Cultural Evolution Society graphic identity, web design and grant portal

We are working with the Cultural Evolution Society to help communicate research on how human and other animal cultures evolve, and how this impacts on our futures at a time when our cultural activities are causing rapid and drastic, social and physical changes.

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Commissioned by the Cultural Evolution Society and the Anthropology department at Durham University, we have recently launched a new identity for the Society alongside a comprehensive grant portal website for their associated Templeton Foundation Grant.

The focus of the society is to further investigation and research into how human and other animal cultures evolve, and how this impacts on our futures at a time when our cultural activities are causing rapid and drastic, social and physical changes.

What we did

The primary focus of our commission has been to developing the Society's online presence which includes a fully featured and flexible digital grant application portal. This sits alongside a new core website which is in its final stages of development before launch.

At the core of the project however, we realised that a succinct and elegant identity would allow the Society to communicate effectively and build a framework within which they could develop a visual and verbal style, appropriate to the complexity of the subject.

How we did it

To kick off the project, we held discovery workshops with the key members of the Society to determine their requirements for the new digital tools, identify ways in which we could improve their communication strategy and synthesise this into an effective and useful graphic identity.

With these findings to guide us we began to storyboard the new website and digital application tools with input from our digital partners Carpe Diem. In tandem we also began to explore interesting visual concepts that formed the backbone of the Societies graphic identity.

With such broad ranging subject matter, universally understood visual tropes were difficult to devise. Development of the logo focused around a key image of a tree with overlapping branches that is a central concept in the field of cultural evolution. Other typographic elements took queues from editorial design including newspapers and their websites to ensure clear, definitive communication.

Representation of biological evolution (a) versus cultural evolution (b), after Kroeber (1948:216; redrafted by Dean R. Snow) – read more about cultural evolution.

The digital grant application portal was central to the project and required the most intensive design development. Considering all aspects of the user experience for applications as well as for reviewers and admin staff at the Society was key to its success.

Beginning with static journey maps, every aspect of the experience was mapped out and validated during client meetings over many iteration. This was developed alongside our digital partners to ensure all technical aspects were considered and were buildable.

The result is a comprehensive system that is proving highly successful with users. It will also be repurposed for future grants with flexibility to be improved upon through user feedback.

The main Society website (still in development) will showcase the Society's new communication strategy. This is set to include a carefully selected library of images exploring different aspects of the field of study, alongside infographics and other interactive content. It will illustrate the culmination of a complex but extremely rewarding project!

Why it's important

With a high degree of complexity and technical competence required, this project has been extremely rewarding. It will help to facilitate the growth of field of research that could not be of more importance in our current time.

Just as buildings are shaped by people and then shape how human culture develops, our human culture is shaped by languages, symbols, artefacts, tools and technologies that are constantly evolving, being adapted and passed down from one generation to the next and from one society to another. How this impacts on our futures at a time when our cultural activities are causing rapid and drastic, social and physical changes is of critical importance if we are to remain on this planet.

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