Positioning and Designing Social Justice Theater

Free Street Theater

How do you rebrand a social justice arts organization to launch them into the future while staying true to their grassroots and founding mission?

For 50 years, Free Street Theater has been at the forefront of the movement to create inclusive, innovative and accessible arts for intergenerational communities across Chicago. As they embarked on celebrating their 50th year anniversary, they sought rebranding efforts that showcased their values of community and social justice.

We worked closely with the leadership team and other stakeholders to create a new brand strategy, visual identity, and website in our 4-day Immersive Process.

Design Research

Free Street has been a longtime practitioner of grassroots arts, and as they reflected on the first half-century of their work, they realized they needed to update their brand. First, their identity and visual assets, then a website to align with a revitalized brand and new services.

And, as a result of a decades-long practice in social justice theater, Free Street wanted to offer more opportunities to more organizations in order to mobilize change. 

They needed to position and communicate this new service line while still staying true to their original mission.

Brand Strategy & Logo Design

First, we focused on developing a brand strategy. We began with a series of collaborative mapping activities, helping Free Street deepen their understanding of the audiences they serve, their relationships with other organizations, and their current and future brand experience. Through this hands-on and inclusive work, we were able to position the organization in a way that was meaningful and relevant not only to them but to their stakeholders.

Other than surveys and qualitative interviews, our design research included analyzing the visual language of their cultural experiences. We looked at past and current representations of who they could be and how they were different. 

All of this work informed the new service line: Who was it for? How should we talk about it? Where will it go on the new site? And it shaped the new visual direction for the new logo. 

Website Overhaul & New Services

Free Street chose to build their new website with an Immersive Process, a four-day web build process that combines design, writing, SEO, and development. It’s an intense and collaborative process that minimizes risk and prioritizes output.

In that session, we designed how to tell their 5o-year story, to differentiate and position them for the future, and to encourage people to participate. We also re-imagined how to present and promote their new business service, Free Street Talk, a custom-designed workshop for organizations to help discuss difficult issues with joy and creativity.


What's next

Designing a New Kind of College from the Ground Up

Carle Illinois College of Medicine