Design | How Design Kompany rebranded Seattle’s Northwest Asian Weekly

Brand identity design for a Seattle community newspaper

The Seattle community paper, Northwest Asian Weekly, is still using our rebrand all this time later. Cool.

I’m updating our portfolio here to reflect the highlights of our past work in design, and communications, and so, wanted to post about it here. It started easily enough, a question, a conversation, and series of follow-up ones. Each one more detailed, more in-depth.

We were learning what the newspaper wanted to say about itself. As all brand identity projects, the central part of the process was to get to the story. The ‘who are we’ and why does it matter. To whom? For what purpose? This is the story of how we came up with the brand identity design.


The process: how we collaborated to rebrand a 25-year old paper

Everyoneeditors, copyeditors, publisher, designers, other staff, occasionally those passing by, and DK worked together to come up with a fresh update, a new template set, typeface selections… the works.

Concepting took a good effort, but it was important, for us, to get the story first. So we sat. And talked. For several sessions, just setting things up so the real talking could begin. In this way, we could do what all designers love to do when they are writing their own creative brief: be present, listen, and make sure you hear everyone. Goal, for DK, then, was to gather inputs from the full team at NWAW. 

But it started with the whole big metaphysical question, 25 years after you got started, ‘Who are you now?’

A box over the i, which you can see accented in the design for the masthead, was inspired by the answer we found, together, through dialogues at a round table. Which was, ‘A window to the world.’

Will need to find the better resolution files from our redesign process.

Why I bring this up is because I do recall a particular file that I had placed onto the CD of files I had delivered. That was at the time when this project ended, which was, ‘Brand Story: A living document.’ A word file, meant to be something that future editors and designers could visit, and reshape, as time moved on and needs changed.

These things happen. It’s inevitable. But a good design leaves space for that… leaves room to grow, and change. To me.

In 2013, When DK got set up in Cambodia, I began to write for the paper, too. I sent in this column, ‘The Village Report,’ to the NWAW. Some of those pieces I also included in my short book, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books / 2015).


On art, design, and creating a new brand identity design for a newspaper

I personally love community journalism. I was quite happy to be part of this project, and lead the effort to shift over to a modern, clean design from the original style. I got interested in this work when I lived in southwest Ireland, and had been part of the then West Cork Advertiser. Finding stories in the community, reporting them, and publishing them every week was a great joy. I know that newspapers have taken a big hit, and that many journalists have lost their jobs. I also know that there are so many things we don’t know about who decides on what gets said and that democracy in general is in jeopardy when people aren’t able to have full press freedom.

These are ideals I still care about; the truth is, I’m still in Cambodia, which is a place where writing what you think can get you in big trouble.

You can’t access a lot of news sites. All of this makes me feel even more like getting involved in the work to help people who do want to articulate their own stories to do that, when we can collaborate.

Meaningfully, not superficially.It was easy to think of the idea, given what DK had gathered about what the aim, vision, story, and idea was for the redesign. ‘Window to the world.’ Made sense.

It fit. It worked.


Editor’s note: This was originally posted in 2019. This post was updated March 2024.