The British Heart Foundation was set up in the sixties to fund research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and circulatory diseases. Things have come a long way, but they still kill more people than any other cause in the world, claiming a life in the UK every three minutes. That’s waiting for the kettle to boil. That’s sitting through an ad break. These diseases are beatable, but this requires funding for vital research into treatments and cures.

The team are operating in a tough, competitive environment. Economic uncertainty has forced more people to tighten their belts, and any public scrutiny on a single charity tends to hit the entire sector.

More specifically, there are misconceptions about heart and circulatory diseases – both what they are and how serious they are, and the technical language around them doesn’t help. Despite incredibly high brand awareness, there was a lack of understanding about the BHF itself, with many people only associating the brand with heart attacks and heart health. All of this inhibits the likelihood to donate.

Finding a solution
As we learnt more, we were amazed to see the extent of the extraordinary work the BHF is involved in. It funds research into all heart and circulatory diseases, including strokes and vascular dementia, and their risk factors like diabetes. We were also amazed that all these diseases are connected, and this gave us plenty to work with.

Working with leadership from across the organisation, together we defined a new, flexible, outcome-focused proposition: to ‘beat heartbreak forever’. This demonstrates the BHF’s involvement in a fuller range of conditions and invites people to get involved, either for the cause or for a loved one.

With a more focused, ambitious vision (a world without heart and circulatory diseases), we needed a statement of intent. Working with the Medical Director, we helped define The Big Beat Challenge, a research moonshot offering ‘£30m for the world’s greatest to tackle the world’s biggest killers’. This program encourages the best minds to further their ground-breaking research to unlock huge breakthroughs.

Expression and education
To ensure that the brand conveyed the organisation’s dynamism, and lived up to its future-facing proposition, we created a fearless creative expression for it. It had to work across a huge range of applications, from live events and digital channels, to health information and built environments. With the brand enjoying high awareness and a strong retail presence, we were keen to build on its existing strengths. Our creative idea became, ‘the big beat’.

It’s built around a pulsing and flowing motion, with the logo representing both a heartbeat and the rush of blood through the body. The headline typeface – BHF Beats, which was inspired by the Pulse logo and designed by F37 – as well as the icons and imagery reflect this.

We designed an internal training programme, Talk BHF, to equip the organisation and its frontline volunteers with the new proposition to focus their storytelling and the knowledge to explain how these deadly diseases work. Results have been encouraging, with high participation and a fourfold increase in confidence amongst employees talking about what the BHF does and how it presents itself.

Building on this success, we also helped the BHF launch their first massive, open, online course on the Future Learn platform. It’s a free course that’s designed to promote knowledge that can save lives. It educates people about heart and circulatory diseases and their effect on the body, and explains how pioneering research is taking us closer to a world without them.

The race is on
The brand has been rolled out quickly and smartly. Highlights include new retail spaces and a London to Brighton bike ride.

The website, launched using the new brand expression, has shown a 7% increase in visitors year-on-year, and an increase in one-off donations of 26%.

In July, the BHF launched a new 60 second campaign by Mullen Lowe  called ‘it starts with your heart’.  Trust in the BHF rose to 2nd in the sector, above CRUK for the first time. Even more encouraging, ‘consideration to give’ rose faster than it had done before – and to its highest ever ranking.

Consideration to leave a legacy in a will saw an uplift in 25% during the campaign period. And most importantly, weekly general donations through retail rose 76% in the first week, showing that with the right message, people do believe that the BHF’s research is vital and relevant.

Here’s what the Chief Executive, Simon Gillespie, had to say about the work:

With an ambitious proposition, a confident expression, a focused organisation, a free course to encourage millions to talk about how to beat the world’s biggest killers, and early signs of a direct impact on fundraising efforts, the race to beat heartbreak forever is well underway.

In 2015, Girl Effect became an independent organisation, and its new CEO, Farah Ramzan Golant, wanted to focus the organisation’s diverse portfolio of activities.

Building on successful projects in Ethiopia and Rwanda, it would create big local brands that use video, radio, drama and music to change social norms so that, for the first time, girls could get the education, healthcare and opportunities they deserve.

To do so, Girl Effect needed three things: a vision to drive change, a culture to enable change, and a visual identity to signal change to the world.

Wolff Olins helped us find our voice in the world. Our collaboration is filled with the strategic provocation and creative ambition that enables our brand to stand apart in the sector and set the tone for our innovative approach.

Farah Ramzan Golant, CEO

A new norm for girls
Working closely with Girl Effect’s top team, we answered fundamental questions about the organisation. We helped develop a new, focused vision for launch based around the idea of creating a new normal with and for girls.

Following this, we helped shape a set of principles, and a clear portfolio of projects to attract investment as a creative non-profit. With a cross-section of Girl Effect’s people, and groups of teenage girls, we co-created the Girl Effect Way – a set of working habits, brought to life through tangible actions across the organisation.

