Guiding a Historic Merger Into a New Era

What happens when two of Washington state’s oldest, largest and most influential children and family support organizations decide to merge? They do the work to make sure that, even if the name is changing, their commitment to families, caregivers and children remain the same. So when Children’s Home Society of Washington and Childhaven decided to join forces, they knew they needed a strategic partner to help guide them through the transition.

Founded in 1909, Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHSW) serves more than 20,000 families and children per year through eight family resource centers and more than 20 locations and local community partnerships. It employs more than 350 people across Washington state. Childhaven was founded in 1896 and employs more than 110 team members in four locations around the Puget Sound area since and serves upwards of 3,000 children and families each year. Together, they will rank among the top 25 largest human services organizations in Washington.

Both organizations share over a century of history and have evolved over the years, it was important to gain a comprehensive understanding of their respective challenges, the needs of the families they serve and the needs and pain points of their employees throughout the state of Washington. Further, it was important to collect information on the unique needs in the various geographic areas served.

Driving a Change in Mindset

We conducted extensive research, conducting one-on-one interviews with various stakeholders as well as focus groups to not only gather information, but to involve everyone in the process. Change can be daunting and we have found that the discovery process is an excellent way to make people feel heard and generate excitement and buy-in for what’s to come.

One of the unique challenges presented was the public’s misunderstanding of child welfare practices. Both CHSW and Childhaven were founded around the turn of the twentieth century for the purpose of stepping in when families needed support. CHSW contributed to the creation of America’s adoption system while Childhaven helped respond to the nation’s child protective services system. Each organization focused on expanding resources with good intentions and acknowledges their historical approach has had unintended consequences, with a disproportionately negative impact on non-white children. So this new entity needed to address the systems that caused this unintended harm.

A New Ethos and Name

Our discovery process informed a robust brand strategy that needed to connect both organizations and serve as a rallying point for everyone involved. We identified a central brand ethos to serve as a central guidepost for brand development: Elevation. Elevation represents uplifting families, supporting them and one another and providing the tools and resources to enable people to do this themselves.

The collective strategy and brand platform developed informed the development of the new name for the organization: Akin. The new name provides a clear and concise association to family and connection with a sense of inclusivity and positivity. It conveys the idea of relationship and unity.

Building an Elevated Identity

With the new name in hand, we began the design process, focusing first on the logo. We knew there was a firm desire for a simple, minimalist wordmark that also conveyed a warm and inviting feel. Leveraging the Ginto Normal typeface, we modified the letterforms slightly to provide a bit of discovery and delight.

Building off of the logo, we designed a visual language that reflected the uplifting nature of the “elevation” brand platform, expanding the typography to include Untitled Serif to provide flexibility in a variety of uses. A robust color palette was developed which came to life in partnership with a comprehensive suite of illustrations designed by the talented Anna Kövecses.

Following the completion of brand guidelines, we developed an expanded brand toolkit that included a variety of business templates as well as a merger announcement landing page.

“We’re sending a message with our new name, that kinship care – care of children by their families – is key to success. At Akin, we believe that there is no right way to be a family, but there is a right way to stand with them. When families can access the support they need, when they need it, both children and caregivers will thrive.”
Dave Newell, CEO

Digital Application

With a new brand in hand, Akin continued to partner with Phinney Bischoff to design a website that effectively presents their identity to the world. Together, we built a multi-staged strategic web plan, starting with a merger announcement landing page that evolved into a comprehensive web platform featuring additional organizational information, ways to get involved, and services for their valued clients.

In-depth audience analysis and user journey mapping allowed us to understand the diverse needs of Akin’s stakeholders. By working closely with the Akin team, we navigated the twists and turns and evolving business needs associated with their merger, crafting a plan that fully aligned with their goals.

For each stage of the website’s evolution, we created detailed sitemaps, wireframes, and interactive design prototypes that brought the brand’s visual language to life, ensuring brand cohesion and visual engagement. We also developed a content outline for each page and provided tailored copywriting to maintain brand voice consistency and strategic focus. We are proud to continue our collaboration as the Akin site grows and evolves. Visit to see our work in action.

The merger between Childhaven and Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHSW) represents a fresh and urgent approach to support crisis prevention, and help families remain together. The newly created entity exists to transform population level health by providing and advocating for relationship-based supports to positively impact children and families.

[There has been a] steady stream of compliments and comments...on the launch of We’re thrilled with the website content, layout, design and brand identity."
Kristen Conte, Director of Marketing & Communications