Change The Lens and UTA Brand Studio unveils a powerful new identity system

The CTL identity is bold, inclusive and universal – a reminder to the world of the reasons for posting a black square on social media last year.

15 February 2021


Think back to a time in June last year. It may feel like a lifetime ago, but it was a time of great change. Not only were we hit by various iterations of lockdowns, we also saw a rise in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of George Floyd and many others. This sparked a social media demonstration called Black Out Tuesday: a move that inspired the masses to post a black square on their grids. With this came a rise in debate and the sharing of the Black experience in the creative industries – call-outs were made to those not doing enough in terms of diversity and change was finally on the horizon.

In response to this and with the shocking statistics shared globally, over 100 Black filmmakers joined together to host weekly Zoom meetings to share their experiences with racism in the industry. This roster includes Savanah Leaf, Isiah Donté Lee, Rohan Blair-Mangat, Alli Maxwell, J. M. Harper, Calmatic, Bruce Cole, Karena Evans, A. V. Rockwell and many others. The statistics showed that Black people represent approximately 15 per cent of the population of both the United States and London, but that wasn’t (and isn’t) reflected within the industry. And that’s when Change The Lens was born.

A global initiative, CTL aims to increase diversity, to encourage the industry to staff at least 15 per cent of teams with Black talent, and to ensure the representation of Black filmmakers within the commercial and music video film industry is reflected in the wider population. “Hiring more Black heads of department and supporting Black filmmakers will empower them to tell their stories, provide varying perspectives and develop equity that will enable them to ultimately bring through future generations of Black talent,” says Rohan, one of CTL’s co-founders.

Coinciding with the launch of this initiative, the group worked with UTA Brand Studio to embark on a powerful new identity system. It needed to be bold, inclusive, clear and universal – a language that would remind the world of the reasons for posting the black square on social media in the first place. CTL, in this sense, wanted to keep the momentum going and to inspire all to continue to take action. “Some of the greatest challenges we faced were spreading awareness of CTL, and encouraging companies and individuals to pledge,” Savanah, co-founder of CTL, tells It’s Nice That. “People are often afraid of doing things they haven’t done before, and putting their names down to be held accountable by their peers. So there were, and still are, various degrees of hesitation pledging.”


Change The Lens (Copyright © Change The Lens, 2021)

The new visual language was built on a close collaboration between both companies, navigating around the key focus of how to spread awareness and encourage new pledgers along the way. Felix Hüttel, creative director of UTA, says: “Our aim was to translate the pledge into an identity that starts a conversation, conveying a positive message instead of raising a finger.” The 15 per cent statistic is at the core of the initiative, and thus evokes an identity that shapes this infographic into an expressive, visual statement, “picking up on the powerful language of past movements,” he adds. In order to achieve this, the team elected a typeface that would mimic its bold and powerful motives – one that was less centred on polished typography and more concerned with the immediacy of its approach.

In the research phase, UTA started observing the work of protest signs from the 1960s, landing on Martin by Vocal Type as a big inspiration. Inspired by the Memphis Sanitation Strike and designed by Black typeface designer Tré Seals, UTA saw the boldness of Martin as being the right kind of message for its own design. “When we discussed using the Martin typeface, I realised that I had met Tré at the Young Guns Awards in 2019,” says Savanah. “We had both won an award that year, so I was familiar with his work and keen to have him be part of our Change The Lens journey.” Upon doing so, the typeface developed into a dynamic and shareable font that would complement its recognisable logo with finesse. “Based on the changing focus of a lens, the logo changes with the recipient of the message,” says Felix, noting how the logo, in particular, is far from static. “We further added a shareable seal to annually recognise the participants of the programme.”

Alongside Martin, the teams opted for a Courier typeface as its secondary font. Chosen for its use in DIY publications and film scripts, it made perfect sense to include this typeface in the concept of the design – “it had the right contrast to work in concert with Martin,” says Felix.

After its initial launch, CTL is currently in the process of developing a new website and releasing the second phase of the pledge – that which is directed at brands and advertising agencies. What’s more, CTL plans to publish the debut issue of its newspaper this year, focusing on creative projects of Black talent in the commercial and music video industry. “Implementing mechanisms for easing change in the commercial and music video industry is central to how we structured the first and second phase of the pledge,” says Alli, co-founder of CTL, on a lasting note about the launch of this impactful company. “With Change The Lens, we’re looking to contribute to a greater culture of diversity and celebrate the grossly overlooked and persistently undervalued talents of Black creatives.”

GalleryChange The Lens (Copyright © Change The Lens, 2021)

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Change The Lens (Copyright © Change The Lens, 2021)

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About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima. 

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