SAILS Case Study


Mainstay Career Resources and Employment Support is a CARF-accredited employment service located at Seattle Central College since 1980. They assist and support people with disabilities in gaining employment in the competitive workplace. In 2014, they decided to branch out into support services for college-age students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and other learning disabilities, to help them adapt and adjust to college life so that they could be successful in getting a higher education. The new organization was named “SAILS – Supported Academics and Independent Life Skills”.

The Challenge

All of Mainstay’s previous marketing materials had been geared toward the parents of developmentally disabled adults, and as such they had marketed themselves as a social services agency. However, the new SAILS program called for a different tactic.

In this case, the program needed to appeal directly to Seattle high school students first, and then to their parents as a secondary emphasis. It also needed to fit the culture of Seattle Central College. This meant that the new identity could not look and feel like social services at all, and needed to appeal to the very prevalent hipster mindset of Seattle teens. At the same time the client did not want to stray so far away from Mainstay’s look that SAILS could not be recognized as having a relationship with Mainstay.


The Process

We spent our research time delving into what exactly made something “hipster” and therefore appealing to the target audience, and found plenty of examples within many different business types. Of course, the hipster style could not be slavishly followed, as that would be too far out of character for the client. This was after all, about academics and not coffee or skateboards—and eventually the students’ parents would have to be on board with the program. The first round of logo design was structured to find the sweet spot between ridiculously hipster and too staid to be appealing to a younger audience.

The client chose the 2nd design, largely because they felt it was the most similar to their existing logo while employing a brighter, more youthful color scheme. After more experimentation with fonts, we arrived at the final version.


Once the logo was finalized, color scheme, fonts and imagery were established in order to complete the branding and make sure the look and feel of the entire program was right. In addition to the logo blue and teal colors we chose a bright red for emphasis and a soft yellow for backgrounds. The population of Seattle Central College is very diverse and photography needed to speak to that clearly. Below are the capabilities brochure, flyer, original website homepage and application form that were developed to support the brand.

Blank half-folded booklet, postcard, flyer or brochure mockup template on gray background
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