Creating a deaf accessible brand



“Working with Orwell has brought fresh thinking, new ideas and a coherence to our brand. The designs are more relevant and build the brand identity.

Furthermore we have considered our “products”, how we package them and how we price them better. The branding process has helped us appreciate and re-evaluate our value and specialism.”

Janis McDonald
Chief Officer, deafscotland

Project outcomes

  • I created a brand that delivers information in ways that are accessible for all deafscotland’s members
  • 50% increase in training course attendees on the year before the brand was implemented
  • 20% increase in bulletin readers
  • 35% increase in conference attendance
  • The conference’s financial deficit was reduced by over 80%

What I did

Brand visual style
Communication design
Document design
Service design
Research interpretation

As the new deafscotland brand was in its infancy, I went back to SCoD’s work to research their visual style. The overall tone was formal business with large-print text. My previous experience designing a Good Practice design guide for people with dementia and sign loss for The University of Stirling gave me a foundation of understanding of what was needed. We could use simple, accessible design techniques to create an engaging visual style for all people.

The approach

Working with deafscotland’s management it was found that there is a severe lack of public understanding around deafness. Most calls to deafscotland were requests for basic information. Even medical professionals would call to ask how to communicate with a deaf person (a general rule that works for any person is to just ask the person!). We could make a big improvement in public knowledge by putting information about deafness in front of people where they could use it. Pairing that information with small changes organisations and people can make to improve communication with a deaf person – known as reasonable adjustment – we could begin the process of changing behaviours to improve communication for deaf people.

We would focus on increasing awareness and develop that into action by:

  • Increasing public knowledge about deafness by delivering information where it’s useful
  • Creating a consistent brand image that imbues the Committed to Communication message
  • Encouraging improved communication through reasonable adjustment and behaviour change

Researching accessible design

I researched and tested accessible design, seeing how it could be applied in different situations. I defined simple elements such as font size and line height to make text clear to read. I tested colour contrast – black on yellow is the best contrast for reading – and patterns – to people with sight loss, contrasting patterns are more distinct than solid colour – to ensure we could clearly communicate information. I created an accessible style that was appealing to people with good vision.

The new direction

The newly styled 2018 Annual Report brought positive feedback from deafscotland’s members. Taking direction from the Easy read method of writing, I worked with the copy writers to identity the key messages of each section. We highlighted stats and quotes that showed the story deafscotland needed to tell. The result was concise information in a clear, easy to understand document.

We followed the Annual Report with a project to share information on The Four Pillars of Deafness. I designed a folding flyer to outline the challenges deaf people face, show how deafscotland helps, and encourage the reader to become a member. The flyer folds out to an A3 poster that describes the main types of deafness, how to identify them and what you can do to improve communication with that person.

Members were encouraged to display the poster in reception areas, canteens and public spaces to increase awareness of deafscotland and the challenges deaf people have. The deafscotland team have sent the flyer to people who called for information. They’re giving useful information, showing they care by offering to follow up and in return the caller gives their contact details. The team are using an information tool to collect user data without selling their souls.

One year on

Applying learning from a year working in the brand, I made tweaks to the style and used more graphics to communicate important information. The document celebrates the positive effect the improvements in communication is having while taking another honest look at where deafscotland needs to improve.

The first year of the new brand direction saw successes in many areas. Removing the free membership for businesses saw overall membership decrease but the work we have created has seen member engagement increase across the board. 2019 saw a 50% increase in training course attendance, 20% increase in bulletin readership and a 35% increase in conference attendance. Highlighting the financial challenges of creating a truly accessible conference in the 2018 Annual Report lead to new sponsorship for 2019’s event which decreased the conference’s financial deficit by over 80%.

I continue to work with deafscotland, supporting their Communication For All campaign and developing an accreditation framework to encourage businesses to become deaf accessible.