Pentagram’s Marina Willer rebrands cancer charity Maggie’s to reflect its warm, homey spirit

With a handwritten typeface and a logo family at the heart of its redesigned visual language, the graphic designer hopes to convey the organisation’s welcoming care centres.

13 February 2020

In her lifetime, Maggie Keswick Jencks was a designer who collaborated with renowned creative people, from Frank Gehry to Terry Farrell, not least her architect husband Charles Jencks. But her legacy and impact on the world will always be felt, first and foremost, through the couple’s cancer charity Maggie’s, which itself has commissioned buildings by everyone from Zaha Hadid to Rem Koolhaas. Now, in a visual identity rethink that’s been years in the making, the organisation can boast collaboration with one of graphic design’s finest, Marina Willer.

The Pentagram partner and her team have rebranded the charity to represent all its finest qualities. The concept for Maggie’s Centres came when Maggie herself was suffering with terminal cancer, and felt that the austere hospital environments in which patients have to process their multitude of emotions and worries was not right. The 25 nationwide centres, therefore, offer a “home from home” space where anyone affected by cancer can feel comforted, supported and a little bit calmer. Willer’s concept for the new visual language therefore revolves around the idea of making Maggie’s “everyone’s home of cancer care”.

“[All 25 centres] are all very special, welcoming and different from each other,” Willer explains to It’s Nice That. “What‘s unique about Maggie‘s is that they have physical places where they support, help, advise and care for people affected by cancer. They are very special environments… informal spaces that are open to everyone to come in and feel at home.” Hence the logo motif of a house takes not one form, but a family of forms, each drawn in geometric, block colour silhouettes. The colours of red, pink, yellow and orange, Willer says, “are inspired by the warmth, lighting and colours of Maggie's' environments.” The house motif is also used across the identity as a framework.


Marina Willer/Pentagram: Maggie's

The handwritten typeface called Maggie’s Headline, was designed by Pentagram with Sara Fanelli and Fred North, “inspired by the style of architects’ handwriting, by Maggie, her connection to architecture and the vision she created which has now become such an extraordinary charity,” Willer continues. It’s “human and practical,” set in uppercase to appear distinct from Maggie’s personal signature.

Pentagram also redesigned Maggie’s Magazine, aiming to move it away from being a “typical charity publication with an institutional and unappealing feel,” and towards that of a lifestyle magazine. The redesign of notice boards located on every hospital unit and Maggie’s Centre is also an important channel for the rebrand, similarly reflecting a human voice rather than the clinical approach.

The identity has been gradually rolled out over the past two years, culminating in the launch of Maggie’s new website.

The Pentagram team sums up: “By making cancer part of life – as tough as that can be – its aim is to prevent those affected by cancer feeling isolated and help make the experience and outcome the best it can be.”

GalleryMarina Willer/Pentagram: Maggie's

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Marina Willer/Pentagram: Maggie's

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

After five years as It’s Nice That’s news editor, Jenny became online editor in June 2021, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output.

Jenny is currently on maternity leave.

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