The AAKOMA Project is an innovative nonprofit organization that helps communities of color access much-needed mental health resources. With a deep commitment to “optimal mental health” for young people and their families, the AAKOMA Project provides free mental health counseling, runs educational workshops, and partners with other organizations to raise awareness. We were proud to support their efforts by creating a new brand and visual identity for their work.
in 5 Months:
How to capture a new audience
Led by a pioneering academic psychologist and her team, the AAKOMA Project was leading the way in rethinking mental health for communities of color. But as the program transitioned from an academic background to address new audiences, their brand needed to change, too.
What worked for the academy wouldn’t connect with young people and their communities. In order to reach communities that might view mental health with hesitation, the program needed a new visual and written language and a more inviting brand. At the same time, leadership needed a way to connect with high-level funders who were looking to underwrite their good work. This also required a shift away from rigorous academic documentation towards a leaner, more digestible presentation. We wanted the AAKOMA leadership to be able to focus on expanding their vital programs rather than the nuances of brand architecture.
Speak Directly to Communities In Need
Many nonprofit organizations provide an array of different services across different communities, risking spreading themselves and their brand too thin. We worked with the AAKOMA Project to define their key audiences and mission: promoting optimal mental health to diverse young people and their communities. With this specific goal in mind, we were able to better focus the brand for maximum impact.
Speaking directly to these communities became a central focus of our work with the AAKOMA Project. They understood that the communities they served struggled with short-term and generational trauma that greatly impacted their mental health. As a result, we created a new brand that would provide a non-judgmental, compassionate, and open-minded approach to community members who needed help but didn’t know where to turn.
To support this effort, we created a new value proposition that spoke to the program’s overarching goals: “we believe that everyone—regardless of background, income, or identity—deserves optimal mental health.”
We encapsulated this compassionate approach with a new tagline: “Healing starts in the heart,” which was supported by our heart-themed visual design and a warm, welcoming color palette.
Speaking directly to these communities became a central focus of our work. The new brand needed to provide a non-judgmental, compassionate, and open-minded approach to community members.
Over the course of multiple years, we worked with AAKOMA Project
leadership on a variety of different marketing efforts, including:
Brand Architecture and Messaging
We created a high-level brand architecture and messaging strategy for the AAKOMA Project to better connect the program to its key audiences. This included a community-focused value proposition, new tagline, and comprehensive brand guidelines to use as the program grew. By centering the AAKOMA Project brand around the concept of optimal mental health for communities of color, we helped move the project from academic concept to
New Visual Branding
We developed and rolled out new visual brand standards for the program, using rich yet welcoming hues of purple, red, and yellow for visual impact and warmth. The new logo called upon traditional African design elements alongside hand-drawn imagery for an organic yet professional visual presentation. We ensured the visual branding was flexible enough to work across multiple different touch points, from print collateral to online displays.
Once we had developed a cohesive visual brand, we tackled a complete website redesign and refresh for AAKOMA. This included a new layout, color scheme, visual identity, and navigational structure, all built on an easy-to-use content management system so their team could keep the site updated in perpetuity.
Updated and Refreshed Collateral
While the AAKOMA Project had begun to cultivate a strong digital following, we wanted to ensure that they had an equally strong presence in the communities they served. To do this, we created a series of print collateral pieces, from downloadable table-top cards to postcards to research reports. This translated the brand into materials that community members could feel and touch.
Social Media Strategy
Social media was a key avenue for the AAKOMA Project to reach young people and their communities. We focused our efforts on Facebook and Instagram as a starting point to establish the AAKOMA brand on social media. Using elements of our new visual branding, we created a trademark “look” for the brand on social, including the use of bold “title cards” that shared mental health knowledge through a playful and easy-to-understand approach. This effort resulted in a significant boost in followership and engagement across both platforms.
Our work with the AAKOMA Project also supported their efforts with other partner organizations, including the Boris L. Henson Foundation and the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. One notable collaboration featured the AAKOMA Project placing yard signs—translated into multiple languages—across northern Virginia to highlight the importance of mental health care and equitable access for all communities.
Media Outreach and Promotion
With funding from organizations including Pivotal Ventures, Harry’s Shave Club, Starbucks and the Congressional Black Caucus, the AAKOMA Project needed a way to showcase their work to local and national media outlets. We developed a template for media outreach and worked with newswire services to promote their accomplishments to TV, print, and online news outlets.
I was pleasantly surprised by how focused they were on really trying to develop their cultural fluency and ensure that the work they did spoke to the audience.
Dr. Alfiee M. Breland-Noble
Founder – AAKOMA