WASHINGTON STATE FERRIES RE-BRAND
The Washington State Ferries are an essential element of life in the Puget Sound Region. This rebrand brings together people and place, creating an intimate and engaging portrait of this iconic regional institution. (Proof of concept)
The Washington State Ferries are an iconic Pacific Northwest institution, connecting the Puget Sound region and providing a travel option locals can rely on and visitors don’t want to miss.
Research, branding, logo design, art direction, copywriting, layout
Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign
Rebrand the Washington State Ferries
Before starting our individual branding projects, my classmates and I worked as a team to thoroughly research the Washington State Ferries brand as it exists today. We gathered information about the history of the Ferries, current ridership, funding resources, marketing strategies, and their existing design schema. Together, we wrote a creative brief, identifying the brand character, attributes, purpose, positioning, and promise. We next identified three words that would define WSF's aspirational brand. Those words were iconic, reliable, and connected. Then, as individuals, we set out to build brands that reflected that core messaging.
This Washington State Ferries rebrand presents an identity that is current, cohesive, and grounded in place. The brand builds a sense of ownership among existing riders by reflecting their experiences as Pacific Northwesterners and ferry riders. The brand is accessible and family-friendly, encouraging community engagement through photography campaigns and community shout-outs. The brand is aware of the needs and habits of existing commuters, and values its role as a conduit of culture and community between ports.
At the same time, the brand speaks directly to tourists and occasional weekend warriors. The revamped website is both vibrant and easy to navigate, guiding first-time riders seamlessly through trip scheduling without getting in the way of frequent fliers. Photography showcases people engaging with the Pacific Northwest in a way that is enticing and speaks to a deeper desire to get out of the house and into the natural world. This brand presents itself as a pillar of the Pacific Northwest; an unmissable experience as essential to the landscape as the rocky shoreline.
The existing multi-ride tickets are replaced with plastic swipe cards. A card that can stand months of wear and tear in a wallet drastically improves ease-of-use for commuters who ride the ferries on a weekly, monthly or daily basis. Further, these cards offer the future possibility for the ferries to switch their cards to a reloadable debit system. Riders have the option to select their image, which will change seasonally. These winter images feature driftwood, barnacles, and mussels. On the back of each card is a friendly title and interesting fact about the featured image. The cards then prompt riders to submit their own Pacific Northwest photography for the chance to be featured on next season's card.
Paper ticketing is still available for day riders. A bold, branded design turns the ticket into a memento that riders will want to keep to remember their adventures. The tickets still prompt riders to engage with the brand through photography competitions, encouraging first-time and infrequent riders to revisit the Washington State Ferries.
The rebranded website easily guides guests through the ticketing process. Leading with on-brand duotone photography, ticketing is simple and straightforward, connecting visitors to rider alerts, community spotlights, and more.
Frequent riders are known to keep a copy of the print schedule in the glove compartment. Riders depend on the color-coded system to distinguish one season's schedule from another. Sticking with this system, the print schedules are redesigned to feature photography submitted by ferry riders.
Vessels are branded simply with WSF colors and logo.
Business cards for WSF staff employ the subtle chipped white metal background and strong brand colors.
Our bold, natural colors are inspired by the colors and textures of the Puget Sound landscape.
Our typography celebrates the municipal aesthetic of the Washington State Ferries.
Washington State Ferries photography pairs Pacific Northwest textural elements with candid, family-friendly photography featuring real people enjoying the outdoors, riding the ferries, and/or engaging with their local communities. The brand often invites riders to submit photography which will be featured on brand materials; the duotone provides aesthetic consistency.
Washington State Ferries photography pairs Pacific Northwest textural elements with candid, family-friendly photography featuring real people enjoying the outdoors, riding the ferries, and/or engaging with their local communities. Whenever possible, the chipped white metal background is used in place of plain white.
Washington State Ferries is run by the Washington State Department of Transportation, serving the Puget Sound region with a total of ten routes and 20 terminals. The Ferry system started as a collection of steamer lines in the early part of the 20th Century and the fleet was purchased by the State in 1951. The service was intended to be temporary until cross-Sound bridges could be built, but the bridges were never approved and the ferries remain as a designated part of the Washington State highway system.
