Smith Davidson Leadership Initiative branding styleguide design by Nicte Creative Design


Dr. Joseph E. Woodzie
David­son College

John­son C. Smith University

Project components:

Brand­mark system

Brand strat­e­gy

Col­or psychology

Pat­tern design
Brand style guide

T‑Shirt design
Cre­ative direction


Lon­na Daw­son
(Brand lan­guage and mes­sage mapping)

Smith David­son Lead­er­ship Ini­tia­tive (SDLI) recruits, selects, and teach­es John­son C. Smith Uni­ver­si­ty and David­son Col­lege stu­dents how to become lead­ers who make a dis­pro­por­tion­ate impact in the life of a city.  The pro­gram uses Char­lotte, North Car­oli­na, as train­ing grounds to teach stu­dents about chal­lenges that all cities face.

After sev­er­al failed attempts to work with oth­er design­ers who could­n’t cap­ture their brand inten­tion — root­ed in empow­er­ing com­mu­ni­ties of col­or- Dr. Ewoodzie reached out to NCD to devel­op their brand iden­ti­ty. The con­cepts they had received had mis­aligned ren­di­tions of brand­marks with Adinkra-infused her­itage where the sym­bol­ism behind them was lost. 

SDLI is more than a brand, it’s an expe­ri­ence whose mis­sion is about the peo­ple for the peo­ple — bring­ing human­i­ty and change for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or across our nation. We devel­oped an inten­tion­al brand iden­ti­ty that reflect­ed, ampli­fied, and hon­ored the impact com­mu­ni­ties of col­or can cre­ate in their cities.

Insert Con­tent Tem­plate or Symbol 

Our Methodology

It was impor­tant that the pro­gram did­n’t end up with a gener­ic brand — lost with­out its intrin­sic cul­tur­al val­ues. We devel­oped a brand that cel­e­brat­ed cul­tur­al iden­ti­ties and har­nessed the pow­er of col­or psy­chol­o­gy to ampli­fy their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and pro­gram direc­tives.

Dr. Ewoodzie want­ed to devel­op a brand iden­ti­ty inspired by his Ghanan her­itage — specif­i­cal­ly the Adinkra sym­bols. We care­ful­ly stud­ied Adinkra sym­bols and how each had his­tor­i­cal mean­ing and rich tra­di­tions in pat­tern mak­ing. Pulling from the idea of stamp­ing using cal­abash, we devel­oped a mark that incor­po­rates the pro­gram’s ini­tials and would work togeth­er as a pat­tern. The pat­tern became a styl­ized sym­bol of the men and women in the pro­gram when flipped around.

We root­ed our approach with the sym­bol­ism of col­or and her­itage to help the pro­gram con­nect and attract future lead­ers of col­or to the program.