How might we create a visual language that would help an organization establish it's voice and personality?

Who is Breakthrough?

Breakthrough is an international NGO which works for gender-based rights. It works through campaigns, such as against domestic violence, with the goal of sensitizing men and creating social change agents.

What was the challenge?

They approached Itu Chaudhuri Design to redesign their branding guidelines and then continue to design their publications on an ongoing basis. A move, they reckoned, that would help create a visually cohesive brand.

My Role

This was my college thesis project with an actual client. Hence, I had two guides. My professor Immanuel Suresh was my faculty guide and Itu Chaudhuri of ICD was my guide during the project. I reported to the creative director, Richa Bhargava and was assisted by interns at the time Kautuk Trivedi and Reuben Jerome.


The branding reclaimed Breakthrough’s identity that was lost in the clutter of publications that weren’t branded. However, the biggest impact was of that of the publication architecture. It helped all the internal stakeholders understand the various publications and accurately analyze what’s needed for each publication. The solutions proposed are still used at Breakthrough to this day and the architecture guideline is used to on-board volunteers in the organization.

Image on Cover:
The Trainer's toolkit

TEAM Itu Chaudhuri, Richa Bhargava, Tenzin Yeshi, Kautuk Trivedi, Reuben Jerome, Shantanu Salgaonkar

Why was the Breakthrough brand visually chaotic?

Although Breakthrough’s visual branding had been defined, it failed to carry on to the publications. Since, Breakthrough hired different agencies and vendors for every publication, it became increasingly difficult to manage the visual style. No one owned the Breakthrough visual language. Without it, Breakthrough couldn’t harvest the credit for its campaigns which were better known than the organization itself.

At another level, the communications weren’t always effective as the understanding of audiences and objectives, language, tonality and messaging were not in place. As a result of this visual chaos, it was increasingly difficult for volunteers and employees to identify the publication tool they needed for specific tasks.

A visual Chaos

A volunteer teaching about sex education in a remote village didn’t know if he had to carry ‘workbooks’ or ‘toolkits’ for the participants.

This meant that the publication effort lacked a program, and was agency dependent. A better process was needed. A process, that would help volunteers and employees find what they are looking for, would yield a far better return than the agency creating publications for them on an ongoing basis.

Left: A volunteer conducting a workshop using the newly designed trainer toolkit.

I proposed a one-time intervention to ensure that the brand was infused and the documents’ objectives were met. A hyper-detailed trace of the campaign cycle from ‘idea to impact’ ensued. From its genesis, sharply clarifying objectives and audiences, as well as how it’s distributed, read and responded to. I presented this as an actionable audit, with the needed improvements identified at both the brand and the effectiveness levels.

The result was an organization of the entire publication output in one simplified table

With five overarching pillars, divided between campaign and organization communication, all the communication was rationalized into just eleven items, ranging from street level booklets to academic case studies. For each, we defined the intent, the publication owners, the users, cost, and means of design and production.

Top: The organization of the entire Breakthrough publication output.

The next step was to design the visual language

I designed templates and guidelines for each publication, with design details and content sequencing, infusing the correct brand language as well as making it consistent, readable, immediately useful, deployable and ultimately effective, with the Breakthrough tonality.

Left & Top: Some of the pages from the general and specific guidelines

Left:  Close-up of the trainer's toolkit
Below: A spread from the trainer's toolkit

The trainer toolkits were designed in a step-by-step-recipe format with a focus on visual aids.

Case Studies were designed for potential investors and academics. Hence the Campaign's content was organized into 3 parts: Content, Course & Results.

Left:  The contents page of the case-study displaying the content structure
Below: The cover and inside page of a case-study

Right:  The inside spread of a handbook
Below Right: A detail of the instructive illustrations in the handbook
Below : The Handbook covers

Handbooks were designed for the general public. Hence the content was kept to crisp facts with diagrams.

The rest of the deliverables were designed with the unique visual language creating uniformity.

Clockwise from top-right: Media Booklet; A slide from a Breakthrough owned presentation; A media van with conceptual campaign branding; A screen grab from a Breakthrough owned video.

The end result was a visually cohesive brand that stayed true to the brand's tone and voice.


Breakthrough was my thesis project required to graduate design school. This was the first time I dealt with a problem by taking design strategy decisions on a project not many consider a design problem. I started enjoying the process of problem finding within a task. It helped me think at the level of the problem, expand my solution space and enjoy the moments of serendipity that come along the way. It was a turning point in my career. Since then, I have been obsessed with how design can solve problems and have drank up every resource that I could find on Design Thinking. Luckily, I had Itu Chaudhuri to indulge my obsessions when he opened up his vast design library to me.

The solution was complex yet elegant. It accounted not only for the strategic and organizational roles of each publication but categorized them on the parameters of voice, tone and audience.

Sonali Khan

Vice President & Country Director





Agency Itu Chaudhuri Design

We lack a
cohesive brand


It became clear that the visual design alone won't solve the problem of a lacking publication system.

Hence we decided to redefine the problem

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© Shantanu Salgaonkar 2019





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