Mental Health and Society
The Mental Health and Society Initiative works in
partnership with NGOs to develop alternatives to
institutions and advocate for changes in policy toward
the adoption and replication of these alternatives by
governments. My role in the Mental Health and Society
organization went beyond design work. I had to help
them convey their message, develop their organizational
capacity, and establish communication strategies to use
in their short and longer-term advocacy efforts. The
existing MHS communications system included a logo,
leaflets, a monthly newsletter, and a web site. These
assets had to be reconsidered to better represent the
NGO and its mission.
The first challenge was the language. Kyrgyz people speak Russian and very few people at MHS spoke English. Moreover, their entire communications system was in Russian — the newsletter, the leaflets, and the web site. How was I to create new designs that included written work when the text is made up of Cyrillic letters that I did not understand? The second challenge was convincing the director of Mental Health and Society and the staff that the organization’s identity would benefit greatly from devising a completely new approach to branding.
The first thing I did was to download Russian fonts from
the Internet. My plan was to work from my laptop and
to transfer the design files on to their computers later.
However, I realized that the leaflets, for instance, lived
on their computers in editable formats. I decided that
it would be better to alter their files rather than create
new ones. In doing so, I had to establish new designs,
but at least I had the content, meaning the text, ready. I
needed help with the language. Aigul, a social worker at
the outpatient center, spent significant time by my side
and helped me out with the Russian.
Next, I had to create Mental Health and Society’s new identity. Their initial logo had more of an industrial feel, and I knew that the new brand had to speak of the important work of the organization. I also felt that it had to have pleasing colors implying ‘change’ and ‘hope’. I worked on a look that consisted of joyful people of all ages. Then I spoke to Burul, the director of the NGO, and told her that it was essential that their new identity convey the core values and vital work of MHS. Finally, I showed her the work and she loved it.