To signal this transformation to the world, we created a visual identity called ‘the burst’. It
represents the power of girls and the dynamism of the work Girl Effect creates with them. Designed to be active and vibrant, it has a sense of momentum and reflects the organisation’s pioneering spirit.

More impact in more countries
Within a year, Girl Effect’s transformation was well under way. The new vision united its teams behind a single focus and inspired new innovation. They received multiple awards including Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, Campaign Magazine’s Creative Tech Award and a Market Research Society Award.

Girl Effect has since launched Zathu, a new youth brand in Malawi, and re-launched its global mobile platform as Springster. It is expanding its girl-operated research tool TEGA, and is piloting Girls Connect an on-demand content and one-on-one support mobile platform in Nigeria.

Girl Effect has ambitious goals to reach many more girls in many more countries, and its new vision is helping attract the large-scale investment it needs to empower girls to change their lives and make the world a better place.

Every child has the right to be happy and curious, but for victims of abuse across the world, this right is shattered. Thorn – a visionary force in the non-profit space – focuses the sharpest minds in the tech and NGO worlds to fight against this. It stands up to traffickers and helps stop the spread of child pornography.

Time to act
Thorn gained national attention in early 2017 following Co-Founder Ashton Kutcher’s impassioned testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It partners with the world’s most prominent tech companies including Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Yahoo and Intel to help keep platforms safer.

To harness momentum and with a 5-year anniversary approaching, CEO Julie Cordua recognized the opportunity to accelerate the mission and supercharge the organization. She set out to engage more people to join the fight by sharing Thorn’s ambition.

“The work we do is often hard to talk about – whether it’s the pain of child sexual abuse or the complexity of the technology we build.

To make as big of an impact as possible, we needed to find a better way to share our mission, engage partners and create hope for the future we’re trying to build.”

Julie Cordua, CEO, Thorn

Setting the tone
Child sex abuse is a tragic and difficult subject to broach. Our challenge was to set the right tone, inspiring partners to stay engaged and getting new audiences to listen.

After 6 months of in-depth research with law enforcement, donors, government officials, and partners in close collaboration with Thorn’s team, we captured the purpose in the distilled statement: “Until every child can be a kid”.

The new visual identity system celebrates the role of the expanded network, inspired by the idea that it takes more than one thorn to protect the rose. The system can be applied in a singular way or in a dynamic group to express working together as a force. Accompanied by a warmer, more vibrant color palette and a thoughtful approach to photography, it shows the strength of a united front, and offers optimism.

With the production requirements of a non-profit in mind, we produced a hardworking toolkit that allows Thorn’s team to create materials themselves. It includes in-depth digital templates that make it easy for non-designers to produce beautiful content consistently. It also contains communication principles that provide clarity and pave the way for pragmatic action.

The work launched earlier this year, and there’s more about it here in Design Week. We’re excited to see where this organization will go next.


HIV AIDS had been in the news for decades. It was a human crisis on a huge scale, and though infection rates continued to rise in Africa, financial support was dwindling.

Activists Bobby Shriver and Bono wanted to harness the power of the world’s biggest retailers. They wanted to make giving effortless for consumers, generate profits and a sense of purpose for partner companies, and create sustainable income for the Global Fund.

“Wolff Olins helped to take (RED) from an idea on a napkin to a tangible, visceral vision”

Bobby Shriver, Founder, (RED)
Painting a vision
The first challenge was to get partners on board by painting a vision for the brand. We developed a platform that united participating businesses by multiplying their logos to the power of (RED).
We imagined the experiences partners might create – from everyday consumables to hero products that would build the African connection and attract attention. They had to be a little brighter and better than their everyday counterparts.
On the road
Joining Bobby and Bono, we presented our vision to Amex, Converse, Emporio Armani, Motorola, and Gap. Partners signed up quickly, drawn by the connection to a purpose beyond profit. We introduced each new team to the strategy and collaborated on product design. Some committed to manufacturing in African countries, generating local opportunities.

Sustainable impact
Bono launched (RED) at the World Economic Forum in January ‘06 to great effect, capturing the attention of consumers and business leaders alike.

Within five weeks of the US launch, the (RED) brand had registered 30% unaided awareness. Immediately after its UK launch, Amex saw an immediate lift in brand perception with younger customers. GAP saw a major improvement in employee engagement, and their INSPI(RED) T-shirt became a bestseller.

Through improved global awareness and an expanding list of iconic partners – now including Apple and Starbucks – (RED) provides a reliable flow of money to the Global Fund.

It continues to exceed its goals, recently passing $200 million in raised and donated funds. More than 14 million people have been reached with preventative services and believes an AIDS-free generation is possible.

The word ‘cancer’ used to make people uncomfortable. It was discussed behind closed doors, and relief organisations only connected with patients inside surgeries and hospitals.

