Cancer charity tackles taboos with a breast-like typeface

House of Two’s identity for Shell win aims to encourage women in India to discuss breast health without shame through a breast-like typeface and illustrations.

Mumbai-based design and experience studio House of Two has rebranded family-run breast cancer charity Shell win, using illustrations and a bespoke typeface to make breast health less of a taboo subject.

Shell win is based in Agra, India, and was named after the founding family’s daughter, Shelly, who lost a battle with breast cancer at a very young age. The charity aims to offer financial and medical support to those in similar situations through local outreach programs locally. It now hopes to focus on more areas that would “help the cause of breast cancer”, says House of Two founding partner Siddharth Khandelwal, and reach “a young urban audience aged 24 to 45”.

House of Two has experience working in the not-for-profit sector and set out to create an identity that would stand out on social media and work best digitally. Before the studio became involved, Shell win had no brand or personality to draw on.

Breast cancer is one of the most treatable cancers and is the most common in India, according to Khandelwal. Speaking with affected families revealed that “lack of awareness compounded by inadequate support systems and social taboos, makes the journey extremely traumatic for patients and their families”, says Khandelwal.

During the design process, he explains how Shell win evolved from being a charity that only offers free medical and financial assistance to “an honest and intimate” space built around “a conversational identity”.

House of Two created the charity’s new display font, We Shell win, and another bespoke font to be used across all communications. Khandelwal says: “Women in India fear the stigma of rejection by their partner and community, or potentially fear losing the breast, leading to them ignoring their condition until treatment becomes difficult with the disease only being detected in the latter stages.”

We Shell win was designed to “normalise the changes that come with breast cancer”, he adds.
The display font’s rounded forms detail different forms of scarring, with the letter Y showing one normal breast and one with scar tissue. Khandelwal describes it as “soft, caring, and accepting” as well as “a typographic visual that crafts visually powerful and verbally insightful messages, while also evoking a sense of innocent joy”.

The serif font used in communications embodies a similar style but is more legible for larger chunks of text. Its ink-trap detailing aims to help “narrate heart-warming stories”, Khandelwal adds.

Shell win’s illustration style seeks to convey its “inspiring, playful and inclusive” messaging, says Khandelwal. Taking a similar approach as for the typeface, House of Two subtly incorporated breasts within each illustration, symbolising how breast health should be part of everyday conversations. Each illustration corresponds to a message and comprises bright colours and soft shapes in a 2D, flat comic style.

The challenge was creating assets that would showcase a serious issue without being too serious themselves, according to Khandelwal. To ensure the font and illustrations were sensitive to the topic but still “lively”, Khandelwal says House of Two tested them among the breast cancer community to get feedback. He hopes that this “light-hearted wit” will help to “remove the shame and taboo” surrounding conversations about breast health in India.

As the brand would primarily exist on social media, the studio also wanted to create motion behaviours informed by the rounded shapes of the illustrations and typefaces. Khandelwal explains how they created “dynamic yet ownable templates” for social media communication, making the brand identity more “flexible, identifiable and refreshing”.

While the primary colours take inspiration from the shade of the breast cancer ribbon, House of Two devised a secondary palette that would “add vibrancy and cheerfulness”, says Khandelwal.

Shell win’s new brand system has rolled out across its social media platforms and across its on-ground initiatives.

Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles

From the archives: Picture Post

As we head back into our archives, here’s a gem from March 1990. Jane Lewis looks at the creative ways design firms promoted their services through mail-outs.