Launched by the Liverpool Girl Geeks initiative, the InnovateHer programme aims to close the digital skills gap and get girls into tech. Here, Uniform designer Timea Balo writes about the thinking behind its visual identity and her personal investment in the important project.
Though the gender imbalance in today’s global tech industry might say otherwise, teenage girls with a passion for coding, for innovation and technology, do exist. I discovered coding at the age of 14, and was lucky enough to have support and encouragement in a school environment where there was no discrimination between girls and boys. Though, somehow, the gender stereotypes were still there – and when it came to making choices for uni only a handful of girls chose to pursue programming, studying in classes that were 90% male. Because girls “don’t do tech”.
Today, my passion has brought me to a new country and a career in creative tech. I work as a designer at Uniform and I’m a digital artist in my own time. But, through my role as a STEM ambassador, I know young people are still being made to feel tech isn’t for girls – at home, at school, in the media they consume. Girls still “don’t do tech.”
So when Uniform’s long-term partner, Liverpool Girl Geeks, approached us to help brand their latest venture, it felt like a chance to help make a real difference – and a gift to my teenage self.
InnovateHer is the creation of Girl Geek co-founder Chelsea Slater and director Jo Morfee, and is dedicated to giving 11-17 year olds the skills, self-belief and confidence to pursue a career in tech. Starting in disadvantaged North West communities, InnovateHer is using industry role models, events and schools-based academies to reverse gender inequality, improve digital skills and invest in the future of young people across the UK.
For myself and the team at Uniform, this was a brand that just had to come from the girls themselves. We held working sessions with teenage girls already engaged with Liverpool Girl Geeks, enabling them to set the direction for imagery, colour and type. Perhaps the biggest challenge was representing an organisation that’s female-focused but still open to people of all gender identities, effectively creating something young people can identify with, which is also accessible to parents, policy-makers and the tech industry itself.
The result is a brand built on the technological and the human, on inclusion and individual empowerment. The brand mark is anchored between angled brackets in a nod to coding and mathematics, and uses both angular and handwritten type.
At a top level, the handwritten element of the brand can be swapped out for members’ names or inclusive pronouns to tailor the program. The look and feel uses a glitch effect make a clear link with technology, even when used in print.
Working closely with Chelsea and Jo throughout, we knew the brand had to reflect female role models – the women and girls of all ages – already working in tech. InnovateHer is all about real life, hands on, practical solutions, so the brand becomes frame for this imagery, and works to normalise the idea of successful, happy women working in tech.
Though the public-facing element of the brand identity is mainly visual, we also worked with Chelsea and Jo to write detailed messaging to help build relationships with schools, local and national government, businesses, parents and of course the girls themselves.
The foundation for this messaging followed the same dual theme – with a human or moral element, and a logical, business focused theme. Our mission with every part of the brand has been to send the message that every child should have the opportunity to follow their passion, to have opportunities to develop however they choose, and to show the personal, financial and technological potential waiting to be tapped.
There aren’t many things that make me want to be a teenage girl again, but InnovateHer and the sense of community, and the opportunities, they’re bringing to the next generation is definitely one of them.