CALM launches bright and bold branding in the fight against suicide

The suicide prevention charity has also launched a new ad campaign to coincide with the rollout of its plucky new branding designed by Output

Suicide prevention charity CALM, which stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably, has launched new branding and a campaign film, coinciding with World Suicide Prevention Day last Friday. Although the latest ONS report, released last week, shows a decline in suicide rates from the previous year, over 5,000 people lost their lives to suicide in England and Wales in 2020 – almost 75% of whom were men.

CALM is known for its headline-grabbing campaigns, such as Project 84, which saw 84 sculptures line the rooftop of the ITV building on London’s Southbank to represent the number of men who take their own lives each week.

The charity has now launched a new film, Stay, which relays moving anecdotes and experiences of bereaved family members as well as survivors. The film comes as the charity reveals its new branding led by design studio Output, with language developed by Reed Words. Output worked on CALM’s new brand identity for around six months from start to finish, and a new web platform is also in the works.

“As CALM had grown and evolved, new demands were being made of the brand. It was being stretched in lots of different directions, without too much thought about brand architecture,” says Output partner and creative director Johanna Drewe. “Solving this needed a strategic approach, to account for new products, services and initiatives, and to consider future additions.

“The previous brand had great equity and was loved by many, but it was created for print, then applied to digital spaces. Refreshing it gave an opportunity to design the core identity with rigour across all formats: online, offline and beyond,” she says. “It meant we could consider accessibility, particularly around access to the most vital services like the webchat and helpline, alongside expressive communications which would allow more freedom.”

CALM branding

The visual identity draws on high intensity palettes featuring flashes of neon, and is capped by a refreshed wordmark. In the new design, the charity’s name is aligned to highlight the CALM acronym, however it retains the speech bubble concept seen in its predecessor.

“The brand has to do so many different things, from support to activism, but it needs to always feel like CALM. We were also conscious that it should feel like a natural evolution – the next iteration of a much-loved brand, rather than something completely new,” Drewe says.

“To do that, we revisited the speech bubble logo, and used the extruded text style to define the graphic language beyond it – the helpline number, website URL and framing devices. You don’t even need to see the logo to know it’s CALM,” Drewe continues. “That structure gives freedom for the brand to flex to lots of different touchpoints – from bringing people together to fight for change, to helping someone in crisis – all in the same brand.”

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM, said that the “new look and feel along with our refreshed messaging leans into the power of our name. That’s why our refreshed logo champions the full name and leads with our ethos but also brings people into the close knit community of CALM by placing the abbreviation at the heart of the mark.”

The new identity was designed to appeal to people of all ages, according to Drewe: “CALM’s approach is to create ‘funnels’ to reach people who are more at risk of suicide. In the past that might have been middle-aged men, or it could be 16–25-year-olds, homeless people, prison inmates – wherever there’s an urgent need. But this work operates at a level below the brand. All these funnels end up at CALM, and that’s the level we’ve created the brand at. So it needs to appeal to everyone, and be something that they recognise and trust.”

CALM branding on posters

It’s easy to see the identity appealing more to young people, particularly the executions that have an air of sports and lifestyle brands. However, Drewe points out that there are various voices depending on the use case. “Everything is rooted in CALM’s unique character: it’s irreverent to conventions, bullish against limitations and empathetic in action. These traits are always present, but one will be dialled up more, depending on the application.”

The upbeat vibe of the new branding stands in contrast to what we might typically associate with a suicide prevention charity, yet its down-to-earth tone is clearly aimed at reducing stigma and encouraging conversation where it’s needed most.;