The Michael J. Fox Foundation made headlines last fall with a limited-edition collection of Nike shoes inspired by the actor's Back to the Future character. The high-profile auction raised $9.4 million for the foundation, the largest private funder of Parkinson's Disease research in the world.
Fox's foundation is now heading into its own future with a new look and feel, one prompted by its humble founder, who wants to take the focus off himself and shine a spotlight onto the community of people helping find a cure for P.D.
Founded in 2000, the Foundation has just unveiled the first logo refresh in its history. "While our mission remains exclusively to speed research progress, we are increasingly a portal to engagement for the PD community at large — not just researchers but patients, their loved ones, physicians and members of the general publich who are inspired to give back," writes Holly Barkhymer, the organization's VP of marketing and communications, in a blog post.
The logo refresh features an updated font, simplified color scheme and a few tweaks to its iconic fox, who now features a dashing tipped tail and has added an ear. "We adore our fox, and it was very clear to us that the fox would remain," Barkyhmer told brandchannel. "One of the goals of the refresh was to make sure that people saw that the fox is a fox with a second ear and more defined tail. He's still fleet, intuitive, cunning, resourceful and smart."
"We have a lot of respect for the old logo," she added. "It's almost like a manifesto — now we need a complete sentence." With that in mind, the new logo keeps the orange color to convey that the non-profit's mission remains "vibrant, bold and energetic," but loses the gradient in the original logo, which was inspired by Back to the Future.
"The gradient crimson to the light yellow was picked up from the Back to the Future logo," said Barkhymer. "In the early years' mindset, Michael was by far the crown jewel in terms of a brand identity. Even in our old logo his name was the biggest part. The gradient had served us well but was starting to feel dated. It was time to evolve."
The layout of the foundation name now emphasizes "For Parkinson's Research" as part of a "full statement" that reflects the concept of the collective, so that no single word has more prominence than another — especially "Fox," per Michael's instructions.
"The DNA of the brand shares so much of Michael's DNA — transparency, urgency, optimism, engagement," said Barkhymer. "Michael is immensely proud of the work we do, our commitment to patients, and he's the most humble guy, he's always telling us, 'it's really not about me.' He's been know to edit out the pronoun 'me' in speeches."
Another consideration for the logo refresh, which was executed by Ruder-Finn, was "that it's our name, and our name is really long, so that just becomes a design challenge," Barkhymer added. "We do use the fox [icon] as our stand-in in a lot of situations, so we wanted to make it more instantly recognizable, especially with our Team Fox brand. In our old Team Fox logo, nobody could even see the fox."
Team Fox is the foundation's grassroots community initiative that launched in 2006 and raises money for MJFF by running marathons, flipping pancakes, climbing mountains, golfing for the cure and other volunteer-run fundraising activities. With the new visual identity, Barkhymer added, "the main takeaway is to support the 'get involved' message and the community, through every part of our look and feel." Clarifying "our beloved fox" also helps build additional recognition and equity in the fox icon while helping avoid any confusion with other brands that have "fox" in their name, such as Twentieth Century Fox.
The redesign process has been "part of an organic, evolving conversation" within the Foundation, Barkhyner commented, adding that "Michael actually has a background in graphic design, and he drew his ideas about the new logo and branding during a brainstorm" session. Those sketches, she hastened to add, were presented as ideas, not as final guides for the designers and team executing the refreshed identity. (The Foundation was kind enough to share his sketches with us, which you can see below.)
As Barkhymer wrote in her blog post introducing the new logo work to the brand's community of supporters, "conversations about our logo can only happen in the context of defining and solidifying our overall brand identity."
Click here to read the tenets at the heart of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, from "We are risk-takers and problem solvers" to "We are impatient on behalf of patients." And thanks to Holly and Ruder-Finn for sharing the thinking and goals spurring a truly inspiring brand refresh.