Seen as one of the top tourist attractions in Washington, the Ferriestransport cars, bikes, and foot traffic throughout the Puget Sound,servicing commuters, commercial vehicles, and local adventurers.WSF is the largest fleet of ferries in the US and the fourth largest in the world, with 23 vessels carrying 10.5 million vehicles and 23 millionpassengers annually to eight counties and British Columbia. From the 1970s–90s the ferries were tax supported, but in 1999 Washington State voters removed 75% of WSF funding, leaving the Ferries without asustainable funding source.
We are driven to strengthen the relationship between riders andWashington State Ferries, so that they may remain a trustedPacific Northwest Institution.
Every weekday morning more than 75,000 puget sound residents commute via Washington State Ferry. Washington State Ferries’ primary audience consists of three core groups: commuters that take frequent trips to and from the city during the week for business and day to day activities, tourists that are interested in exploring the Puget Sound area mostly on the weekends, and casual riders who take sporadic day trips to various different locations. There is potential for growth in ridership among all three groups.
We especially want to encourage ridership among commuters who haven’t considered the ferry as a viable option for daily trips and currently bus or drive. WSF prides itself on being consistently on-time. Before we tell them anything, Ferry riders expect some kind of wait time before boarding a vessel. They know that they will be safe and secure on board and that our staff is capable, available, and well-trained. Lastly, riders expect a scenic voyage. We want Ferry ridership to increase and to see themselves in the Washington State Ferries, so that they will feel more deeply invested in supporting and advocating for the services we provide.
Competition There is no direct competition with the Washington State Ferries, which provide the most comprehensive, large-scale and affordable water transit in the Puget Sound Region for passengers and vehicles. Secondary competitors in the private sector include sea planes, charter boats, and passenger-only vessels such as the Victoria Clipper. Several areas serviced by WSF can also be accessed via bridge, meaning that WSF must situate itself as a more desirable mode of transit. The experience, convenience, and affordability of a ride on the Washington State Ferries sets the brand apart from its competition. Only the Washington State Ferries allow passengers the freedom to transport themselves, their luggage, families and vehicles while enjoying a spacious, comfortable, and scenic atmosphere. Positioning Washington State Ferries is a public service that provides safe, reliable and affordable transportation services in the Puget Sound region. It is the only service of its kind in the marketplace.
An opportunity exists to make the service more inviting to new customers— commuters and tourists who have previously dismissed it as an option— which would create more loyal customers as well as brand enthusiasts and supporters. While aboard the vessels, passengers have many options. Daily commuters can enjoy designated quiet areas to read or work, groups of travelers can lounge, and others can leisurely explore the decks and viewing areas. Ferries are named after local Indigenous words, leaders and Tribes,
showcasing regional artwork and giving riders an educational experience that pays homage to our area’s heritage.
RELIABLE Salt-stained municipal signage, thick marine-ready rope, and sturdy, barnacle-encrusted pillars all serve as reminders of the time-tested, day-to-day dependability of the ferry system. Familiar images of port birds, loading docks, and everyday folks living their lives on the boats from point a to point b remind us that the ferries will always get riders where they need to go. Colors are muted and natural, shapes are linear and geometric, and photography is subtle.
ICONIC A pod of orca whales glides through sunset waters; Coast Salish artists create stunning contemporary artworks; Mount Baker announces itself behind the rolling backs of the San Juan Islands; a couple stands in awe, hands held, beneath the mossy giants of our Olympic rainforests; boaters rumble through Elliott Bay and bikers bounce along dirt trails. These are the iconic moments of the Pacific Northwest. Colors are rich, shapes are bold, photography is poignant and striking.
CONNECTED Like buses and trains, Washington State Ferries are at their core a public transportation system. Their purpose is to transport riders safely and efficiently from Point A and Point B. But unlike other modes of transit, the ferries give riders a palpable relationship with the land and water that surrounds them. Connection here is not just about transportation, but about sense of place. Here we pull images of relationships: puzzles that dot the tables of inter-island boats, pods of orcas, families of cormorants. Colors are bright, shapes are soft, and movement is felt throughout.
Textures reminiscent of the Washington State Ferries and the Pacific Northwest are employed whenever possible as background images. Photography is candid, family-friendly and treated with a duotone. Broad color fields are used to divide space and layering is employed create a more dynamic design. Typography is blocky with a high x-height, often integrated with geometric shapes or knocked out of textures. When used, iconography is inspired by municipal signage which can be found on the vessels.
Logos needed to convey our core brand messages: iconic, reliable, connected. Further, the logo needed to be functional and versatile enough to reach non-English-speaking travelers and live in a variety of platforms - from the tiny screen of a smartphone to the massive metal walls of a sailing vessel.