ACS NCW 2022 Visual Identity & Branding

Work for hire for the American Chemical Society (ACS) by Lara Lee while employed at CSG Creative with permission for Lara Lee to display for self-promotion.

Case Study: ACS National Chemistry Week Visual Identity & Branding


The American Chemical Society (ACS) coordinates an annual public awareness campaign on the value of chemistry during National Chemistry Week (NCW). While my agency, CSG Creative, has normally designed the visual identities and branding for the Spring and Fall National Meeting and Expositions, this was the first time ACS invited CSG to design for NCW.  CSG’s Art Director, Courtney Lopes, kicked off the job and we both set out conceptualizing.

The main task was designing an event logotype for NCW’s tagline, “Fast or Slow…Chemistry Makes It Go!” Creative goals were as follows:

  • Conceptually, it must explore fast and slow chemical reactions. On one hand, combustion is a fast chemical reaction; on the other, rust is a slow chemical reaction.
  • Furthermore, the logotype must be strong enough to stand alone, but also flexible enough to use across website graphics, social media posts, printed magazine covers, etc.
  • Finally, like all of ACS’s web graphics, this logotype must also satisfy minimum color contrast and font size levels for web accessibility and user readability.

It was a fast-paced task demanding a quick turn-around. Courtney and I completed a logotype the client loved in five (5) business days spread out in design sprints.


My Role

Brand Designer

Digital Designer

Art Direction

Courtney Lopes


CSG Creative

By the Numbers

Concepts Presented
to Art Director
Total Final Concepts
Presented to Client
Days from Initial
Concept to Final Art

Concept #1:—
“Violet + Photos”

Many of ACS’s recent event branding heavily featured vector artworks. In contrast, I wanted to offer something with photo manipulations instead. I designed this concept playing on different ways to capture “fast” and “slow,” especially where the logotype must remain flat and solid in color.

First, I added some dotted lines that fade away—like a motion blur. I then also applied Gaussian blurs to the photos and juxtaposed their original sharp counterparts for visual contrast. The full-color photos peak through triangle cut-outs to clarify the subject matter. Finally, I also designed a subtle complementary color palette: the content shows violet hues, whereas the reaction photos pop with brighter yellow-orange hues. This gives the concept extra visual energy and movement.

Historically, this client loves to swap photos and/or color schemes to create a whole set of graphics. Similarly, I envisioned this concept limiting itself to one chemical reaction per banner, but each banner shows a different chemical reaction.

In this example, I highlight the slow chemical reaction of rusting on large metal construction beams.

Concept #2:—
“Red + Vectors”

My second concept is opposite in many ways to my first.

First, I explored vector artworks in my second concepts and used no photos at all. Vectors scale without quality loss and keep files nice and lightweight. Secondly, I used a red + green color palette. Although this color palette is complementary like the first—I loved that visual movement!—this concept sticks with warmer hues. Neon lime green really stands out from the rusty red background, highlighting examples of chemical reactions like the strawberries and batteries.

It’s no coincidence I choose “rust red”: rust is an example of a slow chemical reaction. I also added a second slow example: ripening strawberries. On the other hand, my fast chemical reactions included combustion (the fire over the “A”), oxidation (the draining batteries), and bubbling (the beaker in the negative space of the “O”).

Finally, for even more visual energy, I played off the vibrating borders of my intense color scheme and added literal vibrating borders around text boxes and as drop shadows.

Edits from the Art Director

The Art Director preferred Concept #1 but liked the multiple chemical reactions depicted in Concept #2. So, the first edit was add a second, fast reaction photo set.

Edit #1: add a second chemical reaction photo set.

The Art Director wanted to explore other fonts for the tagline. She gave a few suggestions, and I also added a few of my own. The second edit, I revised the comps with headline font ideas.

We were fast approaching the client’s deadline. The Art Director finish finessing this concept herself, leaving me to work other client rush jobs. She added two new headline fonts and a pop of yellow. Finally, she presented to the client—and the client chose this iteration as-is!

The Final Design

Compared to my initial concepts, the Art Director selected the final headline fonts and added yellow.

The Green Light on Web Accessibility

Every ACS web graphic must pass the web accessibility color contrast test. These web standards, established by WCAG, ensures user readability. The standards include a minimum color contrast level between text and its background; font-size appropriate to the color contrast level; and descriptive alt tag text.

While ACS is not my only client that adheres to WCAG’s web accessibility standards, they do request the highest number of web-accessible graphics. They prefer testing using WebAIM’s tool here.

Screenshot of WebAIM's color contrast checker tool.
WebAIM Contrast Checker

Branded Web & Social Media

Facebook profile social media branding on desktop.
Twitter profile cover on deskotop.
Facebook profile social media branding on a phone.
Twitter profile cover on mobile.
Twitter profile social media branding on a desktop.
Twitter profile cover on deskotop.
Twitter profile social media branding on a phone.
Twitter profile cover on mobile.

Branded Web Graphics

A final total of 27x website graphics, PowerPoint slides, digital ads, social media covers and social posts all used the new NCW 2021 visual identity and branding. Here’s a sampling:

The NCW 2021 visual identity and branding across social media.