Stockton Shelter for the Homeless in Stockton, California, serves over 350 families and individuals every day and strives to connect the homeless with opportunities to become self-sufficient. They take care of the basic needs of many homeless in Stockton so that they can focus on employment and getting back on their feet.
When CEO Adam Cheshire contacted me about rebranding the shelter, I knew I had to take on this pro bono project. The first step was to scrap the outdated branding they had. Then I had to create an identity that spoke to the disenfranchised, while feeling legitimate to donors and the public. Adam also expressed his concern about standing out in the Stockton non-profit community, a point I feel I addressed particularly well.
Being a non-profit brand, Stockton Shelter had two distinct target audiences: investors and the homeless.
Investors are the people who keep the place running. They make the donations that keep the lights on. They are members of the community, local businesses, and philanthropists. The idea is then to position Stockton as a place of healing and rehabilitation, but in a personal, almost spiritual level.
As far as the homeless and disadvantaged were involved, they already knew the brand. Stockton Shelter is regularly over capacity. It’s a sad fact of life in the Stockton area. Even sadder is how many children they serve. I just wanted to give Adam the tools to brighten up the place and appeal for more funding. I want people to remember their stay there warmly. I want to pay tribute to the staff keeping the place running on a day-to-day basis, down in the trenches fighting poverty and inequality.
For my solution, I looked to the timeless metaphor of the labyrinth. The idea is that by following all the points of the labyrinth, you walk a journey into your own center as you reach the center, and then back out into the world. This is fitting for a homeless shelter because it reflects their own journey in life; how life can be confusing and even frightening, but there is love and hope in the middle, there is help out there for you. The labyrinth symbolizes a journey to salvation, but you must walk every step of the path to get to the center. Much like in life, there are no shortcuts.
Looking back, this is very formative work for me. Something about my style clicked into place and I started to find the soul in my work. The labyrinth metaphor was a very fun revelation that came out of sketching, solidifying that as a discreet step in my process. Working on non-profits has since become a passion for me as well, I believe in the power of design to help people. I believe that design is made to help people, and is its most powerful when it reaches that potential.
As for the work itself, it still holds well, and dare I say, may have been a bit ahead of its time. When I initially released this work, the biggest criticism is that the font doesn’t match the logo. But that was never the point. The idea was to contrast the font with the logo. The mark has a homespun feel, but to pair it with a similarly handwritten font would push the whole ensemble into “childlike” and “messy” territory. The use of a geometric sans serif to lend the wavy, shaky logo a little more legitimacy. I have since received more compliments about the font choice than I ever did criticism, so lesson learned; don’t read the reviews.