TRAILS Ministries is a staple nonprofit in Beaver County (Pennsylvania) that’s actively been working for 28 years in transforming the lives of the incarcerated and the families and communities affected by it. TRAILS meets the incarcerated at every touch point, from the moment they’re in jail or prison, through their served time, and then when they’re released back into society. TRAILS has also developed flagship programs to help the families get through these hard times, creating Virtual Visitation, after school intervention programming, and an intense summer camp to keep the city’s kids off the streets during the day.

I started working for TRAILS in 2009. Straight out of college and with no job, they took me in to work on their website buttons. That was my only job. But I noticed something was missing. TRAILS didn’t have a brand nor did it have an identity. And within a few weeks of me working on those buttons, this became the start of my career in branding and design.

THE CHALLENGE

This was the first major brand identity project I would take on. I knew what was missing, but I couldn’t articulate it. I had a vision in my head, but couldn’t execute without proper training and understanding of design with all of its principles. The challenge was to be persistent, consistent, and be patient. I had to learn and grow with the project to one day match the vision that was in my head and create the identity I knew would communicate who and what TRAILS was.

THE APPROACH

Learn and grow.

That was the approach.

And the more I learned, the more the identity grew. I developed and designed it to a point where it could become adaptable. I wanted a liquid identity, meaning it needed to be flexible to accommodate the growing ministry and its flagship programs.

Research & Discovery

Over the course of the next several years, I was consistent in researching, studying, and applying what I learned to create something worth of become the final logo and identity for TRAILS. As you’ll see, the original logo needed to be less busy. Simplifying it was my goal, but it ended up being an over-simplification. I ended up making the logo obscure. This lead to another design, keeping the same goal of simplicity, but incorporating more recognition into the mark by creating the T and M lettermark with the nuanced impression of a cross. This design served as the starting point for the final logo with the goal of being forward and direct: stating the organization’s name and putting its faith-based beliefs front and center with a unique cross design that would be exclusive to the identity. Several “odd” logos ended up in-between the staple ones, but never made it past the concept stage.

The Final Concept

TRAILS was picking up steam. It just wasn’t a singular brand unto itself anymore. We had developed several flagship programs that all needed to be identified as property of TRAILS. This is where developing an adaptable system came into the project. After the development of the final marks (below) I needed to work this into a system that brought the static elements of the identity to life. I decided that the most workable, flexible element of the identity was the circle that sat behind the TM lettermark.

The first roll out of this was with TRAILS’ Hayes Summer Camp program. The circle adopted the personality and feel of a child just having “scribbled in” the colors with crayon to communicate who the program was for at first glance. This lead to creating the other marks for the flagship programs: TRAILS Virtual Visitation, TRAILS Reentry, and the TRAILBlazers After School Program. Each mark would have some iconography that communicated what the program was about while retaining the main identity for TRAILS.

You can view the final identity below.

The System & Identity

The Emblem

Comprised of the “TM” lettermark that also forms a cross with the “T” form. Designed to retain the original logo’s (above) circular shape with a strong mark that would be timeless and memorable.

The Wordmark

Simply designed to state the organization’s name. The letter forms “trail” into the other and were designed to be unified and connected as one, much like how the team at TRAILS operates among themselves and their clientele.