Mathematica

Contemporizing a brand

Mathematica provides policymakers with high-quality research and evaluates the effectiveness of programs for informed decision-making. The organization’s focus is education, health and underserved populations. Its audience includes academics, government officials and nonprofit leaders.

Our approach

Mathematica’s communication system had not been updated for over a decade, and it needed a more relevant and contemporary image. The organization retained Decker to energize the brand’s architecture with the understanding that the logo would be preserved.

Our process began with a series of executive interviews to ascertain the organization’s long-term goals. Then we met with the in-house design team to learn about their day-to-day tactical challenges. One of the greatest issues in a brand update is gaining support for change throughout the organization. Often internal teams worry about increased workloads, and resist any change.

Decker’s highly personal approach involves partnering with our clients to schedule significant amounts of time for team- building where we jointly lead workshops. We include relevant team members in the task of defining goals, problems and potential solutions, thereby investing them in the program’s success. Our approach assists our clients, who are visionary marketing and communication directors, to gain internal consensus and cooperation for these initiatives.

After working with the various teams, our strategy group did a full audit and analysis of existing communication efforts. We discovered inconsistencies between the organization’s aspirations and the material it was publicly presenting.

To build a more consistent image, it was clear to us that the program required a strong system that could be easily implemented by either a designer or, at times, an administrative assistant. We chose striking, modern typography and created an eight-column grid. Combined with bright, clean colors, and large amounts of white space, the result was a bold, contemporary design. Additionally, we created a stylized illustration library and a dynamic secondary logo graphic to expand the system’s visual vocabulary and discourage the use of poor-quality stock photography.

The secondary logo: The illuminated M

The most vibrant addition to the Mathematica visual library was a series of “M” graphics designed to represent various aspects of the organization’s mission and values. Mathematica works within a consistent framework and set of principles, yet analyzing ever-changing problems. Executed as a frame, the illuminated M represents this duality with a variety of concepts shown within a consistent structure.

Implementation

Decker’s workshops, templates and style guide empowered the Mathematica internal team with the knowledge and tools for implementation of the program. The system is highly structured, but has flexibility to allow for creative expression when appropriate. Daily publishing efforts require the ability to complete formatting quickly. This includes email newsletters, proposals, news releases and new research information. Additionally, government regulations require contractors such as Mathematica to adhere to the Rehabilitation Act (Sec. 508). In order to meet all these requirements, the templates are heavily structured to allow for high-pressured, rapid production schedules.

Marketing efforts, however, have greater lead time. These deliverables are often distributed in the trade show or conference environment where program advertising is purchased. Booths and/or tables are erected and promotional items, along with brochures, are distributed. Our specifications in the written guidelines outline broad parameters, which create consistency but allow the designers room to expand the brand lexicon to avoid overly repetitive solutions.

We firmly believe that brand systems need to be flexible to allow marketing materials to be audience-centric, on strategy and, most importantly, creative. Systems crafted without elasticity can often result in dull, highly forgettable communication. The key to a successful brand is to think of consistency on a practical level—template what is necessary, but temper uniformity with cohesion when it is time to make an impact.