San Diego State University’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disorders asked the SDSU Graphic Design Studio to create a new brand identity system for their newly formed center. Their center is a new collaborative facility bringing together different areas at SDSU that all contribute to Autism research, outreach, as well as providing resources to families affected by Autism and other developmental disorders in our region. Education also plays a factor for the facility, as they train and help professionals who will be specializing in this field. I was tasked with creating two solutions that address the primary goals and core values of the SDSU Center For Autism.
Seeing and hearing the passion from the doctor’s and scientist’s at the center inspired me to continue to create meaningful work everyday. I was also able to empathize with someone who might have Autism or other developmental disabilities and try and be sensitive to their needs.
The biggest challenge was creating design solutions that would not reinforce any symbols that stereotype and stigmatize Autism, like the common jigsaw puzzle piece, but instead relay a more positive message. The center wanted to show they were connected to the university, but also their desire to be independent with their own identity.
My design solution was to use geometric, and receptive shapes, such as a molecule that consists of rounded, bonded atoms. This molecule could be visually appealing to someone with Autism because it features simple, repetitive geometric shapes. This shows order and consistency which are favored by those with Autism. For someone who is a doctor, scientist or donor, this design could represent the science and research part of the center, furthering their credibility and aligning to their tone of wanting to be serious, yet playful. Instead of showing their connection to SDSU by using the school colors, I chose to show it by using the university’s typeface, Palatino. People who have Autism are sensitive to certain colors, and using red and black would likely cause negative reactions for many.
To be mindful of sensory sensitivities through color and shape.
This was one of the first projects I decided to work on in my Design Studio course, I chose this project because I knew I was designing for good. I had an opportunity to create a design that could have significant, life changing power for someone. The SDSU Center for Autism is focused in education and research for children and adults. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but as a designer I can help by using the power of design to make a child feel more comfortable in their office, or an adult to feel safe and secure enough to seek help.
After our first client meeting, I realized how misinformed I was about what I thought Autism was. I spent a lot of time researching Autism from those who have it, and from those who are in related fields. Following my initial research, I went to the new location for SDSU Center for Autism to view the facility, ask secondary questions, and tried to get a sense of the shared values and common goals the center has. I then dedicated time to survey the existing visual field related to Autism, research, medicine, and science. I studied how current logos use color, shape, positive and negative space, overlapping elements, opacity, abstract letters, and typography. I drew inspiration from various keywords I associated with Autism, and attributes I felt that the SDSU Center for Autism wanted to communicate through their brand identity.
The SDSU Center for Autism is an interdisciplinary group of researchers and clinical scientists from multiple SDSU departments and colleges. The center’s mission is to provide access to evidence-based clinical services for individuals with Autism and their families, to foster outstanding clinical and basic science research on Autism and related conditions, and to provide public education on issues surrounding Autism services and research. Their target audience is individuals and families ranging from toddlers to adults who suffer from Autism and other related developmental disabilities. As well as those who are not affected by Autism, but would play key roles in research and funding for the center.
The center needed a new brand identity for their recently acquired location off campus. They wanted a mark that could be used to represent multiple labs inside the center that would appeal to children as well as adults. They wanted a serious, yet playful tone for their new identity.
The first design solution that I created for SDSU’s Center for Autism is using the shape of a molecule to represent a central hub with various connections for the departments that make up the Center for Autism. Other keywords shown through this logo are growth, innovation and focus. The chosen typeface, Century Gothic, is geometric style sans serif that complements the circular shapes found in the logo. This typeface works well with larger headlines and also with smaller headlines that might be found on collateral. The lighter blue color palette was chosen to induce calmness, confidence, reliability, seriousness, and serenity with the target audience.
The secondary logo presented also conveys similar keywords such as growth, focus, and change by using a molecule to represent a central hub with other connections. Instead of a solid color, this logo features a gradient. This gradient is also interchangeable and can vary from department to department. The chosen typeface is Palatino. This classic serif typeface is highly legible and translates well across many different mediums.
In addition to presenting two identity solutions, I created a brand extension that further expands on Solution One for the SDSU Center for Autism. Items include stationery, wall signage, coffee mug, a gift for a child patient, and responsive user interface design for desktop, mobile, and a tablet.
The stationery uses a pattern that is made up of rounded squares, similar to the rounded square container in the logo. The pattern is in the primary brand color and also in a dark blue color on the back of the stationery.
Signage & Environmental
Responsive Web Design
Other ways the brand is being communicated is on various responsive user interfaces for desktop, tablet, and mobile. Each interface shows the logo on the top left corner, overlaying on a white bar to ensure maximum visibility. The brand colors and typeface are shown throughout each interface further reinforcing the brand of San Diego State University’s Center for Autism and Disability Disorders.