And working with taglines is challenging for a graphic designer. When they're freshly minted, clients tend to invest them with the power of a magician's spell, and insist that they appear everywhere. "Locking up" the logo and tagline is tricky, though, and not just visually: logotypes are meant to have long shelf lives, and taglines...well? There are plenty of warehouses full of three years' worth of business cards bearing taglines for campaigns that were abandoned after three months.
This is a bit of a prelude to a remarkable new corporate identity that was unveiled last month for the YWCA. It is not remarkable because of the way the identity relates to the tagline. It is remarkable because, as far as I can tell, the tagline is itself the identity.
Throughout its 150-year history, the YWCA has been dedicated to two things: eliminating racism and empowering women. I have to admit I did not know this; I just found out on their website. I thought the YWCA was simply the female version of the YMCA. Obviously, I'm not alone in my ignorance, so the YWCA must have decided that their old identity, a stylized Y by Saul Bass, just wasn't getting the job done.
Having designed many identities for non-profit groups, I can imagine what a challenge this must have represented. What kind of typeface communicates the elimination of racism? What kind of pictorial image or abstract shape projects the empowerment of women? One common argument, of course, is the Paul Rand one, the claim that the logo has no inherent significance, and that it gains meaning only through association with the activities of the group it stands for: think of the peace sign or the swastika. But this requires a long-term investment, and for the YWCA, desperate times must have called for desperate measures.