Brand | User Experience


How do you understand and design for a complicated issue like food insecurity?

Civitas was a school group project completed during my Junior year alongside fellow student designers Kathryn Mullis, Hailey Gollehon, and Jenna Lucy. For this semester-long project, we were prompted to envision and design a product or business that uses a design system to address a complex problem. Having been inspired by a local project in Raleigh called A Place at the Table, I proposed the non-profit business concept that my team members chose to assist me with.

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"Civitas" is the concept for a non-profit business that partners with local restaurants and restaurant chains at scale to provide greater access to food options to those facing food insecurity. The overarching non-profit takes donations to produce "civi" cards that can be used at partnered restaurants to purchase select items of their menu. Each card, worth $10.00 when used at a partnered restaurant, is reimbursed by the non-profit so that the restaurant is actually gaining new customers without the expectation of providing food without payment. Civitas gives the cards to be distributed by local community centers like churches, shelters, food pantries, or schools to provide more access to users. Additionally, cards can be bought and left at restaurants for the next person who needs one or bought and carried around to give to people who are asking for help.

"Civitas" is the Latin word for "community," with other meanings including "citizenship," "society," and "shared responsibility."

This card system is designed to not only address logistical issues of finding food options, but also pressing social issues. After extensive research on all the different kinds of groups and individuals that face food insecurity, our group was able to outline an extensive list of users as well as their logistical, monetary, and social needs. While it is easy to identify some within the problem of food insecurity, such as homeless individuals that reside in city centers, there are many other groups such as low income families, those living in food deserts, and even college students who face food insecurity in very different settings and experiences. The concept of the "civi" card was inspired by other operations that distribute food tokens or food stamps, but was further evolved to resemble a credit card or gift card in order to provide easy distribution, storage, and use for those who might feel worry or shame for using cards in public spaces. The design also allows patrons to easily carry and distribute cards, helping both the patron feel more comfortable engaging with people they might not otherwise and the card-user feel recognized in a space where they might be used to being ignored.

Brand System

I created the brand system for this project, including the logo, typography guidelines, colors, and a variety of digital assets. While other group members helped inform the branding decisions with their own research, I was responsible for creating assets and guidelines for the visual system before applying it to all the touchpoint of the business. The logo is constructed around the central symbol of two people sitting at a table. The two “i”s in the word mark resemble people sitting at a table while the ambiguous blobs represent food or conversation bubbles. The blob shapes showcased in the logo also are used in patterning, photo framing, and illustrations. The color system is inspired by other contemporary brands systems for restaurants as well as non-profit initiatives to inspire optimism, forward-thinking, and inclusivity.


After solidifying an adaptable and intentional brand system, our group applied the system to all the various touchpoint of the business concept, including the cards, website, marketing materials, and educational materials. Together we designed how the website provides information and prompts donation, how the marketing materials are positioned to provide awareness and engagement with the initiative, how donors are rewarded for their engagement with gifts, and how restaurants are able to educate their staff and customers about how they engage with Civitas. One particular touchpoint that we heavily researched and designed for was the restaurant staff who would be accepting cards as payment and interacting with both donors and card-users. With their needs in mind, we designed a "welcome package" that includes materials for explaining how to process the cards for reimbursement, how to indicate what items on the menu are available for purchase with cards, how to publicly showcase their affiliation with and support for the initiative, and how to provide sensitivity training to employees for handling potential situations with customers.

Designers must take ownership of the systems they create by understanding the real problems and how all the factors connect.

This project inspired me to reflect upon how intentional design extends beyond artifacts or products to envision how complicated problems can be addressed with awareness and sensitivity. Even though we researched and created this project under time and class constraints, there is still potential for the concept to refined and introduced to the world for testing and modification.

Read more about our research and process by accessing additional files from this link.

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