Macmillan were best-known for their nurses and the end-of-life care they provided. Their behaviour and communications felt institutional, which limited their scope.

But the landscape in the UK was changing. Relationships between charities and their supporters had evolved and it was becoming clear that the 2 million+ affected by cancer could benefit from social, practical support. There was potential for a radical shift.

From relief to support
We made the case that we all need to play a part in the solution to cancer, and in this context, Macmillan wasn’t simply about ‘cancer relief’ for patients. It could be an everyday source of support for anyone affected by the disease.

If Macmillan were to become truly ‘everyday’, they had to find a place within our daily lives. They needed a presence in schools, in workplaces, on the high street and online. We created an expression that would inspire participation from these places. It would feel personal and immediate, rather than institutional.

Getting into shape
In beginning to enable those living with cancer to provide support for each other, Macmillan faced a big challenge. We helped them build capabilities and select the right agency partners. We created an open access making site for supporters, Be.Macmillan, where they could design professional quality materials.

We coached all levels, up to the CEO, to own and live the change. Macmillan’s in-house design team spent weeks at our offices, and our experience principles guided ongoing work.

“The new brand helped us to recruit excellent fundraisers from across all sectors”

Lynda Thomas, Director of Fundraising, Macmillan

Realising the strategy
Within two years of the rebrand Macmillan’s fundraising had defied the recession, increasing by £26 million – a 6% year-on-year growth. They were helping far more people, in more places, than ever before: website visitors had doubled; callers to the Macmillan Support Line increased by 35%; and 50% more people had found the benefits they were entitled to.

Recruiting became easier: one in two people interviewed cited the brand as a reason for their interest, and its relevance led to a groundbreaking partnership with Boots, delivering cancer services on every high street in the UK.

Macmillan revolutionized the way Macmillan supports their volunteer community. There are 40,000 regular users and content templates have grown ten-fold, saving marketing spend and empowering an army of fundraisers.

“We became a completely different organisation, with a much more dynamic and can-do attitude”

Hilary Cross, Director of External Affairs, Macmillan

While this wasn’t all the direct result of the rebrand, the work undoubtedly helped to provide the platform for a more self-assured and assertive organisation.

When we arrive home, we flick the light switch without a second thought. Yet 1.6 billion people – around 22% of the world – live ‘off-grid’, without a mains supply of electricity.

When the sun goes down, work and therefore income is limited, medical care is compromised, and education levels drop as reading becomes difficult. It’s challenging even to cook or socialise. Kerosene lamps are a commonly-used but expensive and harmful substitute.

To address this problem, artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen created Little Sun: a solar-powered lamp for people living off-grid.

A work of art, that works in life
One Little Sun converts 5 hours of sunlight into 10 hours of soft light, or 4 hours of bright light. It can be used flexibly: on a desk for studying; attached to a bike; carried as a torch; or any other way the owner can imagine. It saves households 90% in fuel costs over 3 years, compared with kerosene.

We worked with Studio Olafur Eliasson to take Little Sun from idea and prototype to fully established product. In close collaboration, we helped to articulate the fundamental concept. Little Sun is a work of art that works in life.

“Little Sun opens up urgent discussion about bringing sustainable energy to all from the perspective of art.”

Olafur Eliasson, Artist and Founder, Little Sun
A social business
With a working product and concept, Studio Olafur Eliasson could have looked to distribute Little Sun lamps as a form of international aid. Instead, we worked with them to develop an innovative social business model.
Sales of Little Sun in on-grid communities like Europe would subsidise the supply of lamps to local sales agents in off-grid communities, helping to generate local profits and build livelihoods.

The entrepreneurs themselves would be supported by a network of distribution partners within their countries, providing them with business starter kits and micro-entrepreneurial training. Little Sun would be a social business that spread light, safe energy, and profits everywhere they worked.

We went on to create a simple and iconic visual identity for Little Sun, producing designs for the website, packaging, point of sale and posters. We also designed the Tate Modern exhibition, which launched Little Sun into the world. Tate’s visitors were able to explore their exhibitions in the dark, using only a Little Sun to see. They were also able to create their own ‘sunlight graffiti’ using the lamps and ten short films were commissioned, showing the impact of Little Sun in off-grid communities.

Making the day longer
Little Sun launched at Tate Modern as part of Festival 2012. Since then, the Little Sun lamp has received official certification from Lighting Africa, a joint IFC and World Bank program. To date, over 165,000 Little Sun lamps have been distributed worldwide – around a third of these in off-grid areas – with more than $1.5m saved in household lighting costs.

Little Sun currently has distribution in eight African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Senegal, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, as well as in the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

In off-grid communities, Little Sun is making the day longer: children study, families cook, businesses remain open, and people socialize safely. It’s amazing what can happen when you put a few more hours in the day.