Koto’s Ecosia rebrand catalogues the diversity of tree species around the world

What are the challenges involved with rebranding a search engine like Ecosia? From page views to educating users, the Koto team divulges all.

16 August 2022


Koto has launched a rebrand of Ecosia, a search engine harnessing the profit from web searches to plant trees. Working with Adrian Johnson to produce illustrations that visualise the ecological regeneration the brand focuses on, Koto’s creative director Tim Williams and managing director Johann Laeschke tell us about the ins and outs of the work.

From the get-go, the aim behind the project was to broaden Ecosia’s brand from search engine to a more “holistic offer” as the brand is branching out into new areas, Johann and Tim explain. With no strict remit on what could change, and after looking at competitors to see “where the visual equity lied for Ecosia”, Koto landed on two interlinking ideas to guide the work: “Power the regeneration” and “Never Neutral”. Ecosia’s new look is wonderfully easy on the eye with a multitude of growing trees – a concept that also played out brilliantly on another tree planting app brand from How&How this year. Though, for Koto, the approach came with its own set of difficulties.

“Ecosia helps plant hundreds of species of trees, so we couldn’t actually represent them all – instead our approach was to show the diversity around the world,” says the design leads. "They had to be vectors and scalable to small sizes, so adding textures wasn’t going to work.” The solution arises in a soft-formed identity, which just so happens to mirror the natural look and feel Koto wanted. “We avoided straight lines in the illustrations,” the team confirms. Sloping and smooth are the best way to describe the graphics now utilised across the brand, with singular illustrations often merging into entire interlocking forest scenes. This illustration style, developed with Adrian, though not super detailed, delivers “complex ideas in a wonderfully clever way” with motion design used to breathe life into the graphics.

Typography was also a key challenge for the team. “With so many page views, loading time was important. That’s why we went with a Google font for all body copy.” The scale of Ecosia’s audience – so far, over 20 million users have helped the platform plant over 150 million trees – would have made licensing costs an issue for the brand. “But luckily, the very lovely team at Klim.co.nz offered to waive the licensing costs which allowed us to go with Founders Grotesk,” Koto says. Another consideration was the colour choice, which needed to work in light mode and dark mode to be accessible. Ecosia also produces a wealth of educational content on YouTube, “so the brand needed to work hard in this context”, the team adds.

The toss-up between being able to convey serious messages and remaining friendly is a key part of the new Ecosia brand. Interestingly, Koto looked to the music scene of the 60s and 70s to form the basis of the new logo. Wanting to evoke themes of “positive action and changing the world”, Koto says the style “helped lend the name more gravitas and personality”. Head over to the Ecosia site to see the new brand in action.

GalleryKoto: Ecosia (Copyright © Ecosia, 2022)

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Koto: Ecosia (Copyright © Ecosia, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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