How White Is Brand Leadership? These Logo Tweaks Tell the Story

Instagram side project comes from Goodby Silverstein & Partners creatives

From left, the logos of Lyft, Adidas and Apple, reflecting the percentage of white leadership at each company. True Colors on Instagram
Headshot of Doug Zanger

As American society continues to grapple with addressing racism, the corporate world is under continued pressure to change the diversity of its leadership. Agencies have begun to drip out their talent breakdowns. While brands have taken public positions on racism and, specifically, Black Lives Matter, most continue to have pervasively white leadership in the C-suite.
As data from companies continues to be collected and analyzed, and a pair of Goodby Silverstein & Partners creatives took matters into their own hands to visualize just how white brand leadership is. True Colors is an Instagram side project by GSP art director Eleanor Rask and copywriter Trevor Joplin that takes famous logos and adjusts them to illustrate corporate leadership and boards.
Simply put, the whiter the leadership—based on publicly available data—the whiter the logo. So far, 15 logos have been redesigned.

Nike was first, and with 85% white leadership, it’s hard to make out the logo without looking closely. Adidas is the only logo that’s virtually impossible to see as its decision-makers are 100% white. Lyft is the easiest to read, with 55% white leadership.
“So many brands are speaking out, saying that Black lives matter,” Rask said. “So we decided to do some research to see if brands can walk the talk. What we found was a lot these companies are mostly run by white people, and that’s what sparked the idea.”
According to Joplin, the idea came together quickly, with the logos reflecting what they found in their research.
“Five minutes later, we decided to run with it and not look back,” he said.

Rask took the logos, made them black and then put a white color overlay over each. She chose not to use a true white so that, even in the case of a company with a high ratio of white leadership, one could still see the logo. From there, Rask adjusted the percentage to match that of each company.
As they moved ahead with the project, part of it was to make a statement and to easier illustrate the data. But Rask noted that True Colors tells a story about brands and their influence on society.
“Brands are such an important part of America,” she said. “We get inspiration from them, we buy their products and give them money, yet it’s still run by the same people who are writing our history that doesn’t apply to a majority of people.”
Though the illustration of lack of diversity is stark, Joplin noted that he and Rask will highlight brands with more diverse leadership to show that there are some positives and progress being made.

While the project isn’t affiliated with GSP, the agency has a history of engaging in civic dialogue. In June, associate creative directors Rony Castor and Anthony O’Neill curated a message prominently displayed on the agency’s windows—Being Black Is Not a Crime—supporting the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s validation for us that in advertising, using creativity, we can make real-world change,” Joplin said.


@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.