Developing a Flexible Graphic Identity and Website Design for a Growing, Need-Responsive Organization
In 2018, we entered into a process of creating a new graphic identity for Powerhouse Arts. The creative brief was both simple and challenging: to develop a design that was adaptable to the organization’s ongoing needs, as our programs, building project, and teams of staff grow and evolve, yet reflective of the process of “making” at the core of what we do. 

To accomplish this, Brooklyn-based visual graphic designers Francesca Grassi and Kristian Henson took inspiration from activities in our shops: marked-up, corrected, tested, worn-out, cast off, and overprinted “scraps” that were blown-up and magnified as visuals of interest in themselves. These visual remnants of the day-to-day activity behind the process of creating are a reminder of the work that we at Powerhouse Arts do. Francesca and Kristian began working these disparate elements into graphic forms with the aim of achieving a unified visual identity while retaining their original materiality or technical quality. See, for instance, a thread of cotton, a registration mark, an overprint, a handwritten note, a sewn line, a weave, and so on. Below are sketches from the original design that bring together the typography and graphic forms to begin building the graphic identity. These initial design sketches also informed our name of ‘Powerhouse Arts’.

Later that year, digital strategists Linked by Air were engaged to lead our front- and back-end website design process, which married the visual identity and design elements developed to date with cohesive website architecture, accessible user experience, visual innovation, and need-responsive functionality. Linked by Air’s content management system, Economy, matches the flexibility of our identity by letting us communicate limitless different kinds of stories as our needs and practices evolve, while still structuring our content.

Together, the teams incorporated the graphic cast-off imagery throughout the site as a visual anchor. We further adopted a color scheme that is programmed to gradually change over the course of the day.

In 2020, communications strategist Ellie Hayworth, of Hayworth joined our team to lead content development and PR efforts. Her approach, both flexible and highly collaborative, has enabled us to tell compelling stories about our work that center people at the heart of each narrative. Engaging in active dialogue with staff throughout our organization, and working in deep partnership with members of our communications staff, Ellie and the team have developed content for our new website that highlights the collaborations that have shaped our organization, programmatic offerings we’ve developed for our internal and external community, and the work that we’ve produced in concert with our growing community of artists.

The Powerhouse Arts website reflects a concerted team effort that celebrates our Collaborative Production Program, our Featured Projects, our Engagement, Education, and Events Programming, our Staff, our affiliate network of Organizational Development collaborators, and our historic Brooklyn Rapid Transit Power Station facility that inspired our organization name and will become our future home. Our website launched in early August 2020.

Thank you to the dedicated individuals who worked on this project.

Initial design sketch by Francesca Grassi and Kristian Henson
Initial design sketch by Francesca Grassi and Kristian Henson
Eric Nylund
Tamara Maletic
Dan Michaelson
Madison Bozinoff
Colin Duggan
Cole Shapiro
Luke Underwood

Francesca Grassi
Kristian Henson

Ellie Hayworth, Hayworth