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Responses by Isabelle Allard-Gendron, associate creative director, Gretel; Carter Bird, senior strategist, Gretel; and Eden Connelly, head of growth, Collective.

Background: “The purpose of this work was to evolve Collective’s brand identity and capture its core, start-up energy, helping to mature it and attract larger enterprise clients,” says Carter Bird. “Our aim was to convey Collective’s uniquely human approach—one rooted in real, honest and lived experiences. For Collective and its clients, this means creating a more empathetic and grounded diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) experience that fosters tangible impact at a root level—a sentiment we wanted to reflect in the brand work itself.”

“Communicating across differences and shifting systems to mitigate bias can feel overwhelming and arduous,” says Eden Connelly. “Our partnership with Gretel brings levity and creativity to the conversation while reflecting a style that helps people of many lived experiences feel seen, heard and celebrated.”

Design thinking: “Collective reframes DEI conversations to put marginalized voices at the center of its work,” says Bird. “We needed a core idea that stemmed from the distinguishing truths of its practice. The resulting identity system accentuates the unsaid, turning subtext into headlines and periphery into focus.”

Challenges: “From a strategic standpoint, we needed to clarify Collective’s voice to be both assertive and empathic,” says Bird. “Its positivity and candid approach are both key differentiators as well as moving targets for strategists, writers and designers alike. Capturing that balance was important to us.”

Favorite details: “We really love the conceptual grounding of ‘holding space,’ supported through the visual element of parentheses,” says Connelly. “This visually represents the act of centering the margins, saying the unsaid and listening to the unheard. We also found the secondary element of the asterisk as an important tool to constantly point to subtext, invite our audience into deeper learning and embrace the “but/and,” intersectional nature of DEI work. The meaning of both of these elements reverberates through DEI practitioner conversations everywhere, so Gretel’s ability to define these colloquialisms in a way that Collective can own has proven to be helpful in codifying this complex work.”

Visual influences: “The goal here was to celebrate the authenticity of both the individuals at Collective but also the individuals they serve,” says Isabelle Allard-Gendron. “We wanted to provide Collective with tools that would reflect the vast social kaleidoscope in which we live, while feeling different and ownable. The identity leaned into everyday language tools like parentheses and asterisks to help emphasize the unsaid—those design behaviors themselves reflect the same reframing of subjects and topics that Collective strives to achieve in its work.”

Time constraints: “We worked on the rebrand during the massive unrest behind both Black Lives Matter and COVID-19,” says Allard-Gendron. “For us, it became even more important to be aware of what everyone was going through and that people were more frequently rethinking their biases. Collective’s work inspires a diverse, inclusive state of mind that we believe will remain relevant throughout times like these and beyond.”

gretelny.com

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