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Great Brands Don’t Just Happen

By Jeff Packard

We’re excited to announce the launch of Huntington Bank’s new brand language. And we’re even more excited to announce that we created it from nothing. Well, almost.


When the tried and true isn't anymore.

When Huntington Bank made the decision to shift their brand’s visual language away from illustration in favor of photography, there was a lot of hesitation. The illustration-based system stood out in the financial/banking landscape. It aligned with their friendly, we-look-out-for-you, welcoming brand. They owned this look. And for years, they pulled it off beautifully. But as time went on (years, mind you) the illustrations being created or bought became less and less sophisticated.

So the decision was made. Shift the brand to photography. That’s when Huntington asked Nonfiction to create a new brand language. The core directives:

  1. Create a consistent, ownable photography style
  2. Continue to use their “energy” green
  3. Integrate hexagons (from their logo mark)

Photography as foundation.

Because photography was the catalyst for the brand language shift, we started there. Our work centered on the following:

People matter. Huntington’s value proposition is Look Out For People. They are working hard to help people have better lives by having deeper, more informed relationships with their money. The emphasis must be on the customer, not the bank or bankers. And the background environment must recognize that customers are actual people with lives beyond banking.

Customers as people. Lifestyle photography should feel familiar and represent real lives with real scenes, events, interactions, or places from our customers’ lives.

Customers as customers. Studio photography should focus in on single moments in time. Specifically, when we’re talking about our customers as customers.

Huntington is one of the largest banks in the midwest. When looking at talent (hired) and or subjects (stock), they must look like midwesterners, doing midwestern things, and in midwestern settings.

Huntington’s energy green has excellent brand recognition by customers and non-customers. There must be some of Huntington’s green in every image. Not just any green. Huntington’s “energy” green. This can be a studio background, a piece of jewelry, a green shirt, or one of Huntington’s famous green pens.

Outcome focused. Lighting and settings must be bright and airy. We are representing positivity and possibility. When possible, upward looking, bold and and full of energy.

The result of this exploration is an ownable photography style that is unmistakably Huntington.


Creating instant recognition.

As we were finalizing the photography, we started looking at Huntington’s hexagons. Previously, they had been relegated to background textures and as containers for content and/or illustrations. Our goal for these hexagons was the same as for the photography — own them and make them instantly recognizable.


From secondary element to star of the show. We took inspiration from a some well known brands. Using only two or three variations of the hexagons, we scale them up and down to create visual diversity and play. We discovered that, in fact, the hexagons could create instant recognition for Huntington.

Creating a visual metaphor. While the photography represented Huntington’s customers, we wanted the hexagons to be a metaphor for how Huntington intertwines with its customers’ lives. In addition to the symbolism, this layering also creates visual depth.


Turning theory into practice.

To test our exploration, we designed 10–20 touch points covering all aspects of the business — from consumer banking to business banking to private banking. Some real. Some not.


Setting expectations, not rules.

Once approved, we created a comprehensive brand book that provided all the tools to create unity without being uniform. We designed and wrote the guidelines to be representative of the visual system, not a cold set of rules. This helps Huntington’s creative partners understand the new brand language while being inspired to push boundaries. This encourages creativity rather than squashing it.


Outcomes matter.

“Working with Nonfiction is like rowing a boat on calm waters — every action moves you forward and the process feels effortless. They’re an incredibly collaborative team, defined by great listening and exponentially productive responses. They went way beyond our expectations, as they always do.”

Adam Ferguson, Senior Vice President of Brand and Advertising

Find out more.

Want to know more about this project or find out how we can help you with your project?

— Download the Huntington Brand Language case study.

—Read more about Huntington’s new brand identity in this feature on Columbus Business First.