Barnardo’s Goes Bananas: A Much Needed Dose of Creativity



Read Time

6 min


20 March, 2024

Barnardo’s stands as a pillar of hope and support in the UK, boasting a legacy spanning over 150 years.

They have over 600 high-street charity shops and over 800 specialist services, making them one of the most recognisable charities in the UK.

As of 2013, they have raised and spent in excess of £200m each year to run its services, supporting children, young people, and their families.

Despite being a household name, the perception of Barnardo’s amongst many adults was limited to children’s homes, and their research found that 50% of children and young people didn’t know Barnardo’s or how it could support them.

As a result, Barnardo’s engaged London based branding agency The Clearing to evolve their brand identity and build awareness with their audience.

Barnardos old brand identity

Ditching the Blanding

The previous Barnardo’s identity was stale, creatively lacking, and frankly, bland.

The brand touchpoints were dull and uninspiring, and the website looked older than the charity itself.

It would barely appeal to anyone, let alone to kids growing up in the fast-paced digital first world we live in today.

It wasn’t hard to improve upon. Whilst not visually offensive, it was just typical safe design, which is what people have come to expect from charities.

So the rebrand went in a completely different direction.

This statement from The Clearing sums up the project in one line:

We wanted to create a brand where every child could feel like they belong.

And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

The new brand identity is bold, inspired, and creatively extensive.

Children at the Creative Core

The boat has been well and truly pushed out in terms of “charity branding.” Hopefully this marks a transition in a sector known for making typically stale yet safe design choices.

The new logo design, visual identity, and importantly, the concept behind it, is a night and day difference from the old identity.

The brand has been co-created with kids that use Barnardo’s services across England, Scotland, and Wales.

We gave them paints, pens and coloured paper to express things they’ve been going through and how it made them feel. Then we asked them to draw the first letter of their name in the same way too.

The Clearing played a genius hand by getting kids involved in Barnardo’s rebrand.

It’s heartwarming. It’s clever. And just imagine the buzz these kids felt, seeing their ideas come to life on such a scale. They’ve helped shape the face of a British icon. That sense of pride? Priceless.

We’re all in on this concept. It’s a direct hit to the feels.

It’s this sort of creative thinking running through the brand that makes it so successful.

Barnardos logo design on green

The logo is entirely original, representing a different emotion with each letter, and it serves as a visual metaphor for a safe space and environment where people can feel free to express themselves.

But it’s not just a conceptual masterpiece. The unique paper-cut style helps create a fun, youthful, and energetic logo design, solving the problems the previous Barnardo’s identity faced.

Barnardos rebrand billboard design

Speak and Express Yourself

Besides the logo, a suite of shapes has been introduced to the identity.

They are often used as containers for text and photos, and can also double up as placeholders for swear words to keep the brand on the right side of cheeky but fun.

Two new custom typefaces have also been introduced to the brand:

  • Barnardo’s Speak – a standard looking blocky sans-serif
  • Barnardo’s Express – an expressive typeface that has alternative letterforms inspired by the logo that can be toggled on or off.

Typically I wouldn’t be a fan of this typographic approach.


Because the concept behind the brand identity being so strong, and the type supporting it entirely, it’s impossible not to admire it.

Barnardos rebrand social media

Taking the brand into the digital world was no problem for The Clearing either.

The social media design work is robust, well considered, and is sure to stand out when you’re doom-scrolling your way through your feed.

The tone of voice is perfect too, which is no surprise given the process they followed to get there:

To create an authentic voice, we listened to and analysed the way support workers in services across the UK spoke to children and young people. The common themes and stylistic techniques found were woven into the tone of voice principles and guidelines.

Given that tone of voice and writing style forms such a large part of a brand’s identity, it’s great to see an agency treat it as equal to the visual side of the identity.

Barnardos website design

Barnardo’s Brand Rollout

One thing of note is that The Clearing presented a clear vision for the new Barnardo’s site. But when it’s been built, it hasn’t stayed completely true to the vision.

It’s a little more corporate and soulless than the original concept, but still a huge improvement on where they were before the rebrand.

With Barnardo’s huge networks of shops, it will be interesting to see how the identity rolls out.

The mock-ups do a great job of taking the vibe into a bricks-and-mortar world. But sometimes these things don’t come to fruition in the way they were intended.

I particularly love the twist on “hand me downs” to “hand me ups” – again, The Clearing have beautifully played with the language to enhance the identity.

All in all:

The Clearing have nailed it.

Some commenters worried that it might alienate donors, but I’m sure they’ll come around given the extremely important work Barnardo’s does.

The charity sector has a lot to live up to with their branding now. I’m sure all future branding discussions in the sector will involve the question “How Barnardo’s do we want to be?” moving forward.

Hey I'm Tony, Founder and Director of Canny Creative. I eat, sleep and bleed Canny to be honest. I'm an absolute workaholic (and yes, I know that's not a good thing!).

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