Featured Project: Arts Workers United

An image of a person walking infront of various colorful posters showcasing the AWU brand.
Identity & Visual Systems
Content & Marketing Strategy

Arts Workers United (AWU) is a social welfare organization that aims to connect Arts Workers and their allies to create a thriving and just socio-political landscape for the U.S. arts economy. They’ve set out to educate, organize, and mobilize makers and legislators to become civically engaged advocates of the Arts.

As Arts Workers ourselves, we were honored to join forces and help bring their vision to life. Together, we crafted a world of language and a celebratory, accessible expression that resonates with everyone they seek to impact.

An image of a person walking infront of a billboard showcasing the AWU brand. On the left of the billboard is black text on a purple background that reads, "There can't be full economic recovery without an Arts & Culture recovery." On the right of the billboard is an orange logo seal on a light blue background.

A system that speaks to audiences conventionally at odds

We knew the AWU identity system needed to be taken seriously—pushing against pre-conceived notions that the arts are cultural “nice-to-haves” instead of the economic powerhouses they are. We also needed to be representative of all Arts and Arts Workers, not diluting the vibrancy, inclusion, and optimism that is inherent in all modes of craft.

Harkening back to historic imagery and motifs associated with labor movements, the core AWU mark is a modern interpretation of a traditional union seal. It’s an identifier that can be used easily in any application. This nod to history is balanced by a decidedly modern approach to typography, color, and visual expression, further forging a link between the timelessness of the past and the contemporary world of Arts work.

A split image of a black tote bag with branded pins on the left and on the right, a black t-shirt with the white AWU seal.
The official seal signifies the organization’s commitment and strength as advocates and agents of change. It boldly proclaims that AWU is “In Service of Arts & Culture Workers Everywhere,” a promise kept in the form of economic recovery legislation and community for all Arts Workers.
A collage of Instagram posts that share statistics about the Arts & Culture economy.
Our social campaign work captures the economic weight of each sector of the arts and how, if they aren’t supported legislatively, their loss would have an unimaginable impact on communities everywhere.
A snapshot of pages from the AWU brand guide.
Our monogram, seen here in brand guidelines, is an intertwining of letterforms that represent the unity and the strength we find when we band together. When pronouncing the acronym “AWU,” each letter is to be expressed individually like other governmental organizations such as the EPA or the WPA.

“What began as a humble ask for a seal quickly turned into a ‘yes, and’ collaboration that encouraged us to dig deep and build something even bigger than we imagined. That we now have a full design system … a visual vocabulary we can use to speak to the nation in powerful and resonant new ways.”

Matthew Lee-Erlbach

Co-Founder of Arts Workers United

An image of AWU business cards with variable colored backgrounds.
AWU’s color palette is a study in tonal modulation, as seen in their business cards. Focused black and white expressions are employed for tactics that require a serious tone—such as when communicating with legislators and governing bodies—whereas vibrant, eye-catching colorways evoke a more expressive tone to inspire and empower Arts Workers.
An image of a person walking in front of four posters that share the economic weight of the Arts & Culture economy.
We developed content tools, like these posters, that promote interactivity and establish urgency. From headlines on a bus shelter to editorial content on posters, economic statistics about the arts married with statements of impact balanced directness with thoughtfulness and compassion.
An image of two posters that share the economic weight of the Arts & Culture economy.
An image from the AWU brand guide that outline how to use custom ligatures.
A custom set of five ligatures (connected letter pairings) was created which, along with our monogram, nod to the concept of unification and support.
An image of an expressive AWU-branded notebook, a magazine, stationary, and a member badge.
With many different art communities coming together, member packets became imperative to communicating AWU's mission in addition to spurring action.
An image of a blue poster that says "Proud to be an Arts Worker" and the tube it would be delivered to members.

Cheers to a more creative future

The AWU team is busy working behind the scenes of the proverbial (and well, literal) show. Currently, they’re celebrating the release of their Ovation TV Show The Green Room and furthering their legislative efforts. The next phase of the AWU brand story will take the form of a website where you, too, could support and celebrate Arts Workers. Until then, check out their current campaign Be An Arts Hero, to get involved.

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One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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