Handicap International
— Blows & Thoughts

Handicap International is a humanitarian NGO involved in more than 60 countries. Created in 1982, its historical expertise is providing prosthetics to mutilated by mines civilians. Now, its mission cover the widest field (demining, logistic, social integration,rehabilitation, …). In 2018, its international name is changing to Humanity & Inclusion.

During 2017, I was engaged, as internal designer, to help NGOHandicap International change their global identity, and shape their visuals support. This change was a three years running project where dozen people have contributed. I set sail in the last year, in a particular moment, the production and implementation process as the fourth lascar in a team of three people (one head of communication,two project officers). I inherited of brandbook’s firsts drafts originally designed, before being politely put aside, by a Canadian communication agency, Cossette. (Cossette, found in 1964 by ClaudeCossette, a former ad-man who gave up the communication industry for university sphere and published La publicité, déchet culturel in 2001. A posteriori, that’s ironically delightful!).

In short, few elements we got at this moment were a good logotype,a complicated range of colours chose in a cloudy procedure, a happy open source typography but no clear and powerful artistic direction.Next month were about joining these fragments together, defining theorganisation communication needs and deploying the identity on them.

This text purpose is to archive and synthesise our production process.


On the first month, we planned to compose 3 other logotype based on the original composition. Thus, we entered in reverse-engineering step to determine the font, size, kerning… This act is outwardly easy unless you want to get into details and plan it as a normative process.

From the latter, this stage was essential because it helped us to understand that the logotype was built with Grilli Type Haptik, a typeface optimised to be read blindfolded and by touching them. For an organisation promoting inclusion, that was a nice shoot fromCossette team.

Unfortunately, it seems that this golden information hadn’t been deemed useful to be noticed. From the first designer through multiple levels of managers, the Chinese whispers were definitely not accurate… This raises questions about the utility of multiple go-between (like a hierarchical structure seems to need) and how it affects the sincerity of the work.

Au doigt et à l’œil

Consequently, we spin off the logotype principle to imagine a pictogram system. Here, each symbol can be easily tracked or reproduce with finger tips.

Contrasts as a sensitive system

Accessibility by design, started to be our motto. It was both a standard to reach (see: Heretically functional) and a philosophy to pass. If we talk about information documents, accessibility norms can be easily achieved on digital support with patience and technical rigour; printed document is a different kettle of fish and we can’t satisfy the diversity of public with a single support.

We produced print which provides main readability needs for people with slight sensory disability (as dyslexia or Colour blindness) and use this basis as an essential for the visual identity.

Contrast was preeminent tools in this order. We manage high disparity of colour, paper weight and touch to indicate changes in the informational structure. Texts were carefully set to widen breathing space and typography handle to guarantee a fluent reading.

We clear up the way to large and lightfull pictures, always followed by caption sustained by solid-colour backgrounds.

We tried to ensure the description of each lay-out and presume information structure with few sentenced hence we introduced the ‘split’ principle.

The Split

One the main thing when you enter in HI, it’s the wide diversity of people lead up to create and publish documents to an audience. From the traditional Slideshow (a.k.a the Powerpoint disease), the calling for donations, to the volunteer guidelines, It was clear that the visual identity was mainly used by a diversity of people with two things in common: there ain’t designers and they’re too overload to think about visuals aspects of their production. So we think to a structural rule for the identity: The ‘split’

Before setting up the page lay out, think about the organisation of your information and split the page in 1/2 or 1/3 according to your needs. You have a heading and a dense text with notes. Great. Reserve the superior third of your page to the heading. The next two third are for the text and his notes. Furthermore in this part, you can operate a new split and set aside the notes to the right part.

The result is a clear and lightfull template. Easy to think and make.

Heretically functional

This being said, we realise with firsts internal releases of visual guidelines than principles weren’t accepted as useful tools but as complicated coercion machine. In worst case, people ask why Microsoft Calibri wasn’t our core identity font, expected that it was on ‘all the computers of the world’.

Although, we insisted on the nature of these guidelines. It was not to perceive as restriction but as advice and main directions to help each person build his on tools based on his needs. Anyway, years of habits, excessive workload and top-down administration have evicted concepts of ‘autonomy’ and ‘daring’ out of the corporate culture. A this moment, we spent many more hours appeasing and explain than designing.

At the same time, we define normative turnkey publishing solution on the demonic Microsoft Word 2010 and Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, the two prevalent software in the organisation (DAMNED!) and this in order to allow everybody to tame new identity principles.

The good news is that office software grant the possibility to setup formatted style as any editing software. Styles support associations between aesthetic and a specific level of information, which is the basis to digitally publish accessible documents.

La chienlit des logotypes

A true nightmare. The logotype is built on a triptych system. Le logo exists in a horizontal composition, a vertically and an optimised version for small dimensions. Let me add the necessity of providing versions for print, screen, in blue, in black, in white, in vector, in PNG,in JPG (Cause most employees don’t know how to open PNG), in a protected version. Of course, you need to think about the 10 brands which compose the HI organisation. It means approximately 2200 files to do… Norms

It could be a pointless detail for many, but at this amount of graphic production shared with more than three thousand workers, classification is the cornerstone. Each file should tell you its nature and preferably in a clear and normative way.

Get your stuff packed!

We organised all graphic elements in Toolbox. One for each organisation with a clear tree structure. Every pack is self-supporting, which means that all the elements to deploy the visual identity (guidelines, colours,typeface, logo, pictogram, templates, …) are inside.

To simplify the logotype section, we classified it on two folders. One for professional designers which include every scenario from high definition smartphone screen usage to spot colour printing. The second, intended for non-designer, is severely more limited (Office usage + One CMYK vector files for emergency). The average imbalance is 240/20

Internal pedagogy.

We edited specifics charter for each brand with attention for their specific needs. This testify the intense effort we’ve done to ease and appease the assimilation of the new visual identity.

Chartes et guides

Second we published Guides which focus on distinct field of activity as digital communication or Mine Action uniform.

Third, few days before the public release, we dealt to all Head Office employees a leaflet with practical information on the Brand. Symbolically, it was the first achievement of the HI identity on paper.

Interface Web Experimental

To ease daily access to the graphic toolbox, we brought a proto web interface where all designed resources from logotypes to leaflet templates could be listed and downloaded. Every item should be supported by short caption. It seems to be a good solution, to share with employees or providers, anywhere in a world a consistent index with frequent update. Unfortunately, this solution was discarded by lack of time.