Names with meaning working in the global south

I wanted to share some tips to help others working on brand projects with clients in different continents.

Having developed the NEAR brand, an African based membership organisation, helping disaster struck communities 
to resume normal life as soon as possible (similar to our Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), but using local people and NGOs; our main challenges were:

1.Starting with NO assumptions!
We really did start with a blank canvas, which was useful. But also we had our Cézanne moment of ‘fear’ when we wanted to colour the canvas in beige. But at this point you have to make brave decisions, intuition and gut feel are important guides. We didn’t have stacks of research and time for stakeholder interviews. But I rather liked being driven by passion

It obviously helps to understand how the new organisation has described itself and where they see the vision and mission (pre new name!)

3. Non-linear
It strikes me as odd how linear clients see the identify process. It helps to guide clients through similar processes you have completed, showing them how you spotted the blind alleys and how you developed a new name, underpinned by visual clues and meaning behind this. It need not be painful but arriving at an excellent solution can be a slow process (particularly with membership organisations)

4. Cultural harmony
Being sensitive to colours, symbols and references, which may be loaded with different cultural meanings, particularly when working with a client in the global south, helped no end. Taking these culture differences into account, using fonts, colours and wording that have cross-continent appeal, i.e., not too stylised, but still of good quality, was beneficial

5. Loves and hates
It helped to have all the client loves and hates at the beginning, the shapes, references, fonts and colours to guide the first stages of our creative thinking and understand which areas to avoid (or a least if we used certain routes, to be able explain why we think they could work)

6. Don’t patronise
Working with the mind-set of equality. Making sure we didn’t patronise unintentionally

7. Patience and understanding
Staying patience with many layers of client approval. We were working with a network of organisations of 30 members, each of whom had a voice at the table, rather like the Fairtrade Foundation network

8. People based
Making sure it’s all about the people – throughout the process and also with the brand development

9. Old hat guides

Brand guidelines seem a bit old hat, for us it was useful to write a guide as to how the entity and team should speak, use social media and work with their partners

10. Collaboration
An oft-used word, but when the pressure is on with a deadline looming, remember that the creative approach needs time and space to work well


We are pleased with the direction we have helped create with NEAR- the network for empowered aid response, which launches at the end of May. We wish the network the very best of luck and hope that the confident and fresh approach reframes the way we see aid transferred.







4 comments on “Names with meaning working in the global south

  1. Clara Mwanthi on

    Oh wow,
    I love this thinking. As you visualized it before NEAR was launched, we are now actualizing it, two years on!!

    And yes, we have gotten a lot of features and stories on International platforms. 🙂

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