Too big for our logo: a design for the future of TDS

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your old logo?


Our original logo and visual branding was designed and very generously donated in 2008 by Jarret Byrne and Solvo Media. TDS was a brand-new organization then, with a smaller board of directors and an uncertain future. At that time, this logo and the website it lived on served TDS very well. It even challenged TDS to look toward the future.

Today, TDS has sent two volunteer trips to Tanzania, completed a major construction project, raised and used nearly $150,000, and sends out a quarterly newsletter to 450 supporters. TDS has grown to include the experiences, work, and hopes of hundreds of volunteers, donors, and partners. When board looks at the communications we send to our friends, old and new, something is missing. What’s missing is a visual representation of the richness of experience that TDS now encompasses.

I’ll admit that I fought against a logo re-design for some time, knowing the work it would take to implement it and corollary changes to the visual branding. I think it wasn’t until the summer of 2011, when I saw the pictures coming back from the study trip in Tanzania – the same trip I took in 2009 – that I was convinced that the rich experience I’ve had as a TDS volunteer wasn’t unique to me. The experience of many more volunteers needed to be expressed and celebrated, and the current logo just couldn’t do that. We had surpassed the challenge presented by our first logo.

Our new logo was designed by University of Minnesota student Carlye Kussard and Edgewood College graduate Katrina Ervin, with input on typography selection by graphic designer Victoria Pater. When they volunteered their creativity and experience, I challenged them to express this in the new logo:

“We see TDS as distinctive because it forms very close relationships with other organizations, people, and communities in Tanzania. We see ourselves as partners and are very committed to our partners in Tanzania, working through set-backs as they arise. Our projects are the priorities of communities and organizations in Tanzania. We work from their strategic plans and join in the visions they have for their own communities. We are committed to having our volunteers and donors experience the communities in which we work firsthand, and to form long-term relationships between individuals. We also see our role as informing others through experience and in a nuanced way, which is why we take student and volunteer trips to Tanzania. During these trips, we don’t try to tell people what to think, but provide first-hand information, and ask them to reflect on their experiences and share them with others.”

An impossible assignment, surely!

Over a few months, we went back and forth over symbols, colors, and ideas. The board was originally presented with four initial concepts and selected one to be further developed. The board and other volunteers made further selections on typography, color, and minor style aspects and selected this for the new TDS logo.

New TDS Logo

Communicating a nuanced view of Tanzania is an important challenge. Tanzania is generally not well understood by Americans or Europeans. Because of this, there are few symbols of Tanzania that are easily recognizable to TDS’s donor and volunteer audience. Something that is quite striking throughout Tanzania is color. There are parts of Tanzania that remind me of the foothills of Colorado, where I grew up, but nowhere in Colorado have I ever seen clothing, food, and buildings with such vibrant and memorable colors. Color is how this logo authentically connects Tanzanian experience to a visceral experience for our supporters at home.

We hope you like this new logo to represent the experience that surrounds TDS and our hopeful future. We plan to roll the logo out in our communications towards the end of this year. Since TDS is built on the work, skill, and support of our volunteers, donors, and partners, I welcome all of you to share your feedback on this new logo with me in comments below, on Facebook, Twitter or at

Tracey Swanson, Chair
TDS Volunteer Marketing Committee

3 Responses to Too big for our logo: a design for the future of TDS

  1. Recently posted…

    I want to show my appreciation for your generosity supporting men and women that really need help with this important study. Your very own dedication to getting the message up and down was extraordinarily valuable and has usually made individuals like …

  2. Thanks Andrea. The trip wouldn’t have been a success without our mom-in-residence! You’ll be happy to know that since then there has been incredible support from both donors and committed, talented volunteers.

  3. Tracy,

    I love the new logo and your blog post above. Your words remind me of the trip and how much it altered what I thought I knew about the world (and myself). It’s wonderful-thank you for all your hard work!