Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
Centering Community Through a
The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County had a legacy brand with 30 years of community attachment associated with it. Through our strategic explorations with their new Executive Director, the decision was made to do an end-to-end rebrand to evolve their messaging and visual identity. They wanted to move away from the outdated “land behind glass” preservation philosophy that was part of their previous identity into community-based branding and communications that expresses the organization’s current positioning.
Our work with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County team resulted in a modern visual identity system, logo, updated messaging, and a community-focused interactive website that invites people to connect to the land and become land protection advocates. The brand and messaging more clearly express the organization’s philosophy that land conservation needs to be a living experience. It clearly communicates the organization’s position as a convener that brings a unique blend of constituents together that don't typically collaborate.
Determining the Brand Direction
We employed a combination of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and moodboards to determine brand equity and how to differentiate the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County from similar organizations. To deepen our understanding we extended our landscape review to include non-ecology organizations. By broadening our horizons, we were able to create visual identity components and treatments that look place specific, but don’t look like a generic Santa Cruz County social impact organization. Our deep diagnostic work revealed a complex picture of the intertwined network of constituents that interact with the Land Trust. This informed our work in developing the new logo, defining the overall visual identity, and determining the messaging direction.
A Representational Logo
The icon and wordmark that constitute the logo evoke the mountainous, coastal, and agricultural lands that make up Santa Cruz County without being a specific place. One of the many important choices in creating the design was the 3-D treatment of the icon. Much like the photography used across the site, it looks like a place you can step into. Even with the cool ocean and sky colors, it seems warm and inviting — just like the organization.The typography used for the wordmark, grounds the logo lockup. It tells you that the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is a competent, reliable, and welcoming organization. This is a critical ethos to project because the organization’s site is a core communications platform that informs advocates, funders, and the public.
A Unified Design System with a Tactile Feel
The design system we developed was inspired by national park signage and aesthetics that feels local and approachable. One of our goals was to create a visual identity that feels like a refined version of a grassroots style campaign poster or flyer. The Call To Action arrows, icons, starbursts, stars, trees, and illustrations that look hand printed work together to create a visual style that looks and feels specific to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.
A Multi-use Digital Hub
The strategic approach to the website was to create an interactive and approachable resource for the entire county. This inclusive experience was pivotal to transforming the brand and organizational identity from internal facing to one that the community felt it could “own”.The site is conceived of as a digital hub for supporters, partners, and local outdoor enthusiasts to use to get information on preserved land where they can hike, bike, relax, and connect with the natural environment.It also showcases how and why the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County protects working agricultural lands, its role in wildlife preservation, and its importance in watershed and water source protection and conservation.
A Strategic Photo Philosophy
It’s no surprise that a Land Trust site is heavily photo driven. To determine the photography style across the site, we developed a philosophy for the types of photos to be used. For photos to be considered, they need to be a tangible means for demonstrating impact. They should be of people immersed and connecting with the land, rather than just observing it. This goes along with the organizational philosophy of making land accessible. In addition, selected photos need to be engagement focused and demonstrate that the land is for everyone.
A Brand That Deepens Community Engagement
We applied the same philosophical mindset to the swag we designed as part of the branding process that we did to the site photography. It had to feel tactile, even when looking at it on their online store. The swag is a bridge between the digital world and the real world, that people can wear, or use and feel more connected to the land and to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County. Inspired by the icons for each of the areas they protect, we designed a series of enamel pins that are long-lasting low price point items that allow almost anyone to wear branded swag that deepens the relationship between local supporters and the organization.
Representing Complex Issues
Swag was only one of three areas where we created extensions of the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County brand. The second was a sub-brand that expresses the complexity of the issues they encounter in their work. While the protected area enamel pins might feel like a sub-brand, the full-on sub-brand that we created was for their Learning the Land Podcast. The stylized cougar/mountain lion is a controversial animal in the county. An apex predator, it’s seen as critical to environmental balance. The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County even spearheaded a multi-million dollar project to create a wildlife crossing under a major mountain highway to prevent the deaths of mountain lions and other animals. At the same time, the animal is seen as a menace by local ranchers and farmers.
Social Media Branding
Our third type of brand extension includes a social media asset system. The system we created is designed to be central to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County’s digital strategy. It gives them everything they need for announcement to podcast topics, to general branded pieces of communication. These social media components are ready to use, serve as templates and inspiration for the creation of more in the future, and demonstrate how the visual identity can extend into social media.
A Ticket to a New Experience
A major rebrand and new website is a big deal. And when you launch them, you should make a big splash. As a community-based organization, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County gets the importance of nailing that first impression. With such a wide range of stakeholders and partners, they understand the impact of a brand and website rollout.We helped them strategize around a rollout campaign built around the idea that, “Land Trust of Santa Cruz County is going on tour — and you’re invited to the show!”. We collaborated on the “house-concert” inspired messaging for two in-person events and created assets designed to entice people to attend.
The messaging for the brand and website rollout campaign was drawn from significant strategy work that also informed the website copy. From the clear value statement on the Homepage, to details about the areas they protect, and deeper messaging that helps them tell their story, we helped the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County team be unified behind their impact story and create effective and consistent communications.
Scope of Work
- Interviews & Focus Groups
- Visual Identity
- Design Systems
- Brand Extension
- Brand Style Guide
- Icons & Illustrations
- Collateral & Materials
- Brand Narrative
- Voice & Tone
- Mission / Vision / Values
- Target Audience
- Topline Messaging
- Integrated Digital Experience
- Full Service Web Development
- Experience Design
- Information Architecture
- Content Strategy
- Photography Production
- Branded Copywriting
- Awareness & Growth
- Social Media
Are you ready to take your social impact organization to the next level? Let’s explore our fit for working together.