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Using History to Open the Purse Strings

Unless you fell asleep in history class, you know Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But what you might not know is that on June 30, 1864, Lincoln signed another historic bill into law. It was the Yosemite Grant Act, which placed California’s Mariposa Grove and the Yosemite Valley under federal protection, paving the way for the country’s first national park.

  • Books
  • Merchandise
  • Invitations…
  • and more

In 2014, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that signing, the Yosemite Conservancy decided a fundraising gala was in order. Of course a gala needs an engaged audience of well-heeled donors to be successful, so they hired San Francisco’s Michael Osborne Design (MODSF) to bring Yosemite’s rich history to life.

A Logo that Transcends Media
At the heart of the campaign was a logo that would capture the significance of the event both digitally and in print.

The obvious symbol for Yosemite National Park was Half Dome – one of Yosemite’s most notable rock formations that’s also known for its hiking trails – so it made sense to use that image for the logo’s backdrop.

To represent the actual signing of the bill, MODSF decided a bold-colored quill pen stamped in the foreground would create the right impression. Also featured are President Lincoln’s signature, along with the words ‘Yosemite Grant,’ and finally the signing and anniversary dates. The logo is a history buff’s dream. “Once you pick that logo up, it says everything it needs to say like a postage stamp,” says Michael Osborne, president and creative director of the firm.

The logo’s earthy colors needed to be reproduced not only for print materials, but on the website and promotional items as well. “We needed to make sure the logo would translate for various usages and production techniques, from 4-color process to silkscreened T-shirts to stitched hats,” he says.

Finally, MODSF came up with guidelines for the logo’s usage so vendors and retailers could produce their own merchandise to commemorate the event. That way, everything related to the anniversary celebration would have a familiar feel.

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Creating an Emotional Connection
For the event itself, Osborne created a postcard, an invitation package and a program. The first two needed to connect with potential donors and to convince them that the gala was an event that could not be missed.

Recognizing the universal and emotional appeal of art, he turned to a collection of vintage paintings from the 1800s to draw donors to the event. The Conservancy had showcased the artwork over the years so why not tie the different elements of the campaign together by featuring the paintings?

“I used one on the postcard, one on the program and one on the cover of the invites,” says Osborne. Using the vintage art conveyed the idea that the gala was not your run-of-the-mill event. He wanted the program to be so appealing that attendees would want to hold onto it as a keepsake.

To give it a historic feel, he got permission to use a copy of the actual document that Lincoln signed, then made a facsimile that folded in half twice and attached to the inside back cover of the program. “When you get to the back cover there’s a logo, an explanation of what it stands for, and then there’s the surprise discovery of the document itself,” he says.

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Finally, he produced a signed limited-edition poster featuring the logo that was given to select attendees as a special token of the night.

It took about a year for Michael Osborne Design to complete all aspects of the campaign. The gala was a success, attracting the likes of documentary producer Ken Burns. And as Osborne had hoped, not a single program was left at the end of the evening. The campaign not only provided an opportunity for MODSF to show off their artistic chops, but it allowed them to play their own role in making history.

“The signing of the land grant document was monumental,” Osborne says. “I have great respect for the fact that President Lincoln had the foresight to create this landmark document that would protect this land for generations to come.”

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Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.

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