United Nations · Spotlight Initiative

Bringing the unacceptable to light

One in three women will experience violence in their lifetimes. It’s a number that’s so unacceptable it compelled the European Union to commit half a billion Euros towards the new Spotlight Initiative with the United Nations.

With only three weeks before its launch during the United Nations General Assembly, we were tasked with finding a name and developing a brand that met this new Initiative’s ambition.


Strategically, the brand needed to live in a complex environment. The Initiative sets out to counter violence against women and girls through funding programmatic work in target regions. It also sets out to demonstrate a new way of working across the United Nations system, meaning the European Union and the United Nations become strong endorsing brands. The Initiative is closely tied with the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically goal 5.2to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls).

All three endorsing brands gave us a complex set of requirements for a new brand identity:

  1. The identity needed to be unique, to identify the Initiative as a new entity, endorsed by three different brands.
  2. The identity needed to be related to the colours and the visual concept of the SDGs.
  3. The identity needed to be compelling to communicate the issue and encourage governments and partners to engage with the Initiative.


In our research, one practical piece of advice stood out, which became a metaphor for the Initiative. In refugee camps, locks, latrines, and adequate lighting can be a significant intervention in the prevention of violence.

Amidst a range of names and design directions, Spotlight stood out. It provided a metaphor for the way the Initiative would highlight the issue, but also to illuminate a new path forward for international cooperation on tackling an issue on this scale. With the European Union and the United Nations adoption, The Spotlight Initiative was born.

Our initial identity concepts focused around additive light, gathering spotlights in our primary red of the SDG Goal 5. Additive colour techniques produced some compelling shapes, with a seventeen-point spotlight with colour bounding the edges of light and darkness:

As drafts evolved, we wanted to pair the logo more closely with all seventeen colours of the SDG ring. Given the broad palette, we turned to a visual illusion to create the sense of light. This both created a spotlight visual effect, while also creating an identity that involves seventeen distinct, and often incongruous colours.

We used a Fibonacci plot on a circular grid to create a sense of movement with the brand. The result is a visual representation of light that works on a bright white background:


During General Assembly week at the United Nations, the Spotlight Initiative was launched by the Secretary-General António Guterres joined Federica Mogherini, Michelle Bachelet and Malala Yousafzai. In just days since joint approval of the new name and logo, we were able to launch with a new identity and matching collateral.

“As international institutions, we are not known for speed, but it is clear that this issue is high on our agendas. And with the Deputy Secretary-General’s pushing, in a few months, we’re happy to be sitting here today presenting this initiative.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

UN Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director UN Women

“When we shine a spotlight on the empowerment of the world’s women and girls, everyone’s future will be brighter”

Antonio Guterres