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Developing a Successful Brand: The Summer EBT Story

October 30, 2023

Branding is more than a logo. It is sharing a unified story and building an emotional connection about it with an audience. Abt used branding to amplify the story of our evaluation work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Electronic Benefit Program demonstration project (Summer EBT). The program provides food assistance for groceries during the summer months for low-income families eligible for subsidized lunches during the school year. Our researchers evaluated the demonstration project and found it reduced food insecurity and increased the nutritional value of diets. As a result, Congress now has authorized Summer EBT as a permanent nationwide program.

Branding should start early and grow thoughtfully alongside the project lifecycle. Doing so enables strategic relationship-building with the target audience. It also creates consistency and saves time for the project team, so designers and other staff can use a system already in place instead of having to incorporate it later in the implementation process. As the architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “You can use an eraser on the drafting table or sledgehammer on the construction site.”

The Summer EBT branding system was created early in our evaluation project. It reinforced Abt’s research while highlighting Summer EBT themes such as “children”, “food,” “possibility,” and “summer.” To speak to these concepts, we chose bright, cheerful shades of yellow, orange, and green. According to Ellen Lupton, author of Design is Storytelling, “yellow is the color of happiness because it is the color of sunshine and waking life.” We also chose typography that is rounded and playful (see below), as is often the case in work describing children. We carried these themes through to the logo, which doubles as both a hopeful rising sun and a healthy food choice—an orange slice. On their own, these brand choices seem unrelated, but together they create a collective voice that speaks to the exciting benefits and the promise of Summer EBT – to make a difference for more than 29 million families across America.

The elements form a brand identity that we implemented for the Summer EBT evaluation throughout the years. For example, we designed unique collage-style imagery that combined illustrated healthy food items, like strawberries and broccoli, with the brand colors as backgrounds. We also used diverse photography of school-age children and the circular patterns found throughout our content, which evoke a playful tone. We designed these elements together to help audiences build an emotional connection between our research and the families impacted by the program. We carried the branding through a wide range of materials, including annual reports, videos, presentations, and interactive executive summary websites. Below are examples of the brand materials that Abt has created over the years:

Branding Guidelines

A “branding guide” is critical to develop early as it creates a consistent standard for the implementation of the brand and is key to ensuring a project team’s alignment within a brand. Our branding guide (bottom left) included a logo (above), color, and typography standards (bottom right). Branding guidelines can include many additional topics, including photography and icon styles.

Annual Reports

Abt created annual reports throughout the evaluation that highlighted the work completed within the previous year. Below are examples of a map and data visualization that illustrate how we applied the brand in these report products.

Annual Executive Summary Websites

We also generated websites that highlighted outcomes from the full report. Why did we choose to house our executive summary in a website format instead of a PDF? A website is a great way to showcase content in a more interactive, easily navigable format. Below is an example interactive graphic from the 2022 website.

In addition, below are two sample layouts from the 2022 website, where all parts of the branding come together (including color, type, graphics, and imagery):

Dashboard Videos

Lastly, we developed a series of video products to help users learn to navigate our interactive dashboards. These dashboards enable users to explore, download, and analyze over a decade of Summer EBT data.

Video credit: Audio Chemists

To learn more about the USDA Summer EBT program and to see additional examples of our work, visit our Summer EBT project page. Reach out to René Nutter ( to learn more about our Summer EBT branding work or to engage us for support.

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