“My word at the start of 2020 was ‘shift.’ What seemed so full and mysterious sounds frail and boney now in light of what has been. We haven’t just shifted, we have changed. We are different. Expanded in empathy I hope, as some of us steady on with stable work, and more of us scrape by with no end in sight. More aware of each other, maybe, moving forward with renewed appreciation for our grocery stockists, healthcare workers, postal service, schoolteachers, ballot counters, and first responders, including those who fought wildfires for months on end, or protected protests while preventing violence and looting. It’s been complicated.”- Kate Schmidgall, An Orienting Counter-Narrative
2020 was simultaneously the worst and most necessary time for us to attempt a reimagining of identity. The forced rest, uncertainty, and turmoil held a mirror to people, communities, companies and government — forcing many to identify and address parts of themselves previously buried under busy work, travel, and assumed understanding. BitterSweet was not immune. And to have it fall on our 10 year anniversary was an added bonus.
It all led us to ask a couple of simple questions: What is BitterSweet, in essence? Why? We knew no matter what form this new brand took in mark or color or type, a reimagined BitterSweet needed to act as a frame containing the multitude of stories told while standing strong and definite on its own.
From resulting conversations we built out a thematic palette of imagery, texture, sound (click for playlist), and yes, taste (BitterSweet now has a brand cocktail). Coupled with our palette were a set of six words meant to anchor us to the spirit of the work: Soulful, Hopeful, Purposed, Responsive, Serving, Open.
When reimagining BitterSweet my initial impulse was to test the limits. BitterSweet Creative as I’d come to know it was an organization, a group of storytellers, deeply passionate about telling the stories of the unseen and unheralded in our world — but, reticent to tell its own story. So the first question we asked was, how far out of that comfort zone could we push it. From that emerged three notably different concepts each with its own unique interpretation of our anchoring words and thematic palette.
One of the core convictions for practicing design, or really any form of creativity, is that nothing is unrelated. It’s easy to look at a finished project and question the point or purpose of every step in between. But nothing — no single thing — is unrelated. We pushed the boundaries, stretched the concept, and found our new self somewhere between the Sacred Form and the Reflection.
Separating the “bitter” from the “sweet” in the logo mark was an idea we’d toyed with at the start of the process. Though the meaning of the word Bittersweet still rang true to the ethos of the team 10 years in, there’s a sense of balance that comes from separating the two. An acknowledged multitude contained in one.
From there the rest of the details emerged organically. A type palette that matured from the new wordmark. And a color palette simplified to allow any story, the bitter and the sweet, to exist vibrantly within the frame.
At the end of a process like this, you typically walk away with a potent mix of pride and frustration depending on the project. But this time around, I find myself with a few rare opportunities. The year 2020 was gave us some time—perhaps unwanted—to rethink how BitterSweet tells stories. Given the uncertainty of ’21, we’ve decided that rather than traveling until it’s safer to do so, and instead visit our archives. Revisiting, reimagining, and telling-a-new stories of people we’ve met in the last 10 years.
In honor of our decade of storytelling. We will interpret a dozen stories from our archives through our shared new lens of a post-pandemic existence. We’ll reimagine these stories of the Soul. Hopeful tales of Purpose-driven souls Responding to crises and Serving beloved community with Open hearts and minds. We’ll tell those stories and countless others in the future, the Bitter and the Sweet, and see how they sit in our new frame.
By Obiekwe "Obi" Okolo ,Bittersweet Creative Creative Director