the Arts Council Santa Cruz County visual identity required an update to digital collateral alongside the physical collateral. This included new email templates for their newsletter and social media assets for their awareness, education, and fundraising campaigns.


Expanding Artist & Art Enthusiast Engagement

As Arts Council Santa Cruz County moves into an equity-focused next chapter, we worked with them to establish an engagement pyramid aimed at attracting artists and community members that they hadn’t previously engaged with or made aware of the resources they have to offer. The result is a roadmap for attracting more artists and art enthusiasts throughout the county.

Engagement Pyramid

A Brand Consistency Guide

The majority of staff members at Arts Council Santa Cruz County are content producers, either for programs, development, communications, or fundraising. The brand style guide that we delivered along with the completed website and collateral gives them clear parameters for brand continuity. Everyone can create the content they need to produce and the organization has a unified look, feel, and tone.

Brand Guidelines

A Story of Equity

Arts Council Santa Cruz County team understands the importance of equity as a convener and supporter of the local arts community. As a result, we worked with them to elevate their equity commitment as a central component of their impact story and overall messaging.

One noteworthy aspect of their dedication to equity is a website and other communications that are intentionally written to have impact in both English and Spanish. Content was specifically written so that it has the same meaning in both languages, giving everyone access to the same information on the site. Their new site gives them a tool to stay connected with a lot of people in two languages across a diverse county.

Equity 2023 05 09 195432 arzj

Establishing a Consistent Voice and Tone

We collaborated with the Arts Council Santa Cruz County team to establish a professional yet casual communication style that is inclusive, approachable, and unpretentious. We want to both inform and inspire through voice, tone, and personality guidelines that encourage friendly, welcoming, and informative language — like someone who always gives you the best advice they can, but doesn’t shy away from difficult realities.

Teaching Artists

Site Visitor Guidance

There are multiple audiences that need to be included on the Arts Council website. One of our content strategies was to identify those audiences and give them clear directions to the website content they need most. Our approach calls out clear pathways for each of the three audiences we identified.

User Pathways

Condensed Information Flows

Because the website serves the public as well as providing a broad array of services and resources to artists and arts organizations, the information flow required careful consideration. Ultimately we were able to simplify the primary navigation into three items:

  • Explore the Arts: For Art Lovers & Supports

  • Opportunities: For Artists, Arts Organizations, and Arts Education

  • About: For both Artists and the public to understand the Arts Council Santa Cruz County organization

The primary navigation includes a Donate callout, which is important but not part of the overall information architecture. The simplified primary navigation is in keeping with the minimalist design aesthetic while providing site visitors with drop downs that allow them to quickly get to the information they’re looking for.

Information Architecture

A Minimum to Maximum Content Strategy

The clean minimalist editorial aesthetic is integrated into the content strategy for the site. Overview pages provide just enough information that visitors can make informed choices about where to navigate, laying out all of the options in a topic area. From there they can access content rich pages that provide more extensive information.

Minimalist Editorial Style Copywriting

In keeping with the visual aesthetic of the website, the topline messaging and copywriting is crafted to be succinct while being inspirational and informative.

Editorial Writing

Mission & Vision Update

The organization-wide messaging update we developed with the Arts Council team led to a revision to their Mission and Vision Statements. This required a collaborative approach that included the project team as well as the Board of Directors. The results speak for themselves.


Expressive Branded Copywriting

The Arts Council Santa Cruz County staff is a team of artists, educators, and organizers dedicated to creating a Santa Cruz County where all artists have access to the resources they need to thrive and a full range of creative expression is accessible to everyone. We helped them express their dedication through introductory sections across the site where they can convey their passion for the arts.

Branded Copywriting

Unifying Sub-brands

The Open Studios Art Tour (Open Studios) is one of the most well-known activities Arts Council Santa Cruz County produces every year. It has inspired similar events across the US.

The Arts Council serves a more diverse audience through the Watsonville Center for the Arts — a collective of artistic and cultural groups.

Previously, the websites and participant experiences were siloed on separate sites. Many of the art enthusiasts didn’t realize that the Arts Council is the organization behind them.

We created a new microsite that clearly puts their marquee event and additional location under the Arts Council Santa Cruz County umbrella through a clearly aligned visual brand experience.

Open Studios Microsite
Watsonville Center for the arts Microsite

Scope of Work

  • Strategic Brand Building

    • Brand Research
    • Visual & Messaging Landscape Analysis
    • Interviews & Focus Groups
    • Survey Design & Facilitation
    • Brand Identity & Design Systems
    • Naming
    • Brand Messaging
    • Content & Messaging Strategy
  • Content & Campaign Consulting

    • Brand Extension, Collateral, & Materials
    • Awareness & Growth Campaigns
  • Digital Infrastructure

    • Modern Bespoke Website Design & Development
    • Web & Mobile Apps
    • Action Centers
    • Digital Blueprints
    • Branded Website Content & Copywriting
  • Other

    Related Work

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