Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce
Evolving a Legacy

Refreshing a brand and website by drawing on history.

Project overview .:

The Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce (TACC) needed a new website to better serve its members and give staff full control in-house. The organization's branding also needed a refresh.

In this case study, I don't go into some of the finer details of my job; just the big-picture work. Some additional things I did included:

  • Designed all major event flyers and advertising, creating a consistent and recognizable style yet giving each event its own personality.

  • Sub-branding design for all our free member programs.

  • Email and social media marketing.

  • Event photography.

  • Print design for magazines and publications.

My roles .:
Brand design
Web design
Copywriting
Photography
Graphic design
Print design
E-commerce

The challenge

  • The TACC’s website was managed by a third party, so it was difficult to update the site, make timely changes, or evolve it to meet the current needs of the organization.

  • The website wasn’t functional on mobile devices or tablets, so it wasn’t serving the chamber's busy, on-the-go members.

  • Staff could only add upcoming events.

  • The branding was outdated and inconsistent, which prevented the organization from gaining proper brand recognition and the trust that comes with that.

  • The TACC has a long, successful 100 year legacy serving the Torrance community, but that legacy wasn't evident in its branding or messaging.

The solution

Create a cohesive brand identity and website and find opportunities to improve marketing capabilities and processes.

Kicking it off with research

I was fortunate enough to work for the TACC when the centennial anniversary occurred. To effectively advertise the occasion, I spent considerable time delving through old files and publications. This led me to the Torrance Historical Society and Museum to explore historical documents and articles about the TACC.

Through that research I found old logos that were lightyears better than the current one we had. I stumbled upon key events in the organization's history and gained a better understanding of what the TACC stood for. It was about connecting people, business, government, and ideas.

It was time to create a more cohesive experience for our members. Everything from the website and branding to print publications and communications was within my domain, and I was determined to make it all look and feel interconnected and meaningful, the same way the TACC connected its members to one another in a meaningful way.

Evolving the website

Early in my tenure at the TACC, I pitched a redesign of the website to get a feel for what the CEO and Board of Directors thought about its current state. It was unanimous: change was welcome.

While nobody wanted to admit it, the credibility of the Chamber was suffering (in terms of its website). Content was missing on some pages, and so lengthy on others that it wasn't mindful of the very people who needed to consume it—people who were busy and didn't have time for essay-length content. The website lacked purpose.

1

Before

This is a screenshot of the site when I first started working at the TACC in 2013.

This static HTML website wasn’t mobile responsive. Dropdown menus wouldn’t reveal on touchscreen devices, so very few pages were accessible. The homepage had no content, and the content on most other pages was essay-length with no imagery.

2

First redesign

The purpose of my first redesign was to bring the site in-house and introduce a mobile responsive approach.

I built the website on the WordPress CMS, which took the site from static to dynamic overnight. For the first time ever, the Chamber’s website had a newsfeed.

3

Final redesign

My second and final redesign was a top-to-bottom effort to improve the organization's message and branding.

It was at this time that I made key design decisions by developing a style guide that included a color palette and fonts for the brand.

Copywriting

I rewrote the copy from the ground up to reduce the word count and provide more engaging storytelling cues.

User experience

I made tactical user-centric decisions, such as bringing the membership application online. Previously, members had to go through a time consuming paper application process that required a lot of back-and-forth time from staff.

Bringing the membership application online sped up the application process, saved time, and eliminated legibility issues.
E-commerce

I implemented e-commerce functionality on the website so that members could order digital and physical goods. This eliminated the need to take credit card information over the phone. Our membership coordinator could simply fulfill the mailing of physical goods.

Evolving the brand

All good brands exist in a constant state of evolution. When I started working at the TACC, it was evident that it hadn’t evolved in years. The Chamber's visual brand lacked confidence, which wasn’t in sync with the high quality of service the organization provided.

During the initial website redesign, I started laying some groundwork for the brand's evolution. Then, with the second website redesign highlighted above, I went full force by honing in on a color palette and fonts. I created a style guide to provide a resource and rulebook for myself and my coworkers to adhere to.

Under my design leadership, the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce brand transitioned into a state of constant evolution.

The color palette

Chamber Blue .:
This dark blue speaks to the professional and approachable nature of the organization.
Cloud .:
This light gray is used for subtle accents and backgrounds to accompany both print and web designs.
jet .:
This dark gray evokes the City of Torrance's industrial roots.
Mirado .:
Inspired by the color of Mirado pencils, this yellow hints at the educational side of the chamber.

The fonts

Crimson Text
Source Sans Pro

My first redesign of the logo separated the text from the symbol to improve readability. I also shifted the color to a softer, more professional blue.

The logo when I first started working at the TACC. It was fairly illegible.

My final redesign was inspired by a previous TACC logo symbol I uncovered in the archives from the 70s-80s. I resurrected it because of its clean, modern aesthetic and to embrace the Chamber’s history.

My efforts revitalized the Chamber's brand, giving it a voice of confidence and authority. I found ways to reinvent some of our revenue streams to lessen the demands on staff time so they could focus on the more vital aspects of their jobs.

One-on-one conversations with chamber members revealed that as a result of my efforts they felt more connected to the Chamber than they had before. Although I only worked there part time, many members thought I was full time due to the speed and quality at which I completed my work. They would swing by my office just to tell me my work was making an impact.

As I worked through all the stages of this effort, there were times my ideas were met with apprehension or disdain—such as bringing the membership application to the website. Our CEO and our Membership Coordinator both feared it would dehumanize the process. After sharing my own thoughts about it, I asked that we only test it out for a couple of months to see how it went. It turned out that it didn't dehumanize the process at all—it gave new members the agency to fill out the application on their own time. We still had touch points after they submitted to make them feel welcome and they could always ask questions before applying. People liked it, legibility issues were eliminated, and staff time was saved for the important things like dreaming up new events and initiatives and managing member relationships.

I learned about the art of diplomacy, persuasion, and user advocacy. I learned the value of involving everyone in the process, including staff, the board of directors, and members. In short, I owe a lot to this project. I'm grateful I had the chance to do it and make a difference.

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