Brand Report: Ambitious about Autism

Autism charity TreeHouse decided to change its name to better reflect its goals

When the autism charity TreeHouse decided to renew its mission, it chose to alter its name and identity at the same time to better reflect its new goals.

Ambitious about AutismUnder the new title of Ambitious about Autism, it unveiled its new brand, strategy and website, as well as a £10m fundraising appeal, at the House of Lords last month.

Parents of children with autism, including the author Nick Hornby, founded the charity in 1997. Its main service is TreeHouse School, a non-maintained special school in Muswell Hill, north London, for 85 children with severe autism.

Since 2005, the organisation has increased its campaigning and policy work, and its new identity reflects its ambitions for all children in the UK with autism - about one in 100.

The board of trustees approved a new strategy for the charity in July 2010. It focuses on three areas: to develop more and better services; to increase awareness and understanding of autism; and to influence policy in relation to the condition.

The organisation worked on the rebrand with the advertising agency CHI and Partners, which provided its services pro bono. Eight charity staff members and four external communication professionals provided feedback.

TreeHouse first included the strapline Ambitious about Autism in its logo in 2007 to support its £10m appeal to build the Pears National Centre for Autism Education, which houses the charity and school.

The new logo features three overlapping triangles, two in the original TreeHouse colours of orange and green, and one in blue. Mark Atkinson, the charity's director of communications and policy, says they represent "super fast-forward" and show the charity is "super ambitious" for children with autism. The new TreeHouse School logo features two triangles inspired by the previous orange and green treehouse design.

Atkinson says one positive result of the charity's new brand is that it sounds like a campaign. To take advantage of this, the charity approached various public figures, including the three main political party leaders, and asked them to sign a pledge to be ambitious about autism. The charity hopes the campaign will attract 100,000 supporters.


Neil Smith, Founding partner, Howdy

Neil Smith, founding partner, HowdyIs it just me or is the strapline Ambitious about Autism a bit odd? I suppose not, as it has been adopted as the new name for the charity founded by, among others, the author Nick Hornby.

Nitpicking over precise meaning aside, it alliterates nicely - more so than "ambitious to help children with autism" would have done - and succeeds in creating a clear distinction between TreeHouse the school and TreeHouse the charity. The look of the new twin brands is clean, slick and professional - but the 'fast-forward' button lacks the wit and warmth of the two-triangled TreeHouse mark.

The black, tightly spaced Helvetica 75 doesn't help here either. The overall effect is a little cold and corporate, and one can't help feeling that, had this sound graphic idea been explored further, the end result could have been unique and more memorable.


Creativity: 3
Delivery: 3
Total: 6 out of 10

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