Principle Goes to the Zoo
A peek behind the scenes from the creative firm chosen to redefine the Houston Zoo’s new identity.
Contributed by Principle
As lifelong patrons and admirers of the Houston Zoo, our team at Principle was beyond thrilled to get a late Fall call from their team. Would we be interested in helping them re-brand their organization?
We quickly consulted our bucket list—check!—and happily accepted.
We kicked off the project by diving into a two-day tour and strategy session with the Zoo’s creative and marketing team, leadership staff, board members, conservation specialists, keepers, volunteers, and others to better understand how their zoo works, and our role in all of it.
We emerged brimming with excitement, adrenaline, a small mountain of notes, and a fair share of butterflies. This was no small task. And no ordinary zoo.
We were wowed by the clarity of the Zoo’s vision, the thoughtfulness of the extraordinary new Master Plan, the infectious unity of the Houston Zoo’s team—and the sheer magnitude of what the Houston Zoo actually does every day, for people and animals all over the planet.
We had no idea.
And many still don’t—exactly their motivation behind the re-branding effort.
We asked ourselves:
How do we symbolize conservation?
How do we reframe the conversation around zoos?
How do we help represent this organization’s leadership and their life’s work as smart and professional and bold and important, without neglecting the joy and excitement that stems from time spent outdoors at the zoo with loved ones (animal and otherwise!)?
And in an age when major re-brands are often measured in years versus weeks, how do we do it most thoroughly?
The Design Process
We whittled many hours’ worth of listening, learning, scheming, sketching, writing, researching, (and trading pictures of baby animals with each other) into five core takeaways that drove the design solutions we presented.
Overwhelmingly, we heard THEIR PEOPLE championed again and again.
The human element is critical in saving wildlife.
So we narrowed down themes related to these core takeaways, and explored how we might articulate them visually.
We presented a wide range of logo solutions—from highly contemporary to more conservative—which we then refined further after insightful feedback from their team. Final selections were presented to an executive committee, and with board approval, a winner emerged.
A balanced approach
The new logo reflects the meaningful balance in the zoo’s new tagline, See them. Save them.
The duality of the shape represents the human element so critical in saving wildlife—the coming together of two hands—and the continued connection, conversation, and collaboration needed to succeed in protecting the home we all live in. You and me. Cause and effect. Locally and globally. Today and tomorrow.
The mark pays respect to the habitats of wildlife—two halves of a leaf—with a natural palette that draws from the landscapes of the Zoo’s future exhibits and their corresponding partner efforts in the wild, from the African forests to the Galapagos to our own Texas Wetlands.
A quiet force for good
Lastly, the negative space in the mark forms the letter Z, representing the zoo at the heart of these efforts—and pays subtle tribute to the Z that has historically nestled within the Houston Zoo’s logo.
Just the Beginning
We always like to point out that a logo is only the tip of the iceberg. The Houston Zoo is as unique and complex an organism as those it harbors.
Overall, our shared goal was to uncover an elegant solution that feels fresh, clean and simple, but can flex within a serious brand system. One that avoids the familiar trappings of visually championing one animal, or defaulting to the popular safari theme—because the Houston Zoo’s focus and reach are so truly comprehensive.
By way of thoughtful typography, color, and fabrication techniques, the new identity can push, pull and pivot across the Zoo’s myriad audiences and applications—from vibrant and playful to understated and polished—and spark conversation around what a contemporary zoo can do.
It’s been such a privilege to partner with the Houston Zoo, and to learn that the humans behind all these animals are just as inspiring, intelligent and fun. We’re honored to continue on this journey with them—much more in the works!—and we can’t wait to share what’s next.