Design for Good Spotlight: Cathleen Mitchell
Interview with Cathleen Mitchell
Chief Brand Strategist + Founder MM Brand Agency

AIGA Arizona is thrilled to present the first interview in an upcoming series of Design for Good Spotlight interviews. Each interview will focus on an Arizona-based creative professional whose work positively affects our communities.


A Full-Out Partnership – Partnering with Ryan House

Give us an overview of your D4G project?
Ryan House is a Phoenix-based nonprofit whose world-class programs help children and their families navigate life-limiting, or end-of-life journeys with care and compassion. Ryan House Executive Director Alyssa Crockett approached the MM Brand Agency last year to partner with us in moving the organization’s branding and communications from a grassroots effort to a strategically sound, well-wrought national platform. Ryan House was poised to conduct a comprehensive audit to identify gaps in their messaging, and revamp their communications to meet its goals. These included improving their overall brand messaging, community awareness, partner alignments and donations.

What first drew you to this D4G project?
I had worked with Alyssa previously and was enthusiastic about working with her again. I was also familiar with Ryan House and saw an opportunity to make a difference by helping them tell their story.

“For a project to be impactful, it is essential to step back at the very beginning and approach it strategically and comprehensively.”

Did anything unexpected or surprising happen?
The Ryan House project ran very smoothly. We established a full-out partnership with the organization, which was nurtured and strengthened throughout the nine-month process. One aspect that differed was that we elected to work together in predetermined phases – holding milestone check-ins with presentations to the board, leading them through the processes and eliciting buy-in at each stage. This was very helpful in assuring that we unilaterally identified and met their goals.

Was the outcome of this D4G project what you expected?
It was. The new brand was unveiled at their annual fundraising breakfast. The components included:

• Brand strategy, positioning, and messaging

• An updated logo and identity system that visually communicates their brand story while still providing due credit to the Board of Visitors

• A modular system of print materials that speaks to their variegated audience

• An updated website

• A foundational framework of social templates and calendars, event and conference materials

What is the future of this D4G project, will it continue to develop?
We have an ongoing relationship with Ryan House. We consult monthly to identify areas where we can assist them with projects or initiatives, such as fundraising events, or help them to independently manage their communications.

What are some other D4G projects that you have worked on?
The MM team finds working with nonprofit agencies very fulfilling. It’s an impactful way for us to give back – helping to further their missions. MM Brand Agency typically partners with at least one nonprofit project each year, averaging in-kind donations of 20-25% of our time and talent. Other local organizations we have worked with include:

  • Not my Kid – This project had a similar scope to Ryan House, but further included the renaming and branding of their Clear Choices child-brand. The new name, Amplifi, better aligned and resonated with the organization’s audience and community goals.
  • Feeding Matters – During the brand development process, it was decided to change the name of this organization from the Popsicle Center to Feeding Matters. We partnered with them to create their brand identity, communications strategy, and overall messaging. Together we opted to retain the original palette, which continues to serve the brand well and resonates with their audiences.

What advice would you give to others wanting to get involved in their community?
Success begins by achieving internal buy-in and establishing a mutually respectful partnership committed to the strategic processes and ultimate goals. For a project to be impactful, it is essential to step back at the very beginning and approach it strategically and comprehensively – just as we would for a for-profit company. Simply jumping in and tackling a project piece-by-piece, in a reactive manner, often creates a disservice to the long-term goals of an organization.

If you had unlimited time and money, what D4G project would you start right now?
I would love to work with the Phoenix nonprofit, Gabriel’s Angels, founded by Pam Gaber. Gabriel’s Angels deliver healing pet therapy to at-risk children, nurturing their emotional development and enhancing the quality of their lives.

By Lisa Altomare
Published August 28, 2015