From blog to beyond

On Think Tanks
Branding, Digital

Since Soapbox started in 2008, we’ve believed that evidence-based policy ideas, communicated widely, are a route to social progress. It’s important to us to drive forward that agenda, strengthen think tanks everywhere and play a positive role in that debate. A big part of that has been through our relationship with On Think Tanks (OTT).

The On Think Tanks full logo in white on a black background.

OTT is a platform of ideas and programmes to support think tanks across the world. The only initiative of its kind, it is driven by the conviction that better-informed societies have a better chance of delivering results for their most vulnerable.

"Nice to meet you" in black on a blue background.

OTT first began as a blog in 2010. But after a few years, the platform had taken on a life of its own. It had outgrown the simple framework of its old site. And whilst OTT had a clear vision, they lacked a cohesive visual identity.

Four graphics showing (clockwise from top left): the On Think Tanks logo, icon and text illustrations of website elements, four dots in blue, yellow, red and green (from left), and an icon logo.

Sometimes the best ideas are born out of constraints. Through our conversations with the On Think Tanks team we knew that finding quality imagery that was relevant to the sector was no easy feat. So we decided to make a virtue of it. The resulting identity is deliberately typographically-driven and hinges around two typefaces – Circe and Leitura – and a modular system of blocky geometric shapes. 

A sample web page from the On Think Tanks website, showing text on a red background.
Two views of the On Think Tanks website as it appears on mobile devices, showing how the website changes and adapts to smaller screens.

Community is baked into OTT’s DNA. Creating a new site that could function as a home for the wider network was a key part of our brief. After developing a set of core user goals, we designed and developed a site architecture that is rooted in the spirit of collaboration and encourages sharing and engagement. A dynamic homepage serves as a gateway into a range of content types and showcases ideas from across the network, establishing On Think Tanks as the go-to place for think-tankers all over the world. 

The launch of the new site was just the beginning of our partnership with On Think Tanks. Over the years, we have worked with OTT to build and grow their brand including working on a Think Tank Communications Health Check and teaching at the On Think Tanks School . Most recently, that included the development of the Open Think Tank Directory; an indispensable repository for and about think tanks.

Integrating with the AirTable API, the Open Think Tank Directory is a constantly-evolving resource that always remains up-to-date with the latest statistics. Not only does the directory benefit the think tank community, but it also serves a public good, contributing to the transparency efforts of the sector as a whole. 

Typographic visual with colourful text "Think Tanks and Technology" on black background.
Visual showing pairs of black icons with speech bubbles, heads and smartphones on light blue, green, red and yellow background.

The OTT conference and Annual Review are highlights of our year and in recent years we have created a look and feel to unify these products around a particular theme.

Repeating black icons of visually similar speech bubbles, heads and smartphones on a colour gradient background.
A visually similar head and smartphone over the words "Annual Review" (left) and two visually similar heads over the words "2019-2020" (right), in a colour gradient over a black background. The two images are divided by the On Think Tanks logo and the word "TECHNOLOGY".

Our relationship with OTT has been a key factor in helping Soapbox gain an unrivalled understanding of the communications needs of policy and research organisations. It has opened up relationships that have allowed us to drive innovation in the sector. And it has helped us work with policy organisations across six continents. We’re excited to see where the journey takes us next.

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