In SMPL Q+A, we interview practitioners on all things relevant to branding, design, and simplicity. Here, we speak with Blake Bäkken, Creative Director and Matt Hansen, Designer about our recent work for CalAnimals

The California Animal Welfare Association (“CalAnimals”) formed in 2018 through a merger between California’s two statewide animal-welfare associations: California Animal Control Directors Association (CACDA) and State Humane Association of California (SHAC). CalAnimal’s mission is to support the success of animal welfare and sheltering organizations in meeting the needs of animals and people in their communities.

Can you tell us about the design process?

Matt Hansen: Well to start, this is the kind of project that a designer dreams of getting. The reason I got into this game was to make a difference—changing the world one pixel at a time. So, having the ability to make tangible changes for an organization that oversees the care and protection of animals made my proverbial tail wag uncontrollably.

Blake Bäkken: We treated the engagement as we do with anything else—we started with strategy. So, we held a brand workshop to help CalAnimals define who they were, who they weren’t, and what made them stand out from the pack. The fruit of that workshop was a brand strategy which informed our design process so that we could ultimately deliver a logo that spoke to their mission: achieving harmony between people and animals.

MH: In short, the process was a blast. We were able to stretch our creative muscles while working with people who were not only excited but borderline rabid with anticipation. Nothing but harmony and animal puns (and some design of course) throughout the process.

What inspired the new logo?

BB+ MH: Well, we had a plethora of ideas—an entire sketchbook filled in fact—most of them pushing into directions that were intentionally provocative and avant-garde. It’s funny, we tried so hard to take the client into these unexpected territories that we thought, what the hell, why not embrace the obvious?

To let the cat out of the bag, the winning design is one that combines two simple truths. One, California is synonymous with sunshine. Two, animals are synonymous with the paw-prints that they leave behind. So, the best way to signal a progressive organization based in California that cares for animals would be the marriage of the two. Hence, the birth of the sun-paw.

Did anything surprise you about the engagement?

BB: One thing stands out actually. We were quite surprised by how receptive and excited CalAnimal’s president, Jill Tucker, was with all of our concepts. So excited, in fact, that she wanted us to take our first round concepts and present them directly to the board of directors for approvals. Our sun-paw fit perfectly with the great momentum of both a new name and a renewed vision. We’re so pleased to have been a part of CalAnimal’s transformation, and we hope they shine in this new chapter of their organization.