Large white letters stood out against the black and white image of a smiling woman, spelling “confianza sobre violencia” (confidence over violence).
The image fades away on Peace Over Violence’s website homepage, replaced with the scene of a smiling man and woman, with the words “friendship over violence” written across their embracing arms.
Rebeca Méndez, a Design | Media Arts professor at UCLA, redesigned the homepage and online branding for the organization Peace Over Violence to reflect the diverse faces of supporters for sexual assault violence prevention, she said.
Peace Over Violence works to eliminate sexual and domestic violence by providing violence prevention education and intervention services for men and women in the Los Angeles area.
Méndez will be honored at the organization’s 45th Annual Humanitarian Awards Gala on Thursday for her work redesigning Peace Over Violence’s brand, which has made the organization more aesthetically appealing and inclusive to the larger community.
She has worked with other social justice causes in the past, such as immigration rights and protecting workers from pesticides. But as she noticed gender inequality all her life within education and the workplace, she knew she wanted to work to protect women’s rights, she said.
“The opportunity … to be able to just dedicate my energy, my mind, my design, all my might towards equality of women and men – that was very important to me,” Méndez said.
Méndez said she was introduced to Patricia Giggans, Peace Over Violence’s executive director, in 2004 by a co-worker at her advertising firm. Méndez and Giggans connected over their mutual interest in social issues, and soon after, Giggans asked Méndez to redesign the organization’s brand.
To help rebrand Peace Over Violence, Méndez used her graphic design skills to convey societal concerns through a process she calls “design as a social force.” According to Méndez, this kind of design brings awareness to inequalities by bringing attention to societal issues that need to be addressed.
Méndez started the redesign with the brand concept in mind. To Méndez, an audience perceives the overall persona and culture of a company through its branding. Brands encompass details as minute as how the employees answer their phones, to components as significant as the organization’s logo.
“Your brand makes sure that you speak your truth, your values and your aspirations in every point of contact you have,” Méndez said.
When designing the brand for Peace Over Violence, Méndez tried to incorporate kinetic brand identity, which means ensuring brands can evolve and remain socially relevant. She updated the name of the organization, formerly called Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women, to make the cause more accessible to a larger community.
Méndez said the name Peace Over Violence is structured so the words can be interchanged to form new phrases, like “voices over violence” or “healing over violence.” This allows people who otherwise might feel removed from the organization’s goals to relate by inserting their own name or word of choice into the phrase.
“This idea of ‘I am over violence,’ or ‘I can be over violence’ becomes part of you and immediately (you are) part of the cause through the name,” Méndez said.
Méndez said she used white and blue as primary colors because they are rich and communicate peace, while phone numbers for rape and battering hotlines are in bright red to contrast with the rest of the site.
After establishing the organization’s brand, Méndez brought in her students to create posters and videos for the organization. Students participated between 2004 and 2007.
Luca Barton, a 2007 Design | Media Arts alumnus, created different logos and posters to fit within the brand Méndez cultivated. In 2007, Barton worked alongside a film student at UCLA to create a short public service announcement for an event called Denim Day, a statewide anti-rape campaign, that Peace Over Violence puts on every year. He pieced together black and white still photos to create a YouTube video, then added a red filter and text explaining the event is a sexual assault prevention education and awareness campaign.
Alumna Cayla McCrae was first introduced to Peace Over Violence as one of Méndez’s students, and in 2010 she became the organization’s director of design and new technologies. She worked to maintain the brand by presenting the organization’s clients in photographed images and digitally designed graphics on its webpage.
McCrae said Méndez’s work changed the way people look at the struggles of survivors of domestic violence by dignifying them in a way many organizations do not. Méndez created images depicting survivors’ faces and hearts with photos taken from the chest up to emphasize that survivors often have their voices taken away.
“When someone has been raped, something gets fragmented, dislocated and taken away from that person,” Méndez said. “So when we create this engine of peace over violence, they are present and given a platform to exist.”
Although Méndez has finished redesigning the brand, she wants to continue to support Peace Over Violence because she considers it a catalyst of change for the community and a voice for survivors of sexual assault, she said.
“The moment I got engaged with (the organization) I, my studio, made a commitment to be with them and support them as long as I live,” she said.