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Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Building and Extending the Content Strategy Forum Brand

We’ve been busy: a new naming hierarchy, revised logo, new style guide, and brand new CSForum 2016 logo.

Since 2013, I’ve had the privilege of designing and managing the visual identity of Content Strategy Forum, a global community evangelizing and advancing the practice of content strategy. Originally seeded from a 2010 Paris event, there is now a regular core team actively building CSF into a reputable and positive member of the content strategy community.

Because of our organic growth, the CSF brand has not exactly grown in a straight line. Slightly inconsistent naming. Occasional off-brand graphics. An unclear relationship between the event, the Google+ community, and the website. For the past few months, we’ve worked behind the scenes to strengthen the foundation in anticipation of our 2016 calendar.

Formalizing names and hierarchy

Before touching visuals, I established new guidelines for the brand names. Previously, “Content Strategy Forum”, “CSF”, “CS Forum” were used interchangeably for the steering collective, the event, the Google+ forum, and the broader community. This led to messy brand hierarchy, especially when the event was independently organized.

We aligned on the following:

Content Strategy Forum and CSF

The master brand is “Content Strategy Forum”. In any communication, we’ll ensure this full name is spelled out at least once. “CSF” then becomes interchangeable.

CSForum

“CSForum” is the brand of the annual event. I deliberately eliminated the space between “CS” and “Forum” to formalize an offering name versus a lazy abbreviation, and align, literally, to the “CSF” house brand. (And, not unimportantly, maintain continuity for Google searches.)

In 2010, the label “content strategy” was newish and distinctive among sister disciplines. Today, it’s common. “Forum” has become the keyword of our organization, the pinion tying our moving parts together. This is not a bad thing — the word boasts an interesting semantic flair straddling community, assemblage, and civil discourse. I like it.

Re-aligning the core logo

We adjusted the core Content Strategy Forum logo in two small ways.

First, we changed the tagline from “a global cooperative” to “a global community”, a more accurate and inviting description. We even changed the URL to csf.community.

Second, I re-drew the five-circle icon. The previous rotation felt arbitrary and slightly off-balance. The new positioning aligns to a five-point star or pentagram facing right, providing a sense of forward direction and more purposeful structure.

CSF logo adjustments
Original versus newly revised CSF logo.

The new CSForum conference logo

CSForum 2016 will inaugurate new event branding that extends the house brand. For the first time, visual identity will harmonize across digital and physical spaces.

The original logo and website design purposefully used an aesthetic ready-made for expansion. The wide color palette, groups of five, and circle shapes were deliberate creative keystones. CSForum 2016 provides the perfect excuse to bring those original intentions to life.

A sample of early exploration:

logo experiments
Early explorations of extending the CSF identity.

Many of these early riffs are not very good; they’re just fast sketches taking the identity in different directions. But with feedback from the core CSF crew and the 2016 organizer Content Ark, I ultimately focused on creating a mark that connoted the community interaction that makes live events so rewarding. The final logo:

CSForum logo
The final CSForum logo (in two sizes) and standalone icon.

I think it works. It not only illustrates community, but hints at sparks or explosions of ideas, diversity, and a sense of growth. Structurally, it’s also extensible for future years:

CSForum logos for the future
Speculative designs exploring possible future extension with city names and color combinations.

The new CSF style guide

Finally, we launched the Content Strategy Forum style guide. With CSF growing, adapting and solidifying, consistency in presentation is paramount.

This is, of course, a living document. You’ll see the usual suspects of color and type guidelines, but as brand conventions evolve — visual, naming, editorial — we’ll use this as our master reference.

If you’re interested in learning more about Content Strategy Forum, or staying in touch about events, visit csf.community and subscribe to our newsletter.

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