Author(s): Caprice Yu, Executive Creative Director, Cityblock Health
In September of this year, we celebrated our five-year anniversary at Cityblock. This was a huge moment; five years ago, a group of people passionate about equality in healthcare decided to radically improve the health of marginalized communities at scale. In the years that followed, over 1200 passionate people joined them and have, together, impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people in seven states. This anniversary was a chance for us to take it all in and feel a little pride in what we’ve accomplished — but it was also a moment of reflection. We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time, but in order to sustain our momentum and touch more lives, we need to present our brand to the world in a way that reflects our values, our goals as a company, and our dedication to our members. We needed to step back and ask ourselves a simple question: who are we as a brand?
Ok, so maybe a not-so-simple question.
It made sense that the first step in defining how we express our brand was to ask those who made us who we are: our Cityfolx, our members, and our partners.
We sat down with a diverse group of Cityfolx, the incredible men and women working with our members every day who are, essentially, the voice, face, and soul of our company. We knew our new branding needed to reflect who they are at their core. What we heard, over and over again, was the need to be proud of what we do and to say it loudly. We learned that we needed “to be more courageous” in our branding and messaging, that so far “we haven’t put any muscle into sharing what we believe,” and that we needed to be as outwardly daring and defiant as we knew we were internally.
We also heard that what sets Cityblock apart is our unparalleled compassion for our members. It’s why those who have been skeptical of the healthcare system for years are willing to answer the door when we knock; why someone from our care team will sit with a member for hours and simply hold their hand if that’s what they need, and why we hear from members time and again that, “Cityblock never gave up on me.” One of my favorite quotes from the research sums up the essence of our care beautifully: “Empathy is our superpower”.
Of course, input from our members was essential. Their experience with the healthcare system is the driving force of our mission and what we heard made us feel even more strongly that this rebranding effort was as much for them as it was for us. In our conversations with our members we learned that, above all else, they want to be treated with humanity, care, concern, and respect. They want someone to look them in the eye and listen to what they have to say. They want to be seen.
And finally, our health insurance partners, without whom Cityblock would still just be an idea on a page. From them, we heard that we are the can to their can’t; that while they can’t operationalize against health equity, Cityblock can in a meaningful way, and while they can’t have a ‘F — the man kind of mentality’, we can, and “it is needed”.
Defiant. Bold. Human: those are the attributes we knew would guide us in creating our brand identity. The challenge was clear: Our brand needs to be audacious enough to live up to our mission and empathetic enough to live up to our members.
This was no easy task, but easy tasks are not what get us out of bed in the morning.
We enlisted the help of the talented design team at Mackey Saturday to create a visual and verbal identity that would answer that challenge.
A hug? A fist? A city grid? Yes.
When I first saw this logo, I saw a group of people hugging. Then a fist. Then a city grid from above. On another day, I see them in a different order. What’s so powerful about this mark is that the hug, fist, and grid represent the three things that are the core of what Cityblock is about: empathy, audacity, and community. The ability to change between these three images also speaks to the different levers we pull daily to serve our members; sometimes it’s empathy above all else; sometimes it’s flexing our muscle of defiance, and at other times it’s tapping into the power of our community. But the one thing that never changes, regardless of the day or circumstance, is that one of them cannot exist without the others.
When it came to a color palette, we selected one that was as bold as our mission and as warm and vibrant as our Cityfolx and our community. We are not a beige brand. We added more depth to our brand blue by making it slightly richer, included a sea-foam green and a rose for warmth, and finally, a sharp chartreuse for an additional punch.
Portrait photography was introduced to give a face to our members and reflect the communities we serve. Each person we cast has a health story of their own, and while we don’t hear those stories out loud, we hope to feel them through their expressions. The brief to our photographer, Poochie Collins, was to capture each subject’s confidence and resilience. We are not our members’ saviors, but their partners. We wanted to make sure we represent the strength it takes to continue on a complex health journey, one that each of our members tackles every day.
Hand-drawn illustrations bring another touch of humanity to our brand, allowing more flexibility in production and a way to represent intangible concepts. Their hand-sketched nature is a perfect complement to the harder edges of our logo and grid system.
A verbal identity, or the tone with which a brand speaks, is always an interesting decision as it becomes a brand’s voice. It’s how we speak to the world and reflects our personality as much as our values. We were deliberate in choosing to be audacious, resilient, caring, upfront, faithful, and, of course, empathetic. First and foremost, we serve our members and we talk to them the same way we treat them — as human beings who matter.
This rebrand is more than a fresh coat of paint. It creates a brand that is ready to take on the challenges of what’s to come with a new focus, new confidence, and a clear point of view.
So then back to the question of ‘who are we?’.
We are a company that sees healthcare as a basic human right. Not luck of the draw or based on where you were born. Or the way you look. We believe in radically different healthcare. One that puts you first, so you will no longer be ignored or neglected by a healthcare system that wasn’t created for everyone. So you will no longer be judged before being diagnosed. We believe in caring for you, looking you in the eye, and asking how you’re really doing. Because we listen to you, we understand you, and simply put — we see you. We are Cityblock. And everything we do is to ensure that our members can: Be seen. Be heard. Be healthy.