Transforming a charity, whilst keeping it familiar: Social Life Opportunities

Expanded potential

A brilliant charity in need of similarly brilliant branding & website, and a less confusing name.

Social Life Opportunities – SoLO – is an inspiring charity which enables its members (people with learning disabilities) to enjoy an active social life. Based in Solihull, Birmingham, SoLO had outgrown its ‘make do & mend’ approach to a great many things, including its branding and website. Their new CEO was conscious that the name SoLO – originally short for Solihull Leisure Opportunities, then Solihull Life Opportunities – could hinder the board’s national ambitions. It also confused newcomers, who often thought it was something to do with being alone, or a dating agency. She was also keen to rekindle the fervour of all staff for pushing the limits of each member’s true potential to be more independent and happy.

3

Presentations

of work in progress, to the project team, trustees and to all staff. Hugely valuable in maximising ambition, minimising risk and keeping everyone on board.

24

Discussions

with peer-only groups representing all stakeholders and key audiences. Essential gathering of front line information from those who operate and interact with the charity, day-to-day.

1,252

Stakeholders

consulted via email surveys, informing everyone why change was under way and giving them an opportunity to influence it.

“Staff and volunteers alike really appreciated being consulted. It made a big difference.”

Karon Swinburn, CEO
An important function of the website is to show all of the social activities, filtered according to age and ability. Members can then select, book and pay for their chosen events.

Love is dangerous

When a charity is so greatly loved, renaming and rebranding is especially sensitive.

The wonderful strength of affection that so many of those involved have for SoLO – and, by extension, for the words and images which represent it – was potentially the trickiest part of this project. Names are sensitive at the best of times. On this occasion, we were toying with something incredibly important to SoLO’s 1,000+ members and their families.

The previous visual ID relied heavily on rectangles in four solid colours. Using more sophisticated shades and an infinite variety of irregular quadrilaterals, we created a degree of continuity whilst providing a flexible identity tool which chimes with SoLO’s totally inclusive, all-shapes-and-sizes membership.
We use different colour combinations for material aimed at different age groups. Many of Social Life Opportunities’ members live with mental conditions which make them great lovers of order and precision, so touches like this have great appeal.

Learning together

Broad consultation to find out essentials and foster goodwill.

The collaborative Real Branding process came into its own here. We obtained views from staff and trustees at every level, as well as from potential new members, social care professionals and, via short online questionnaires, all 1,000+ members. We then reported back to them and got responses to work in progress.

Our solutions, in relation to both the restatement of SoLO’s purpose and its branding, involved retaining key elements, whilst making them more sophisticated and practical. The name change exemplifies this: the SoLO name is retained for informal use, but the name in full is changed to Social Life Opportunities. For the branding we used almost the exact same colours, in much more sophisticated ways. This approach enabled us to develop a website which is at once familiar and transformative, not least in its usefulness to members wanting to see what’s on and to pay for events.

All illustrations are constructed from four-sided blocks of colour and incorporate a strongly branded yet fun approach. Every shape used is different to represent the diversity in members. These playful illustrations symbolise SoLO’s friendly and open nature and reflect their personal and human approach to everything they do.
Our toolkit contains both ready-to-use materials such as Gift Aid forms and job pack templates, plus user-friendly guides for applying the brand.
We find that, by making visual guidelines enjoyable to go through, they are more likely to be used and thus the brand consistently applied.
We chose Century Gothic as the primary typeface because it feels friendly yet professional and is accessible to those with learning disabilities.

“I love my ‘How To’ guide to using the website and the visual ID.”

Charli Nolan, Training Coordinator (& lead in-house for posting news etc on the website).

New start in a new world: living with distance

Appealing successfully to new audiences, whilst looking after existing ones, is even harder with social distancing.

Launched in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, the new branding and website were welcomed enthusiastically and are working well. Some did struggle with the name change, prompting our client to engage positively, using our work to show evidence about why it was necessary and how others felt about it, with real authority and conviction.

We are looking forward to when Social Life Opportunities can once again run a full programme of events and thus test the website and the renewed articulation of its purpose, more thoroughly.

“Everything – even application forms – now looks professional and does justice to our amazing staff and services.”

Maria Brown, Fundraising Coordinator
Our Experience