Branding or rebranding an organization is always a challenge in itself. 

You have to choose one name, one mark, one color palette, one tone, and one voice to represent who you are and everything you do. Whew — that’s a lot of pressure! 

It becomes even more difficult when your organization serves vastly different audiences or offers a variety of different products and services. You could just avoid solving the big hairy problem and settle for a generic looking brand that plays it safe. Unfortunately, that approach could result in a brand that’s …well…ineffective and boring. The other option is to take a more creative and curious approach to solving the problem and have some fun along the way! 


Rebranding a Unique Historic Place

Conner Prairie came to Willow with a request for a rebrand that offered some unique challenges. The new brand needed to reflect Conner Prairie’s rich history, who they are today, and where they are headed in the future. Another layer of complexity was added when trying to answer the question, “Who is Conner Prairie?” There’s really not one easy answer. 

Conner Prairie is a destination for all ages that offers experiences ranging from immersive historic interpretations, to innovative scientific surprises, to animal encounters, to beer festivals. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

How do you wrap all of that up into one unifying brand? Our solution was a variable logo. 


What is a Variable Logo? 

Variable logos allow a brand to connect with different audiences and provide very different products and services while still maintaining one cohesive presence. They help personalize the relationship between an organization and its audiences. 

Variable logos have at least one unifying element —  whether it’s the name of the organization, fonts, colors, or graphic devices. This helps establish a strong visual connection and not dilute the brand equity. Variable logos are used interchangeably as the primary logo of the organization and should be able to represent the brand in solidarity. 


How Conner Prairie Uses Variable Logos 

Willow designed a set of variable logos to highlight specific aspects of the Conner Prairie experience. We designed iconic symbols to represent five key areas, including Science & Innovation, Nature, History, The River, and Agriculture. The two-tiered wordmark is the foundation for the series of variable logos. It is the consistent unifying element within the branding system. 

Not only did this design decision solve the visual challenges we were having, it also characterized Conner Prairie’s archetype, “The Explorer.” The Explorer is independent, self directed, and motivated by a powerful craving for new experiences, and will do almost anything to avoid boredom. These variable logos represent the endless possibilities and opportunities to explore at Conner Prairie, and keep the audience anticipating what they are going to see next.

Just like Conner Prairie, the new logo is not a one-size-fits-all. Visitors are encouraged to forge their own path and make each visit and experience their own. And our hope is that this fresh new brand will inspire them to do so.

Cara Tudor headshot

Written by Cara Bow

“No matter who you are, I'll find something I like about you. We're all in this together, friends.”