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The story behind the Social Enterprise World Forum's branding

23 February 2022 at 2:12 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
We get a sneak look at the new logo for this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum and hear the story behind its creation. 

Nikki Stefanoff | 23 February 2022 at 2:12 pm


The story behind the Social Enterprise World Forum's branding
23 February 2022 at 2:12 pm

We get a sneak look at the new logo for this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum and hear the story behind its creation. 

2022’s a big year for the social enterprise sector. With the first Social Enterprise National Strategy well underway, excitement is building for September’s Brisbane-based Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) with things kicking off next month with the (Re)Purpose event. 

The theme of the SEWF, and all the work going into making it a success, is “co-creation” and nothing has been more co-created than the forum’s logo and branding — a sneak peek of which, you’re getting here. The official launch is on March 16th at the (Re)Purpose event

Designed as a collaboration between the design school Billy Blue and Indigenous designer Marcus Lee, the inspiration for both the branding work and the logo was the concept of “ripples” and how small points of impact can radiate out into a community. A perfect allegory for the SEWF itself. 

Billy Blue design school, which has been around since the early 70s and was once an independent college, is now part of Torrens University. Billy Blue still runs an in-house studio where it takes design students on as interns giving them real-life projects to work on. The branding work for SEWF was one of those projects

Michael Donahue runs Billy Blue’s studio and told Pro Bono News that working on the project had proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience for both him and his students. 

“The Billy Blue philosophy is fully aligned with social enterprise and because Torrens Uni is a partner of the SEWF, we jumped at the chance to help create the brand,” Donahue says.  

“We had six students working on different concepts before we presented four key ideas to Whitebox Enterprises, the social enterprise co-hosting the event.” 

As the forum is hosted by a different country every year everyone involved with the creation of SEWF’s identity was committed to ensuring the brand was representative of Australia’s First Nation’s heritage, which is where Marcus Lee stepped in. 

Lee, who is prolific in the Indigenous design space and has previously worked on projects for BUPA, Australia Post and the AFL among others, was first introduced to the team at Whitebox and the students of Billy Blue after the first design concept had been drafted. However, after a period of reflection, those involved felt it wasn’t as representative of all Australians as it could be.

“There was an opportunity to shift the look and feel [of the original design] so it had more of a First Nations reflection,” Lee told Pro Bono News. 

“The logo you see today is based on the traditional Aboriginal icon of the meeting place, which is essentially a circle, or two or three concentric circles, with the wavy pathways moving towards the centre being a symbolic representation of parties coming together to meet.” 

Every part of the logo has been designed with First Nation Australians at its heart. The white dots wrapped around the three centre circles represent the people coming together, and the central circle of the logo is representative of the forum itself. 

“As those wavy pathways come in and intersect with the outer circle it represents collaboration, which then emanates ripples which move out in the form of the crescent shapes,” Lee says. 

“Those ‘ripples’ represent this collision of people and minds and the positive interaction of all that happens at SEWF.” 

The detailed patterned markings within the logo itself are subtle but are essential to reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander markings, which are reflective of cultural expression. 

“Every individual artist has their own style, and I tend to pursue quite a contemporary direction,” Lee says. 

“I wanted to ensure I was representing all of Australia but I didn’t want the branding to be overloaded with dots, lines or cross hatching. Instead, I’ve used recognisable cultural markings but in a more unique way.” 

Billy Blue now has a second intake of student interns ready to take over where the first batch left off, their job will be to focus on the implementation of the logo and the roll out of branding.  

Donahue says that the whole project has not only been fantastic from a design perspective but it’s also introduced him, and his students, to the concept of social enterprise as a whole. 

“Getting an introduction to the sector has been enlightening,” Donahue says. 

“Hearing people talk about the issues they face and witnessing them exchange ideas at the Unconference event was really eye-opening. It made me think the SEWF is going to be fantastic for bringing everyone together.”

Find out more about this year’s SEWF here.


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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