The triumph of the new AMPANS brand identity by Morillas lies not so much in the designers’ creativity as in their liberation of creativity in others – those others being men, women and children with a wide range of intellectual disabilities. The vitality, humanity and irresistible charm of the identity owe much to the very people that AMPANS cares for.
In 1965, a group of parents in Manresa, in the Bages region of Catalonia, opened a school that could do a better job than the mainstream system of educating and integrating their Downs Syndrome children. Fifty years later, AMPANS is providing residential care, training, workshops and occupational services to 1,500 people with varying degrees of intellectual disability. Now a foundation, it is looking to extend its programmes across Catalonia, as well as to other groups needing special assistance, such as recovering drug addicts.
Its new identity, by Morillas, based in Barcelona, is a lot more expressive than the conventional lower-case logotype it replaces. “We realised that the brand was for an institution about people, but not for those people,” says Morillas’ Pau Dueñas. “The audience was parents and official institutions, which fund the fees. The people in the school, residence and workshops – the ‘users’ – don’t know the brand or decide anything about their internship. Their families do. It was then that we suggested making them participate and generate the visual identity.”
It was a courageous decision that entirely reflected AMPANS’ signature inclusive spirit and its new tagline, ‘Together we make the future’ (‘Junts fem futur’). But there were risks. “The biggest challenge was to motivate the ‘users’,” says Dueñas. “There are several degrees of disability, some of them very deep. We had to define different difficulty levels so that everybody could participate.”
The designers’ eight identity proposals became the basis for three experimental co-creation workshops involving 30 AMPANS staff and 150 users, focused on shapes, alphabets and free expression. Activities such as drawing, painting, stickers and handwriting provided opportunities for users at all levels of disability.
The designers were spoilt for choice: the workshops yielded an ‘explosion’ of proposals with potential. The final identity was typographic: a collection of interchangeable letters for each application, drawn from the alphabets workshop. “We wanted to express and stress diversity, the diversity of people needing assistance, in a simple yet evident way,” says Dueñas. “But at the same time, the organisation didn’t want to be seen or perceived as childish, so we had to normalise the letters, and create a good system with looks appropriate to an institution.”
Wordmarks composed of users’ letters are married with businesslike, sans-serif type to denote AMPANS’ different business units, such as the restaurant and garden where users are employed. For Morillas’ team, involved throughout in co-designing and co-directing the workshops with their client, it’s been an “unforgettable” experience.
A process born of good intentions but fraught with risks has delivered its reward: an identity that allows AMPANS’ extraordinary generosity of care, dedication and opportunity to speak for itself.
Michael Evamy is the author of LOGO and Logotype. See evamy.co.uk, @michaelevamy